Medically reviewed by Jonathan Purtell, MS, RD, CDN
Bone broth is made by simmering the bones and tissues of animals, typically cows, chickens, or fish. It's thought to help with everything from inflammation to joint pain. However, many of these potential benefits are based on its nutrients, as research on bone broth is limited.
This article discusses everything you need to know about bone broth, including its health benefits, nutrient composition, and recipe ideas.
Why Is Bone Broth Healthy?
Bone broth is a source of several health-promoting nutrients that may reduce inflammation and improve gut, joint, and brain health.
Supplies a Variety of Nutrients
The exact nutrient composition of bone broth varies depending on the type of bones you use and how you cook them.
Animal bones are a good source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and other minerals essential to bone health. However, research suggests that broth may not contain significant amounts of these minerals.
One study analyzed the nutrients in beef bone broth and found that its primary minerals include sodium, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Trace amounts of iron, copper, zinc, and other minerals are also present. But, none of the minerals were found to supply more than 5% of the daily value (DV).
Bone broth is a good source of protein, which supports immune health and serves as enzymes. Amino acids found in bone broth are essential, meaning they cannot be made by the body and must come from food.
May Benefit Gut Health
Your gut microbiome plays a vital role in your health, including inflammation, metabolism, immunity, and digestion.
Supporting a healthy balance of bacteria in the microbiome
Maintaining intestinal barrier function, which may protect against leaky gut
Reducing gut inflammation
One animal study found that glutamine and other amino acids found in bone broth have anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce the symptoms of ulcerative colitis, a type of irritable bowel disease (IBD). However, more research is needed.
Supports Joint Health
Studies show that collagen supplements may improve joint pain, quality of life, and function in people with osteoarthritis. The anti-inflammatory properties of collagen may even help treat rheumatoid arthritis.
However, most joint health studies have researched collagen supplements rather than bone broth. Research suggests bone broth may be lower in hydroxyproline, glycine, and proline (primary amino acids) than collagen supplements.
May Reduce Inflammation
Chronic inflammation plays a role in the development of many diseases, including:
Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis
Digestive disorders like inflammatory bowel disease
Mood disorders like depression
Certain types of cancer, including colon cancer
Chronic lung diseases like asthma
Metabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes
Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease
Although more research is needed on bone broth's ability to reduce inflammation, it contains several anti-inflammatory amino acids, including glycine and arginine. One review found that glycine can help reduce the body's inflammatory response, which may help decrease the risk of inflammation-related diseases.
May Improve Sleep and Brain Function
Glycine plays a role in memory and other brain functions. One study on animals noted that it may help treat memory loss and behavioral issues.
Another animal study found glycine may help reduce brain inflammation after a stroke. This could result in less brain damage and improved functional recovery.
Glycine can help you sleep better by decreasing core body temperature and influencing circadian rhythms. Taking 3 grams of glycine before bedtime improved sleep quality and daytime fatigue in people with difficulty sleeping.
However, you must consume several cups of bone broth to get the same amount of glycine used in the study.
Downsides of Bone Broth
The bones used to make commercial broth may contain high levels of heavy metals, which could make their way into the broth. However, homemade or store-bought bone broth levels are very low and unlikely to cause health problems. Bone broth is inappropriate for individuals who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet since it is made using animal products.
How to Make Homemade Bone Broth
Bone broth is relatively easy and inexpensive to make at home. You can use leftover bones from other meals or buy bones from your local butcher shop or grocery store.
To make your bone broth at home:
Boil three pounds of bones from chicken, beef, pork, and/or fish in a slow cooker or large pot
Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (vinegar helps draw out the nutrients from the bones) and cook on low for 12 to 24 hours
Optional: Add carrots, celery, salt, and spices to add more flavor to the broth
Allow the broth to cool, and use a cheesecloth to strain out the bones and vegetables
Transfer the broth into smaller containers for storage
Bone broth generally lasts up to three days in the refrigerator. If you freeze bone broth, it will stay good for two to three months.
What’s a Good Serving Size?
There's no standard serving size for bone broth. However, many recommend starting with around 1 cup daily for maximum health benefits.
You can drink bone broth at any time of the day. Some prefer sipping it throughout the day as a snack, while others enjoy it before bed to help them relax.
Types of Store-Bought Bone Broth
If you're looking for a quick and convenient option, many grocery and health food stores sell premade bone broth. Reading the food label to determine the best store-bought bone broth for your health is important.
When possible, choose an organic bone broth that uses high-quality ingredients. Many store-bought bone broth varieties are high in sodium. If you're watching your daily sodium intake, consider choosing a brand without added salt.
A cup of store-bought beef bone broth generally contains:
Fat: 0 grams
Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 350 milligrams, or 15% DV
Bone Broth vs. Stock
Bone broth and stock are made by simmering meat, animal bones, water, and seasoning. The main difference between broth and stock is in the amount of time it takes to cook them. Stock is usually only simmered for two to three hours, while bone broth may simmer for 24 hours. Bone broth is generally higher in protein and collagen.
Bone Broth Recipe Ideas
If you don't care for the taste of plain bone broth, there are several healthful ways to incorporate it into your diet, including:
Using bone broth in soups and stews
Cooking quinoa, rice, or pasta in bone broth
Using bone broth in gravies
Blending frozen cubes of bone broth into a smoothie or protein shake
Adding bone broth to mashed potatoes
Sautéing or boiling your vegetables in bone broth
Bone broth contains amino acids, protein, and minerals for optimal body function. There is some evidence that the nutrients found in bone broth may reduce inflammation and benefit gut, joint, and brain health. Still, further human research is needed to confirm the health benefits of bone broth specifically.