All your questions about bone broth and bone stock answered -- by a dietetic & nutrition expert.
Welcome to the Ask Anni series. Every Thursday on the blog, I’ll be answering your most asked questions and giving you evidence-based answers.
This week on Ask Anni, many of you are wondering, “What’s the big deal with bone broth?”
Read on for everything you need to know, down to the bone.
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth has been in the headlines recently, and many individuals who want to be healthy have questions about what it is and what it can do.
Simply put, bone broth is the resulting stock of slowly simmering the bones and connective tissue of animals. It’s an ancient recipe -- one thought to have been used all the way back in prehistoric times as a way to make use of the inedible parts of an animal so nothing was wasted.
Where Does Bone Broth Come From?
While beef and chicken are the popular picks for bone broth, broth can come from many other animals. These include:
What Parts of the Animal are Used to Make Bone Broth?
The three main components used to make bone broth include bones, marrow, and connective tissues. For example, stock could be simmered from the following parts:
While it sounds like it is not very appetizing, the end result is actually a fairly common staple ingredient in dishes like soups and stews.
What is Bone Broth Used In?
Bone broth is used in a variety of recipes, especially warming soups and hearty winter stews. It is also added to many sauces, gravies, and warm salads to add some flavor.
Are broth and stock the same thing?
Essentially -- yes. Sticklers will point out a subtle difference. Broth usually refers to the liquid and meat mixture that has seasonings and herbs added to it and is cooked for up to two hours.
Stock technically refers to the result of simmering the bones with mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery), plus water.
The main difference is that stock is generally not seasoned and can be cooked from two to six hours. Bone broth is a medium between the two -- usually made from roasted bones, sometimes containing the meat, and most certainly flavorful with added vegetables.
Breaking Down Bone Broth
How to Make It
Making bone broth requires at least 4 simple components:
Vinegar: Often considered the most important part -- it helps to pull the nutrients from the bones into the water.
Added Ingredients: Vegetables and seasonings, herbs, and spices such as -
Salt + pepper as desired
The Best Way to Store It
Bone broth is best made in big batches but best saved in small sizes. It only stores well in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, but can be easily frozen and stored in small containers for when you need it. I recommend ice cube trays (these ones from OXO are my favorite since they contain slidable tops for easier stacking) or small BPA-freezer safe food storage containers for the best results when reheating and eating.
Upgrade Your Nutrient Intake
Using a variety of bones can increase the nutrient content of the bone broth batch.
Suggestions for Store-bought Bone Broths
Varieties of store-bought bone broths that are low-fat, low-sodium, and full of vegetables are great options for when you don’t have time to simmer some up on your own.
Reasons to Make Bone Broth
These days, bone broth is heralded as the latest health craze. Enthusiasts claim it as a cure-all. While that is likely more fiction than fact, bone broth is thought to have many benefits when incorporated into a healthy diet -- in moderation.
Bone Broth is Nutrient Rich
Since the vitamins and minerals are pulled into the water, bone broth is incredibly rich in nutrients. Most notably, the bones contribute calcium to the mixture, a mineral crucial to human bone health as well.
Other nutrients added by the bones to the broth include:
Additionally, connective tissue contains the compounds glucosamine and chondroitin. These compounds are cartilage components that can help build healthy joints.
Marrow also adds a few things to the mixture, such as:
All the animal parts also add collagen. Collagen is a protein that has also gotten a lot of attention recently. When cooked into bone broth, it forms a gelatin and results in the release of basic protein components called amino acids.
Bone Broth is Easy to Absorb
The body can easily absorb bone broth. Think about it -- the simmering pulled out most of the nutrients already! Since meat can be mechanically hard for the body to digest, bone broth can be an excellent and easier way for the digestive system to get animal nutrients.
Bone Broth is Efficient for the Kitchen
Instead of piling up on waste, bone broth makes use of leftovers, sneaks in a serving of veggies that might not get eaten on their own, and is often a source of comfort. It keeps all the nutrients while avoiding wasteful food practices that are so commonplace in the average kitchen.
Christine Zoumas RD, senior dietitian and director of UC San Diego Health’s Healthy Eating Program, also makes a good point:
“Soups offer us a different way of consuming vegetables and whole grains, which are an important part of a healthy diet. And one bowl equals one meal, so it’s easy to consume and there are fewer dishes to wash!”
How & how often should I consume bone broth?
My professional recommendation is to incorporate bone broth into your diet in a balanced way. Many have labeled bone broth a “superfood”. Eaten in its most pure and whole form, most foods are super just on their own.
While broth is said to have benefits, the science is still coming to back up broth claims.
Overconsumption is still a concern, so be sure to discuss questions with a qualified medical professional or a dietitian if you have questions specific to incorporating broths into your individual diet.
Can I drink bone broth?
Some people consume bone broth by drinking it by itself. I personally can’t stomach the texture. If you can consume it as a beverage, more power to you! If drinking it isn’t your cup of -well - bone broth, then there are plenty of other ways.
How often should I consume bone broth?
There really isn’t a “right” answer to this question as long as you consume bone broth in moderation. Balance is key, and so using bone broth daily to weekly in recipes can be a great way to add variety and nutritional value to your diet.
Is there a “bad” side to bone broth?
As mentioned already in this article, eating bone broth as a component of an overall healthy diet is absolutely key to consuming it in a healthful way.
Bone broth is thought to have many health benefits. However, every bone broth differs in its composition. This makes it difficult to identify universal nutrient values and make a verdict on how beneficial bone broth really is.
To keep bone broth nutrient-rich, be sure to evaluate the following ingredients (especially when it comes to store-bought broths and stocks):
How much fat is left in the broth?
How much sodium is in the broth?
Does the broth contain vegetables?
Our human bodies need healthy levels of fat, sodium, and vitamins from vegetables, but just like anything else -- too much of a good thing can create a bad situation.
Is bone broth good for gut health?
Kate Scarlata RDN LDN, a digestive health dietitian, says the following of bone broth:
“I have not seen any research to support the use of bone broth for gut health. There are many claims out there. Just like chicken soup, I am sure it provides nourishment, but consuming bone broth three times a day...probably not warranted and may be risky—especially in kids.”
Is the bone broth fast safe?
While I am not a registered dietitian, as a dietetic technician I don’t recommend fasting diets. I respect religious or science supported reasons for fasting, but on the whole I believe many Americans eat in excess but are undernourished.
Bone broth fasts seem to share some stark similarities to disordered eating patterns, which can make some populations particularly prone to harmful dieting practices.
Simply stated, the benefits achieved by bone broth can equally be sustained by eating a well-balanced and healthy diet in daily life. In fact, science says so, and we know it is true because the health benefits of vegetarian diets have been well documented.
Recent research states: “Bone broths do not appear to be a better source of amino acids”. Superior to a healthy diet? No. Can they be part of a healthy diet? Yes.
Ways to Use Bone Broth
In many savory or sauce recipes, bone broth can be substituted for water to add rich flavor and hearty nutrients to the dish.
Bone broth can be added to any number of recipes, including:
Tomato sauce (recipe linked here)
Seasonal stews (recipe linked here)
Vegetable wraps (recipe linked here)
Amidor T. Ask the Expert: What’s the Deal With Bone Broth. Today’s Dietitian. 2016;18(5):10.
McDonell K. Bone Broth: How to Make It and 6 Reasons Why You Should. Healthline. 2020.
Peters M. Taking Stock: the Health and Hype of Bone Broth. UC San Diego Health. 2018.