Even though bone broth was a staple in many of our ancestors’ diets for centuries — consumed regularly in parts of the world including South America, Greece, Germany, Russia, China and Japan, for example — today, too few of us are regularly partaking of this amazing elixir.
Bone broth is similar to a slow-cooked stock, made with various parts of animals (beef, chicken, fish, lamb and more) that are normally discarded — their bones, marrow, skin, feet, scales, tendons and ligaments, for example. Typically combined with veggies, some type of acid (like vinegar), herbs and spices, the bones and other animal parts are boiled and then simmered over a period of 1-2 days.
This simmering causes the bones, ligaments, etc. to release many valuable nutrients, including collagen and gelatin, 19 different amino acids, antioxidants and trace minerals like potassium and calcium.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely noticed that bone broth has emerged as one of the most sought-after superfoods of today. And I’m here to tell you that there’s no hype necessary. Bone broth can boost your health in a variety of ways, including these top five …
5 Bone Broth Benefits
1. Supports Your Immune System
There’s a reason bone broth is included in many elimination diet plans and autoimmune protocols: it can help to treat leaky gut syndrome and therefore support the immune system by healing the lining of the gastrointestinal tract.
Leaky gut occurs when tiny particles seep through openings in the intestinal lining due to damage, causing an inflammatory response from the immune system. But drinking bone broth can reverse these effects, as it promotes gut integrity while reducing intestinal permeability, dysfunction and inflammation (1). Collagen and gelatin are especially important for this healing process. Together, they help rebuild the gut lining following damage, fight food sensitivities and support the growth of probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut.
2. Enhances Digestion
Bone broth is both soothing to the digestive system and easy to absorb, since it’s already in liquid form. The amino acids in collagen build the tissue that lines the colon and the entire GI tract, helping to reduce digestive symptoms that can be sparked by inflammation. Symptoms that can be improved with regular bone broth consumption include irregular bowel movements, diarrhea, bloating, gas and abdominal pain.
3. Helps Reduce Joint Pain
Rather than purchasing pricey supplements that are intended to support joint healing, consider drinking bone broth to obtain compounds like chondroitin, sulfate and glucosamine that can reduce pain and improve joint function. These compounds have been shown to naturally help decrease inflammation, arthritis and joint pain, especially when consumed or used together (2).
Chondroitin is a major component of cartilage and helps to keep joints lubricated. Glucosamine has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and may help stop progression of degeneration of joint cartilage. Additionally, gelatin is needed to form and maintain strong bones, helping to take pressure off of aging, achy joints.
4. Promotes Healthy Skin
Bone broth is rich in collagen, the most abundant protein found in the human body that is responsible for forming and repairing connective tissue, including the skin. Collagen helps build elastin and other compounds that are needed to maintain your skin’s tone, texture, moisture and appearance (3). This is why getting more collagen into your diet may help reduce signs of aging including wrinkles, dryness, cellulite, loose skin and puffiness.
5. Helpful for Respiratory Infection & Allergies
Findings from one research study that looked closely at compounds present in chicken bone broth suggest that amino acids and antioxidants found in bone broth can help reduce inflammation in the respiratory system and improve symptoms associated with allergies, infections, asthma and more (4).
As the researchers behind the study put it, “diverse infectious processes that can result in colds are due to a shared inflammatory response, and an effect of chicken soup in mitigating inflammation could account for its attested benefits … chicken soup may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity.”
Making Bone Broth a Regular Part of Your Diet
So, now that you’re clear on the benefits of bone broth, let’s talk about some easy ways you can incorporate it into daily life.
First off, it’s important to note that real bone broth is very different from most boxed broths, bouillon cubes and canned soups. These are usually highly-processed and missing many of the valuable nutrients you’d expect to find in bone broth.
It is possible to make bone broth at home (using grass-fed bones and other animal parts that you can purchase from your local farmers market or a butcher), but this can be time-consuming, taking up to several days. If you’re up for the challenge, make a large batch and refrigerate/freeze small portions to have later on.
A more realistic option for many people, however, is buying already-made broth from a health food store/butcher/farmer or using dried bone broth powder. Bone broth powder, or protein powder made with bone broth, now comes in many sweet and savory flavors. You might choose to stir a savory broth powder into hot water along with some turmeric for a healthy snack, or make a smoothie with chocolate or vanilla protein powder made from bone broth. You can also cook with bone broth powders, by adding some to pancakes, muffins, or breads.
Most people can benefit from having 1-2 8oz. servings of bone broth per day. But if you’re really eager to take advantage of bone broth’s benefits, you might consider upping your intake and trying a bone broth fast. This involves practicing intermittent fasting for several days while also consuming between three to four quarts of bone broth daily.
You can also include healthy fats, clean proteins, fruits, veggies and herbs in your diet, but be sure to avoid inflammatory foods including grains, packaged/processed snacks, added sugar, sweetened drinks, dairy and refined vegetable oils.
Dr. Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, is a doctor of natural medicine, clinical nutritionist and author with a passion to help people get well using food as medicine. He recently authored Eat Dirt and Essential Oils: Ancient Medicine, and he operates one of the world’s largest natural health websites at DrAxe.com.
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