Over the past few years, bone broth has gained superfood status for having a nutrient profile that benefits all kinds of health ailments, from chronic digestive conditions to autoimmune conditions. Not only can you find cookbooks and cleanses dedicated to bone broth, but many restaurants also use bone broth in their recipes and serve it as a beverage on their drink menus.
So, with all the hype about bone broth, what makes it different (and potentially better) than a normal stock?
Normal Stock vs. Broth vs. Bone Broth
Broth and stock are often used interchangeably. So, let’s clear up the main differences between a broth, a stock and a bone broth before delving into the health benefits.
Broth and stocks are similar, but they have a few key differences: the part of the animal they’re primarily made from (bones or flesh), and cooking time.
What Is a Stock?
A stock is made by simmering bones, ligaments and connective tissue in boiling water for roughly 3-4 hours.
Simmering these bones for longer periods of time helps release nutrients such as collagen and gelatin. Gelatin forms a fuller, richer liquid with a jello-like consistency when refrigerated, which is where many of the nutrients are concentrated. Stocks may use spices, herbs and veggies for flavor, while other stocks may not.
What is a Broth?
When you were young and had the flu, it was most likely broth your granny gave you.
A broth is a more translucent liquid that’s primarily made from meat scraps, such as chicken or beef. You may have also made a vegetable broth at home by using the leftover water from boiling or blanching your veggies.
A broth has a lighter, thinner consistency compared to stock and is simmered for 45 minutes to two hours. Similar to stocks, a broth may also be flavored with herbs, veggies and spices. In some cases, a broth may be made with small pieces of bones. However, a shorter simmer time prevents all of the nutrients from being released from the bones, so it doesn’t form a thick, gelatinous texture.
What Is a Bone Broth?
Now, wait a minute … isn’t bone broth made with bones?
Wouldn’t that make it a bone stock? If you’re confused, you’re not alone. In fact, bone broth has even been referred to as a “hybrid of stock and broth” before.
By definition, bone broth is a stock because it’s made from boiling bones, ligaments and connective tissue for extended periods of time, and has a thicker texture. Bone broth is different from a normal stock because it’s simmered much longer — between 12-48 hours — to allow as many nutrients as possible to be released from the bones.
Since the terms “stock” and “broth” are often used interchangeably, somewhere along the way bone stock became bone broth and the name stuck.
Now that you understand what makes a bone broth different from a normal stock and broth, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of why simmering these bones for hours makes for a significantly more nutritious brew.
Why Bone Broth Is a Superfood and Is Superior to Normal Stock
You know what they say: The beauty is in the bones (or is that just us?).
Not only are bones the storehouses of essential nutrients such as calcium and magnesium, but they’re also the world’s best source of collagen and gelatin, which are two nutrients that can make a big difference in your skin, joint and gut health (1)(2)(3).
Simmering the bones for at least 12 hours also helps to release the amino acids proline, glycine and glutamine, which further support joint and gut health, and reduce systemic inflammation (4).
Best of all, the prolonged simmering allows all of the beneficial nutrients in bone broth to become more bioavailable, which means they’re incredibly easy for your body to digest and absorb.
Let’s take a closer look at the health benefits of bone broth that make it superior to normal stocks and broths.
- Bone Broth Can Help Improve Joint Health It only makes sense that bone broth would be good for your bones. In addition to providing calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, which are needed for strong, healthy bones, bone broth also contains a class of compounds for bone health called glycosaminoglycans, which are highly concentrated in connective tissue. One of the glycosaminoglycans found in bone broth is glucosamine. You may have heard of glucosamine as a popular nutritional supplement for bone and joint health, as it’s often recommended to help reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis and osteoarthritis (5).Chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid are the other glycosaminoglycans found in bones and tissue, which can help strengthen cartilage, stimulate the growth of new collagen, and improve synovial fluid production in joints to reduce pain and friction (6)(7). In fact, hyaluronic acid is often injected into joints as a treatment for osteoarthritis — but as you can see, bone broth may be nature’s best healthy joint remedy.
- Bone Broth Can Help Improve Digestion and Chronic Digestive Disorders The gelatin found in bone broth is also a powerful nutrient when it comes to improving digestion. You see, gelatin helps “seal” and protect the gut lining, which promotes improved nutrient absorption, reduces intestinal inflammation and helps prevent or heal digestive conditions such as leaky gut syndrome (8).If you haven’t heard of leaky gut syndrome before, it’s becoming recognized in Western medicine as an underlying cause of many autoimmune conditions and chronic digestive disorders (9). Leaky gut occurs when the tight junctions of your intestines (which act as “gatekeepers”) become permeable or “leaky” and allow undigested food particles, bacteria and pathogens to sneak into your bloodstream.Now, since these particles don’t belong in your bloodstream, your body sees them as foreign invaders and sounds off “alarm” bells. This triggers an immune response, which, over time, can lead to chronic systemic inflammation, severe allergies and the onset of autoimmune diseases (11).Needless to say, you never want your gut to be “leaky”. When you consider the health benefits of the gelatin in bone broth, it becomes more of a therapeutic digestive tonic, rather than a plain ol’ stock.
- Bone Broth Promotes Healthier-Looking Skin One of the best ways to promote healthy-looking skin is by eating vitamins, minerals, amino acids and healthy fats. While organic, grass-fed bone broth contains all of these nutrients, as mentioned above, it’s also rich in collagen. Now, you may be familiar with collagen as an ingredient in anti-aging face creams and moisturizers, as it helps maintain skin elasticity, and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles (12). But since healthy skin begins from the inside out, it’s more effective to be eating (or drinking) your collagen, rather than applying it topically.Bone broth also contains the amino acids called proline and glycine, which have been shown to reduce the inflammation associated with skin conditions such as acne or eczema, speed up wound healing and stimulate new collagen production in the skin (13).
- Bone Broth Offers Immune System Support Approximately 80 percent of your immune system cells are located in your gut, which is why healing your gut is the first place to begin when it comes to boosting your immune system health — and, as you now understand, bone broth contains the nutrients required to do so (14).Bone broth is also rich in the amino acid arginine, which is needed for immune system function. In fact, studies suggest arginine deficiency is linked to cancer (15).
- Bone Broth Promotes Detoxification When you think of detoxification, green juices or smoothies may come to mind. But bone broth may be just as powerful for detoxification because of the glycine it contains. Glycine assists the body in removing excess methionine, which can accumulate in our systems from over-consumption of animal protein, resulting in inflammation and acidity in the blood (16).
- Bone Broth Can Help Boost Energy Levels All of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids found in bone broth help boost energy levels — in particular, magnesium, which is required for the enzymatic reactions that take place when converting food to energy.While normal stock will contain vitamins, minerals and amino acids, the longer simmering of the bones allows a higher concentration of these energizing nutrients to be released.
How To Add Bone Broth to Your Diet
As you can guess, bone broth is palatable enough to be sipped on its own. If you are planning to drink bone broth plain, you may want to add a few veggie scraps, herbs and spices to your broth for flavor.
You can use bone broth as a base for your soups, risottos and stews like you would a regular stock, or use it in place of oil to cook your eggs and saute your veggies.
Bone broth is also dog-friendly (as long as it doesn’t contain onions, garlic or other veggies off-limits to dogs), so don’t forget to let Max have a few slurps to reap the health benefits, too.
How To Make Bone Broth
Bone broth is easy to make at home. All you need are roasted bones* (any bones will do: wings, tails, feet, legs, knuckles or necks), a large pot, your favorite herbs, veggies and seasonings, and a little bit of patience during the simmering process. You’ll also need roughly 2 tablespoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to help draw out the nutrients from the bones.
- Throw your bones and apple cider vinegar into a large pot (a slow cooker will also work) and cover with water. Allow your bones to soak with the ACV for approximately one hour before boiling your water.
- Once your water has boiled, add veggies, herbs and seasonings, and bring the heat down to a simmer.
- Simmer for as long as possible. We recommend at least 12 hours, but if you can do 24-72 hours, your bone broth will be even more nutritious and will contain higher amounts of collagen and gelatin.
- Once you’ve simmered your bones, remove your bones and veggie scraps from the stock. Allow the bone broth to cool and store it in an airtight glass container. Your bone broth should have a jelly-like texture once it cools, which means your bone broth is rich in gelatin.
Roasting your bones before making a bone broth is key for enhancing the flavor. You can roast your bones for 25-30 minutes, or until crispy, at 425 degrees F on a baking sheet.
You can use leftover bones from your meals to make bone broth or purchase them at your local butcher. Many health food stores also have bags of grass-fed bones for sale for less than $5.00. We recommend using bones from grass-fed meat whenever possible to avoid the growth hormones and antibiotics used to raise factory-farmed meat.
As you can see, the nutritional value of a normal stock pales in comparison to a bone broth. While normal stock is ideal for cooking and flavoring dishes, bone broth doubles as a recipe flavor enhancer and a healing elixir.
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and the creator of Feel Best Naked, a health blog for women who want to clear up their skin, lose the muffin top and make the bloat disappear. After years of experiencing (and then healing) her own unbalanced hormones, she’s now obsessed with helping other women feel spectacular in their own skin with natural remedies for hormone balance.