When something becomes a health fad, it’s important to remain skeptical until you get the facts. Bone broth is all the rage right now, but for good reason. The empirical and scientific evidence supporting its benefits are overwhelming. Food is medicine - and that certainly holds true for bone broth which has been shown to improve the health of your skin, digestion, joints and bones, promote natural detoxification and even have a calming effect. Chicken broth for the for the mind, body and soul...
Let’s start with the basic nutritional benefits of bone broth:
Collagen is something you’ve probably heard about in reference to skin given it’s elasticity. But what you might not have heard about is it’s the most abundant type of protein in the human body. Yes, collagen is protein. It’s found in tissues like skin, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bones, blood vessels and eyes. Collagen provides strength and structure, as well as flexibility, to connective tissues.
Glycine is an amino acid which is a protein building block. It makes up about a third of collagen and also acts as an inhibitory (i.e. calming) neurotransmitter (1).
Glutamine is another important amino acid abundant in collagen. It’s the primary source of fuel for the cells that line the digestive tract (2). It’s also abundant in the central nervous system where it participates in a variety of metabolic pathways. It’s main role in the brain is to serve as a precursor to several neurotransmitters including glutamate, aspartate and GABA (3).
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs): These are a group of complex carbohydrates that in plain language act as lubricants in the body (4). These include chondroitin sulfate, keratan sulfates and hyaluronic acid.
Minerals: Bones are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Fish bones contain these, plus iodine. It’s important to add something acidic (most commonly apple cider vinegar) to extract the minerals from the bones.
Abundant in these nutrients, bone broth provide a number of health benefits:
Skin: The epidermis is the outmost layer of the skin that provides a barrier. The layer below this is the dermis. The dermis provides structure and nutrition to the epidermis. It’s composed of collagen and GAGs which give the epidermis structure. Collagen and GAGs are both found in bone broth. One study found that collagen consumption improve skin elasticity and moisture (5)
Digestive Health: Glutamine and glycine are both incredibly beneficial for digestion. Glutamine helps maintain and repair the gut barrier and plays a vital role in the maintenance of it’s mucosal integrity (6). The mucosa is a mucous membrane that protects the lining of the digestive tract, and remember from last week, the gut barrier is the layer of cells called the intestinal epithelium that is closest to the contents of your digestive tract. Glycine stimulates stomach acid production and is necessary to conjugate bile acids before they are released from the liver (7). Both the stomach acid and bile enzymes (what I like to call the digestive juices) are essential for the proper breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients. A cup of bone broth is a perfect way to ready your digestive tract for a meal.
Joint and bone health: This is a true example of like cures like. The minerals found in bone broth are the same that are essential for strong bones. And just as collagen and GAGs improve the integrity and hydration of the skin, they also do this for joints. Bone broth is a great remedy for joint pain (8) and beneficial in preventing and supporting osteoporosis.
Detoxification: glycine is one of the amino acids necessary for the body to make glutathione. Glutathione is often referred to the master antioxidant.
Calming/mood: glycine is not only an amino acid but also an inhibitory, aka calming, neurotransmitter. This means exactly what it sounds like, glycine is used clinically to decrease anxiety, calm the mind and also improve sleep.
Recipe: If you Google 'bone broth recipe,' a bunch will come up. Find one that is appealing to you. The foundations of a good bone broth though are:
Bones from pasture raised animals. You’ll want to include the collagenous bones such as chicken feet, calves feet, chicken necks and backs. You can often find broth bones at the farmers market or a local butcher.
You need to add vinegar to draw out the minerals from the bones. Apple cider vinegar is commonly used.
Water and spices
Where to buy bone broth: Admittedly I often buy my bone broth. Here are my favorite sources:
Check your local farmers market and butcher. I go to the San Mateo farmers market and there are two vendors there that sell Bone Broth. 1) Wise Goat Organics, 2) Roti the rotisserie truck sells it frozen.
Kettle and Fire which you can buy online here.
Epic Brand which you can find in the refrigerated section at Whole Foods
Collagen powder as a substitute:
If you don’t like bone broth or can’t find a way to work it into your diet, the next best thing would be collagen powder. Collagen powder provides the collagen and amino acid benefits of bone broth but is lacking the bone marrow and minerals and deliciousness of bone broth. I always recommend the option that is closest to the natural form of the food. However, I understand that convenience is also necessary. This collagen is great quality.
How to incorporate it:
Use bone broth as a base for all of your soups
Use it to cook quinoa or veggies that require a lot of liquid
Drink it plain. It’s not uncommon for my husband and I to sip on a cup of bone broth as we’re preparing dinner. It’s really pleasant, think of it as a savory tea.
Collagen powder can be stirred or blended into just about anything without changing the taste. Use it as your protein in your smoothie or mix it with your beverage of choice.