Normal Stock vs. Broth vs. Bone Broth: Is There a Difference?

stock vs bone broth

Over the past few years, bone broth has become increasingly popular. 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.

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. Some stocks may use spices, herbs and veggies for flavor, while others 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 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 a source of collagen and gelatin, which are two nutrients that support 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 (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 benefits of bone broth that make it superior to normal stocks and broths.

Bone Broth Supports Joint Health

It only makes sense that bone broth could 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). 

Bone Broth Can Help Support Digestion 

The gelatin found in bone broth is also a powerful nutrient when it comes to digestion. You see, gelatin helps protect the gut lining, which promotes improved nutrient absorption. When you consider the benefits of the gelatin in bone broth, you may want to consider it instead of plain ol’ stock.

Bone Broth Promotes Healthier-Looking Skin

One of the ways to promote healthy-looking skin is by eating vitamins, minerals, amino acids and healthy fats. While organic, grass-fed bone broth contains these nutrients, as mentioned above, it also contains naturally-occurring 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 (8). But since skin health begins from the inside out, it makes more sense 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 stimulate new collagen production in the skin (9).

Bone Broth Offers Immune System Support

Approximately 80 percent of your immune system cells are located in your gut, which is why your gut is the first place to begin when it comes to promoting immune system health. Bone broth also contains the amino acid arginine, which is needed for immune system function.

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 (10).

Bone Broth Contains Nutrients That Help Boost Energy Levels

Many of the vitamins, minerals and amino acids found in bone broth are believed to 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 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Once your water has boiled, add veggies, herbs and seasonings, and bring the heat down to a simmer.
  3. 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.
  4. 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°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 benefits 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 nutrient-containing elixir.

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