Bone broth is often touted as a miracle to avert winter sniffles, among other maladies. But is it really a cure-all or just the latest nutritional fad? Wendy Caamano, registered dietitian, weighs in on the subject.
Reflections magazine: What was your initial reaction when you heard about bone broth?
Wendy Caamano: Honestly, I think I rolled my eyes the first time I heard about bone broth. It just felt like the new health trend or magic elixir du jour. The benefits of broth have always been known; hence, why chicken noodle soup is associated with being sick. So nothing has changed about the healing quality of various broths.
RM: What is the greatest benefit of drinking bone broth? Why?
WC: I think the greatest benefit is the additional protein offered from the bone that’s not typically found in other types of broth. While the body’s protein needs can be filled from other protein sources at the meal, protein included in the broth is bone broth’s unique feature.
I also think it has potential to enhance the immune system. There is limited research on chicken broth, specifically, reducing inflammation that can help reduce symptoms of upper respiratory infections like mucus production. Again, this is why chicken soup has always been associated with healing from colds and other ailments.
RM: What other health benefits can it have? Can everyone expect the same results?
WC: Aside from immune-boosting potential, the only other research specifically regarding bone broth is its use in sports recovery. Bone broth contains electrolytes (like sodium) and liquid (water) that can be helpful after intense exercise.
RM: What are the most common mistakes when making bone broth? How do you know when it is done simmering to maximize benefits?
WC: Most broths generally need to simmer between 8 and 24 hours to truly maximize the amount of nutrients within the broth. However, there is no research as to when that “magic” cutoff is.
RM: Should consumers bother with a homemade batch always or is store-bought the way to go?
WC: I personally believe part of the benefit of consuming bone broth is that it’s gotten people back into their kitchens, preparing whole-food-based recipes. This way you know exactly how it was prepared and with what quality ingredients. When grocery items are mass-produced for consumers, there is always the risk that quality has been sacrificed. If you purchase from a store, go for companies that are small and local as there is a greater chance that it’s smaller-batch prepared.
RM: How frequently is often enough (or too much) to receive the benefits of bone broth?
WC: Currently, there is not much clinical research specifically on the benefits of bone broth, and therefore there aren’t any specific dietary recommendations for consumption. Because bone broth is a food, as opposed to a supplement, there isn’t a concern about getting “too much” of any nutrients within the broth. Since there is no standard recipe for bone broth and no dietary recommendations through research, it’s hard to make a recommendation for how much. However, including homemade broth soups as part of your regular fall and winter repertoire will provide ample nutrition support.
RM: What are some alternatives that provide similar benefits to bone broth consumption?
WC: Eating a diet rich in leafy greens provides the amino acids needed to build collagen (one of the benefits claimed of bone broth); it is also denser in other key vitamins and minerals needed. Vegetable broth or a diet rich in vegetables can provide similar benefits. Therefore, if someone’s diet already includes a wealth of fresh fruits, vegetables, as well as quality protein sources (both meat and vegetarian sources), you have everything you need that’s included in a broth.
A Guide to Sourcing Bones
To get the most out of the broth, use the highest-quality ingredients possible. The bones, in particular, should come from properly cared for animals.
Cascade Farm offers a Mixed Bone Broth Box with a combination of beef and pork bones that can be shipped right to you. Their beef livestock are grass-fed only, and their pigs are soy-free, non-GMO as well. The cost of convenience and quantity straight to your door is minimal, but their quality of product is not. Find more information at cascadefarm.com.
With locations in Bellevue, Redmond and Seattle, Whole Foods offers a variety of good-for-your-body ingredients, including meats. Some locations offer frozen bones to use for bone broth, so call ahead to check if they have some in stock. Their entire selection of hormone and byproduct-free meat passes through a rigorous set of standards before it can be sold in stores, including an animal welfare standards test. Options here are overall better for your health. Find more information at wholefoodsmarket.com.
Local Grocery Stores
Not up to making your own? Nearly every local grocery store carries a variety of bone broth options. Look for both fresh and frozen versions. PCC and Thrive have a plethora of flavors and brands.
Simple Bone Broth Recipe
- 4 pounds baked bones (preferably from grass-fed animals)
- 1-2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons peppercorn
- Other herbs and spices
- Bay leaves
- If bones are raw, heat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Bake bones for 30 minutes.
- Put baked bones in a slow cooker and fill with water until they are submerged.
- Add apple cider vinegar and salt.
- If you prefer to make a broth with vegetables, add preferred optional ingredients.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for the remainder of the time.
- Allow broth to cook for up to 24 hours for poultry or 48 hours for beef.
- Remove from heat and let cool. Strain through a sieve.
- Chill, and consume within the week.