Years ago, I shared my recipe for homemade bone broth and recently I recorded a podcast with Brothvangelist and Chef Lance Roll about its many health and nutrition benefits.
With the recent release of the book Nourishing Broth and the surge of news articles about broth, I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the benefits of bone broth.
Bone Broth Benefits
Broth is an ancient food that traditional cultures and trained chefs have been using for ages, and it has recently regained popularity and was even called “trendy” on the Today show.
A true “what’s old is new again” story that our great grandmothers would probably laugh about, modern culture is finally catching up to what traditional cultures have known for years… that broth is an inexpensive and versatile source of nutrients.
Years ago, many families kept a pot of broth simmering on the hearth. This provided an easy base for soups and other recipes and also a way to keep the broth fresh before the invention of refrigerators. It’s one of the many traditional foods that we’ve largely forgotten in modern culture, but I’m glad to see it making a come back.
Broth is easily and simply made by boiling bones (beef, chicken, fish, etc) in water with an acid (like vinegar) and optional spices, vegetables and herbs. Broth can boil for as little as 4 hours or up to 48 (or more as traditional cultures did). Here’s my recipe and tutorial, but in case you need some convincing, these are some of the many reasons to consume broth regularly:
Broth is wonderful for nutrient absorption in two ways:
- It is a source of bio-available nutrients in an easy-to-digest form
- Its amino acid structure and high gelatin content makes it soothing and healing for the gut and enhances the absorption of nutrients from other foods as well
Supports Hair, Skin, Nails & Joints
Broth contains the collagen, which supports hair, skin and nail health. It also contains glucosamine, chondroitin sulphates and other compounds that support joint health.
Bone broth provides the amino acids needed for collagen production. Collagen keeps the skin smooth, firm and reduces wrinkles. Heather of Mommypotamus quotes a study on mice where one group was exposed to sunlight (increasing time and intensity) and another group was exposed to sunlight (same way) but received supplemental gelatin. In her words:
When results were measured, “mice exposed to the light without the gelatin had a 53% average decrease in the collagen content of their skin, compared to the mice that received no ultraviolet light exposure at all. Astonishingly, the mice that were exposed to the light, but also fed gelatin had no collagen decrease at all. They actually had an average collagen increase of 17%.” (source, emphasis mine)
The gelatin in bone broth also helps strengthen hair and nails and speed their growth.
Necessary Amino Acids
Broth is an excellent source of several essential amino acids that are often difficult to get from diet alone:
- Proline: A precursor for hydroxyproline, which the body uses to make collagen, proline helps the body break down proteins and helps improve skin elasticity and smoothness (and avoiding wrinkles). It is often recommended for its benefits to the heart, including keeping arteries from stiffening.
- Glycine: Necessary for DNA and RNA synthesis and digestive health. It is used for the production of glutathione, for blood sugar regulation and digestion (though bile salt regulation). Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, “Glycine also enhances muscle repair/growth by increasing levels of creatine and regulating Human Growth Hormone secretion from the pituitary gland.”
- Arginine: Helpful for proper kidney function, wound healing and proper kidney function. There is some evidence that arginine is helpful in keeping the arteries supple and improving heart health, though more study is needed.
- Glutamine: This great guest post from Steve of SCD Lifestyle talks about the role of L-glutamine in gut health and how to use it properly. Bone broth is an excellent source of glutamine and is recommended (required) on the GAPS protocol that we used to reverse my son’s dairy issues and skin problems.
It is important to note that these amino acids are not technically considered “essential” since the body does make them itself. Since they are only made in small amounts in the body, much of the research I’ve read suggests that it is beneficial to consume them from dietary sources as well.
Gut and Immune Health
Chicken soup is a timeless remedy for illness, but modern research is starting to understand its role in immune health. As we now understand that much of the immune system is in the gut, broth is especially helpful because its high gelatin/collagen content supports gut health and its amino acids help reduce inflammation.
Dr. Campbell McBride, author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome says that gelatin helps “heal and seal” the gut, and in doing so is helpful for reversing leaky gut syndrome and digestive problems.
Broth vs Bone Broth vs Stock
Nourished Kitchen provides a great explanation of the difference between these terms:
- Broth is typically made with meat and can contain a small amount of bones (think of the bones in a fresh whole chicken). Broth is typically simmered for a short period of time (45 minutes to 2 hours). It is very light in flavor, thin in texture and rich in protein.
- Stock is typically made with bones and can contain a small amount of meat (think of the meat that adheres to a beef neck bone). Often the bones are roasted before simmering them as this simple technique greatly improves the flavor. Beef stocks, for example, can present a faint acrid flavor if the bones aren’t first roasted. Stock is typically simmered for a moderate amount of time (3 to 4 hours). Stock is rich in minerals and gelatin.
- Bone Broth is typically made with bones and can contain a small amount of meat adhering to the bones. As with stock, bones are typically roasted first to improve the flavor of the bone broth. Bone broths are typically simmered for a very long period of time (often in excess of 24 hours). This long cooking time helps to remove as many minerals and nutrients as possible from the bones. At the end of cooking, so many minerals have leached from the bones and into the broth that the bones crumble when pressed lightly between your thumb and forefinger.
How to Use Broth
Broth is extremely versatile and many chefs use it as a base for soups, gravies, sauces and more. Here are some great ways to use broth:
- As a base for soups and stews
- In a mug by itself as a warm drink
- As a base for gravy and sauce
- Use it to cook veggies in for extra nutrients
- Dehydrate to make your own bouillon powder (instructions here)
- In a 21 day modified fast (see this post for how)
Also, gelatin powder can be use to make healthy snacks and foods besides broth, such as:
- Probiotic Marshmallows
- Homemade Chewable Vitamins
- Coconut Milk Panna Cotta
- My homemade vanilla latte recipe
- Fruit snacks
Where to Get Broth
In my opinion, the best way to get broth is to make it yourself. This is the least expensive and most nutrient dense way to get broth if you can find quality (grass fed, organic) bones locally.
If you can’t or just don’t want to make broth, there are now some places that you can order it online and have it shipped. My favorite is called Kettle & Fire and they ship within the continental US. Theirs is, by far, the best broth I’ve ever tasted (though homemade is pretty comparable). If you don’t live in the US, try searching for a similar service near you.
Do you make broth? What is your favorite way to use it?
Discussion (89 Comments)
Hi Katie, do you roast the bones when you make your bone broth? This is something I have not thought of, but anything to improve the flavour might be worth doing.
Katie - Wellness Mama
I typically do if I have time.
Katie hasn’t had time yet to respond to the post I’m responding to. That is about the fat at the top of the broth. Is it healthy to eat it? I believe it is ok but if you just refrigerate the broth the fat will turn solid and you can just take it right out by picking it up – even with two fingers if there’s a bunch of it – just comes off like a hat. Course I recommend using a spoon lol. But I use my hands alot in cooking and so when I grab my pot of broth out of the frig, before I go to use it I just pick the big pieces of fat off the top and toss them in the trash and not worry about the rest. They really are that hard and solid against what the rest of it is – which is watery. Course sometimes there is only a small amount of fat and then you need to use more of a slotted spoon or one of those big round spoons that have a bunch of holes in it. Or even a sieve if you really want to get rid of it all. And truly it is best to put the whole thing through a colander before using it anyway. But I just scoop out what I need and when I get towards the end of it then put it through a colander.
Now I have to admit to only having made stock and regular broth, not bone broth. The longest I’ve made stock for is about 8 hrs. And that is beef stock where I take the beef bones and some vegis (carrots, celery, onions) and put some tomato paste on top of them and put them in the oven at 350 for about 45 minutes and then toss the whole of it with a bunch of parsley into a huge pot, cover it with a whole lot of water, bring it to a boil, drop it to a simmer and then put a lid on crooked and let it go and go. (One really should skim the top too, there gets to be a little bit of foamy stuff there at first, with the attractive name of scum, after bringing it down to a simmer if you’re going to be strict about it lol.) I guess you can probably tell I’m a bit casual about my cooking. I do alot of it and stopped being so detail-oriented a long time ago. Everything still turns out great.
If you need to use it directly after making it and you want to be rid of the fat, there are these cups that look kind of like a tea pot. There is a hole near the bottom of the cup and it makes a sort of spout that goes to the top, kinda to the side. What happens is, you pour just a tsp of the broth out through the spout and then the rest of it is fat free broth because the fat floats on top and you’re essentially taking the broth out through the bottom. Then when you get towards the bottom of the cup where the fat is, you toss that and then fill up the cup again and so forth. That’s probably hard to picture and I’m sorry I don’t know the name of those cup thingys (despite years and years of cooking 🙂 ). Perhaps Katie knows the answer to that. And of course whether the fat is good for you lol.
I have made my first chicken broth (shame on me I’m over 40) due to this illuminating article and the recommended book “Deep Nutrition” that I’m reading. My kids like the soup because it’s light and doesn’t have too much fat which I don’t like (an entire chicken with lots of veggies) and that’s worth the long cooking time ‘3 hours’. Thank you so much Katie.
We are bone broth lovers in this house! I simmer grass fed beef ones with ACV for 48 hours and make little pots for the freezer for gravy. Best of all I make a chicken feet broth, add a few carrots, celery, garlic, ginger and tumeric with ACV, simmer for 24 hours and we all drink it fresh, extra I put in jars in fridge, it turns to jelly stock which I use as I cook, best of all for some carbs for my kids they love boiled white rice, so I add a cup of the chicken feet stock and water to boil it in and add a good wedge of kerry gold butter and pink salt! They love it. Great flavour. A good way to get some carbs into Paleo kids! My oldest is fussy with vegetables but has now recently started eating raw carrots and raw brocolli with butter to dip them in! It’s a start. Paleo kids are a challenge in a sugar coated world! Thank you for all the hard work Katie!
What is ACV ?
ACV = Apple Cider Vinegar 🙂
apple cider vinegar…pulls the minerals out of the bones
I make Bone Broth, freeze it, give my DOG – about 2 tbspns, twice a day with his breakfast and dinner. He loves it, and would just eat that if I let him…. I make it every week or so, using beef bones, and bison bones if I can get them at a good price. I put everything into the crock pot, and let it simmer for at least 48 hours.
Could a pressure cooker be used instead? If so, how long would the bones need to be cooked?
I just don’t feel comfortable leaving anything cooking overnight.
I use my pressure cooker regularly to make bone broth! If it’s chicken, I always cook my chicken first then peel of the meat. I add the bones back, add a little apple cider vinegar and add water (I don’t quite cover the bones.) and set it to 99 minutes. Mine is electric so that is the longest you can cook something. I get great broth. The bones are crumbly and it’s pretty much a solid once I refrigerate it.
I purchase grass feed beef neck bone to cook for my 2 small dogs, for the beef on them and the broth. I also put them in my dry beans, in the crock pot. We all love it, but I did not realize it was so good for us. Thanks
I have tried to make my own bone broth which tasted great, and many days I was happiest just to drink a mug of it all by itself! My issue comes with the cost of it, as it seemed I was having to cook down a whole chicken two, even three times a week. I made as many meals from the meat as I was able and started making double of whatever, like enchiladas, to take to family and friends. Ultimately, it was a lot of work for just the expectation of getting the bones from the broth. And, costly as I was shopping for the best organic whole chickens. I tried to access bones of different types from our local grocery stores, but because of health constraints, I was never able to get the bones just by themselves. What do you recommend in terms of cooking enough to last for a whole week so I’m not cooking 2 or 3 whole chickens every week?
If you have any local farmers who raise pastured hogs, you could likely purchase pork neck bones very cheaply. They make great, very thick, gelatinous broth. It makes very delicious soup.
I get just chicken backs from a local meat market and use those. You don’t have to use a whole chicken every time.
Save your bones in the freezer until you get a big bag.
I really want to make my own bone broth one day, but until then was wondering if you knew anything about the pacific foods organic bone broth? Do you think it still has the nutritional benefits?
Katie - Wellness Mama
It has some of the same benefits, but not as much or at the same levels as homemade.
The Pacific Foods one is labeled “fat free” – how can this be?! Isn’t that contradictory?
But still, how can it be fat free? Do they strain it out? And if so, how does it still count as bone broth?
If you make bone broth and leave it to cool in the fridge, the fat congeals as a hard cake on top. I usually discard it. What remains is fat free. I would be very surprised if a company sold broth with the layer of fat still intact.
Ok, that makes sense. I always get the fat layer on top too but I guess I didn’t realize that accounted for ALL of the fat and that that the remaining broth was virtually fat free! Thanks.
I LOVE the Pacific Foods Bone Broths. A great alternative for those that cannot make broth homemade–have the pots, time, or ability to leave the stove or a cooker by itself for 12-24 hours w/o a pet or person getting into it. It’s low sodium (the plain one 95mg), and 9g of protein per cup. The turkey one is good at night, as it probably has the typtophan. I wish they made a beef one.
Lately I’ve been worried about consuming bone broth that has cooked for a long time. The layer of fat on top smells kind of overcooked and I’m not sure it’s helping, but instead doing harm. Is this something to be concerned about?
I too had a problem with bone broth. I made beef bone broth and between the smell & taste couldn’t keep it down. Plus I was worried about bacteria & such.
Yes! My broth has kind of a funny smell/aftertaste as well and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong. My last batch was inedible!
You can skim the fat off. Some (myself) like to leave the fat on while its in jars to help ‘seal’ the broth below. Just remove the fat before you use it! The fat should be more solid and reasonably easy to take off with a spoon. Mine also had a strong ‘burned’ / odd smell after cooking so long, but the broth itself is good!
I’ve made ‘light’ broths or soups before using boney meats, but recently went to the local meat processing place to get some beef bones – (I live on the edge of the Flint Hills, lots of grass grazed cows here so figured there is a good chance for grass feed beef – I also discovered they sell tallow and since I recently started trying soap making so am planning to go back to get some!) I bought some leg ‘ankle knuckles’ and simmered them for 2 days. The resulting ‘broth’ is more of a solid when cold! Figure the more solid, the more gelatin! Its so nice to just pull out a jar of homemade broth for cooking! (I put most in the freezer in pint jar so they’d keep longer)
And my dog was happy to get all the soft crumbly bones and overcooked veggies that were strained out!
So glad I found Wellness Mama to teach me more ways to be healthy and live more simply! Thanks!
In cooking bone broth, I let it barely simmer for 12 hours (skimming foam every so often), adding vegetables for seasoning the last 2 hours. After it cooks, I let it cool, skim fat, strain broth, and put in pint jars and freeze. I have great results with wonderful flavor.
How long can bone broth stay in the freezer for?
I love this post – the bone broth and dog talk. 🙂 But a word of caution: contrary to popular wisdom, dogs should only receive raw bones. Cooked bones splinter and can cause internal damage. Protect your little guy and buy an extra bone for him to eat raw.
After cooking for 24 hours or longer, bones become very soft and safe for pets!
When I make my traditional broth dish, we usually scrape off the layer of fat that settles on the top before eating.
Most recipes, quite oddly, don’t mention this but after straining the pot of broth, it must be refrigerated. I use a 16-quart stockpot so I have 5 large stainless steel bowls of broth in my refrigerator at a time cooling. Depending, I guess, on what part a particular bowl’s contents come from, there’s as much as 1 inch of solid fat at the end of a day or two. This is fat. I don’t believe it has any value. I pick off the sheets of fat and throw it out. I use a hand-held strainer to pick up the bits of fat. Then I separate into glass containers and freeze. It’s delicious. I use it when reheating food and when sauteing.
I am surprised that no one here has a fat separator. I used to do the cooling thing too and found it frustrating and time-consuming. I finally got the separator which had been on my wish list for kitchen gadgets. Best money I ever spent. I love it because you can separate the fat from the broth while it is still hot and you can skip that step of refrigerating it. It is a super time saver and one of my most-used kitchen gadgets. I would like to share where I got mine, but I don’t know if I am allowed to post links 🙁