Add Bone Broth To Your Diet With These Simple Gut-Healing Recipes

Image by Nadine Greeff / Stocksy

Bone broth is still having a moment. By now, you've probably heard the numerous claims about its health benefits. Beef bone broth, chicken bone broth, and even fish bone broth are often touted as nutrient-dense additions to your healthy diet. But, as with all dietary trends, the savvy consumer is often left wondering: "Are all these benefits for real?"

While broth has been shown to help clear nasal passages and ease symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections, there still isn't an abundance of research on the overall value of bone broth specifically. So, does that mean people haven't seen health improvements from drinking bone broth? Absolutely not. Anecdotes abound regarding bone broth's ability to aid in weight loss, soothe digestive issues like colitis and leaky gut, improve the appearance of skin, and more—and at least some research seems to back up the claims.

Here's everything you need to know about the health benefits of bone broth, plus two simple chicken and beef bone broth recipes to make in your very own kitchen.

What exactly is bone broth?

If you're wondering how bone broth is different from other broths, don't worry, you're not alone. Bone broth is usually made with similar ingredients to typical broth—meaty bones with plenty of connective tissue still present (where all the collagen lies!), herbs, and water. The big difference is that it's cooked for a significantly longer period of time. Some recipes, like the ones below, call for simmering bone broth up to 24 hours. The goal is to break down the connective tissue and extract as many minerals from the bones as possible so the resulting liquid is collagen-rich and packed with nutrition. Conversely, many typical broths are rapidly boiled for much shorter periods of time.

5 health benefits of drinking bone broth.

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1. Bone broth eases common cold symptoms.

There's a reason your body craves a bowl of chicken soup when you're stuffed and sniffling—and it's not just nostalgia for staying home from school and sipping on your mom's delicious recipe. One study found that consuming chicken soup inhibited the migration of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against respiratory tract infections. This, researchers theorize, may help reduce cold symptoms by exerting a mild anti-inflammatory effect on the body. An older study found that hot liquids in general (chicken soup and bone broth included) can clear nasal passages to help you breathe easy.

2. Bone broth soothes and relieves digestive issues.

One study found that lower levels of collagen may be directly related to leaky gut and inflammatory bowel disease. While bone broth contains high levels of collagen, consuming it doesn't directly result in an increase in collagen levels in your body. Rather, the collagen is digested into its individual amino acids, and it's the presence of two particular amino acids that make bone broth such a nutritional powerhouse: glycine and glutamine.

Glycine and glutamine both play a role in rebuilding the tissue that lines the digestive tract. Glycine is particularly helpful at taming inflammation, making it helpful for managing inflammatory gut conditions like IBS. One study also found that glycine may help prevent acid reflux. Glutamine is necessary for the health and growth of the enterocytes, or epithelial cells, that line your GI tract. "As the preferred fuel for these enterocytes, glutamine is one of the most powerful tools you can have in combating leaky gut syndrome," Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, functional medicine expert, told mbg.

3. Bone broth may assist in weight loss.

While little scientific research exists to back up bone broth's claims as a weight loss aid, there's no denying that an abundance of personal success stories exist (like this one and this one). But why might it be so helpful? For one, research reveals that bone broth typically contains more protein (often around 9 grams per serving) than your average broth, which could boost feelings of fullness and help curb appetite.

Plus, as mentioned above, bone broth contains an abundance of the amino acid glycine, which may play a unique role in keeping your blood sugar on an even keel, thereby reducing cravings. Research has shown a connection between low glycine levels and impaired glucose tolerance, and one study found people with type 2 diabetes were more likely to have low circulating blood levels of glycine.

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4. Bone broth may improve workout recovery.

Due to the presence of specific amino acids and minerals, bone broth may be a perfect complement to your workout, simultaneously easing joint pain and promoting muscle growth.

The amino acid glycine helps your body produce creatine. In turn, creatine has been shown to help increase muscle mass and improve exercise performance. Additionally, "the glucosamine in bone broth can actually stimulate the growth of new collagen, repair damaged joints, and reduce pain and inflammation," Amy Myers, M.D., functional medicine doctor and author of The Autoimmune Solution, told mbg.

Minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron—all found in bone broth—are especially important for anyone who loves a good workout. To boost the mineral content of your bone broth, be sure to simmer it along with a variety of healthy herbs and veggies. Research has found that a number of the important minerals found in bone broth come from the addition of these vegetables.

5. Bone broth may promote healthy skin and nails.

Bone broth is a rich source of collagen, and research shows that bovine collagen and marine supplements increase nail growth and strength and promote healthy and glowing skin. Because this research wasn't conducted on bone broth specifically, we can't draw clear-cut conclusions regarding bone broth's effects on these areas of health—but a number of reputable experts, including Dr. Myers, believe bone broth would deliver similar benefits.

How to make healthy bone broth at home.

Making your own bone broth is as simple as tossing a few ingredients in your slow cooker. But remember, as with all cooking, the quality of those ingredients matters (this goes for store-bought bone broth products, too).

Something to keep in mind when it comes to animal bones: Due to the ability of heavy metals to bioaccumulate in the bones of animals, selecting only bones from sustainably raised animals becomes extra important. Why? Food is one of the biggest sources of lead in farm animals—and it appears that grains are the biggest culprit. So it makes sense to assume that the bones of grass-fed cows who eat only grass and forage would have lower lead levels than the bones of conventionally raised cows who eat corn-based grain.

When it comes to choosing the additional ingredients you'll use in your bone broth, we recommend selecting your favorite vegetables. Swing by your local farmers' market or healthy grocer to pick up something fresh and in season.

Aside from beef bones or chicken bones, and your choice of veggies, the only other essential ingredient you need for most recipes is apple cider vinegar. Adding this acid is what helps extract the important minerals from the bones.

Image by Suzanne Clements / Stocksy

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Beef Bone Broth Recipe

This recipe is your straightforward, no-nonsense beef bone broth. Remember, you can swap out any and all of the veggies to create your own unique flavor.

Makes 8 cups

Prep time: 30 minutes

Total time: 9 to 24 hours

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of beef bones
  • 2 medium carrots cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium leek, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 1 garlic head, halved
  • 2 celery stocks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 12 cups water

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Once preheated, put bones, carrots, leek, onion, and garlic on a roasting sheet and place in oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven to stir or toss the contents, and then roast for another 20 minutes.
  2. Fill your slow cooker with 12 cups of water, adding celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, and apple cider vinegar. Add the roasted bones and vegetables to the pot, and then add more water if necessary to cover the ingredients.
  3. Cover the slow cooker and set to high until it begins to boil, and then reduce to low. Leave on low for at least 8 hours, but up to 24 hours. Taste for readiness.
  4. Let cool slightly, and then use a strainer or mesh sieve to separate the liquid from the solid ingredients. Discard the bones and vegetables. Let cool completely, and then refrigerate overnight.
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Chicken Bone Broth Recipe

Like the beef bone broth recipe, consider this your basic chicken bone broth recipe. As you get comfortable with making your own bone broth, experiment swapping out vegetables and herbs to create your own flavor.

Makes 8 cups

Prep time: 15

Total time: 12 to 18 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds chicken bones
  • 2 medium carrots cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic head
  • ½ cup fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoons peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 12 cups water

Method

  1. Rinse vegetables and herbs and place in a slow cooker. Add chicken bones and all remaining ingredients to slow cooker and cover with 12 cups of water, or enough so that all ingredients are submerged. Turn on slow cooker to low heat and let cook for 12 to 18 hours.
  2. Remove from heat and carefully separate the vegetables and bones from the broth. Strain the broth into a bowl through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the remaining particles.
  3. Pour broth into an airtight jar and store in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze for up to 3 months.
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Bottom line: Should I drink bone broth?

The scientific community still has some work to do in providing hard evidence that bone broth delivers on its long list of claims. That said, there's plenty of research suggesting that the collagen and minerals present in bone broth can supplement a healthy lifestyle. Plus, it's hard to overlook all of the personal anecdotes about bone broth's ability to resolve digestive issues, boost weight loss, and beyond. Until the research fully catches up, there's absolutely no harm sipping on high-quality bone broth (made from the bones of sustainably raised animals) to supplement a balanced diet.

Want to know if you should you go Keto? Paleo? Whole 30? Deciding what to eat to feel your best shouldn’t be complicated. We’ve removed the guesswork to give you all the best nutrition tips & tools, all in one place. Ready to kickstart your health journey? We’re here to guide you.

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