“I’ve heard a lot about bone broth recently. Should I be running out to buy some bones to make this? How is it different than regular soup?” 

Bone broth has been consumed for years as something to help treat sickness and provide nourishment. Despite its usage throughout history, this liquid nourishment has gained superfood status and received quite a lot of attention lately as something to consume on a more regular basis to help maintain optimal health.

So just like any other buzz food, are these statements true? Should everyone be running out to grab some bones to make this nourishing stock? Do you need it to be healthy? Let’s take a look at what the research says to try to answer these questions.

What is Bone Broth?

By definition, bone broth is a liquid made from boiling the bones of animals. The bones are typically roasted.  This process allows for components of the bone, including the cartilage, collagen, bone marrow and some of the bone itself, to be released into the broth.

Compare this to traditional broth or soup stock, which is water simmered with vegetables, meat, herbs, and spices, and it may include bones. Typically broth is cooked for 45 minutes to 2 hours. On the other hand, bone broth is cooked for more than 24 hours.

What are the Health benefits?

Bone broth is said to be nutrient rich. Is this true? Although the Canadian Nutrient File or the USDA Nutrient Database does not have a nutrient analysis of bone broth, I referenced a personal analysis done by Lawrence Dubois, manager of Salt Spring Natureworks. Lawrence created his own bone broth and had the nutrient composition analyzed by a lab.

Let’s take a look at what the lab found, per litre of bone broth. The DRI is the Dietary Reference Intake, which is the amount of each nutrients that adults should be aiming to get daily.

Calcium: 111.5 mg/L (DRI = 1000 mg)

Magnesium: 19.0 mg/L (DRI = 300-420 mg)

Potassium: 416 mg/L (DRI = 4,700 mg)

Iron: 2.43 mg/L (DRI – 8-18 mg)

Zinc: 0.59 mg/L (DRI – 8-11 mg)

Are these significant sources of nutrients? Not really.  

Instead, I would rather you:

  • drink 250 mls of milk to get 300 mg of calcium,
  • eat 1 cup of cooked spinach to get 157 mg of magnesium and 839 mg of potassium and
  • eat ¾ cup of beans to get 6 mg of iron and 5 mg of zinc

What about collagen?

Cartilage has been used for years as a natural remedy for inflammatory diseases of the joints and gastrointestinal tract due to it’s high GAG, or glycosaminoglycan, content. An important component for the synthesis of cartilage is collagen, which plays an integral role in the structure and strength of the bones. It has also been researched as a potential cancer inhibitor because it contains antiangiogenesis factors, which are chemicals that prevent the growth of blood vessels.

However, since we don’t absorb collagen whole, the idea that eating collagen somehow promotes bone growth is untrue. Instead the digestive system will break down the collagen into amino acids, and the body will use these building blocks wherever they’re needed.

A Great Use for Bone Broth

What can bone broth be used for? It may actually be a great way to replace electrolytes after intense exercise and aid in post-workout recovery.

It’s a nice way to rehydrate the body, due to the liquid, sodium and electrolyte content – these components were all lost through sweat during exercise. The amino acids may also provide the body with the building blocks it needs to rebuild muscle.

Can Bone Broth Cure my Health Ailments?

Bone broth as part of a well-balanced and nutritionally sound diet is probably harmless, but it is not some type of ‘miracle food source’ with the ability to cure a multitude of aches, pains and diseases all by itself. As we seen above, bone broth is not necessarily a rich source of micronutrients. However it may have a great use as a post-workout recovery drink.

Research conducted by Chelsea Cross, BASc (C) and Nicole Osinga, RD, BASc, MAN


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