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Sharp Health News

Bone broth: worth the hype?

Feb. 25, 2016

Bone broth

It might seem that all of a sudden, everyone is talking about bone broth. But what is it and should you be incorporating it into your daily diet? Sarah Steele, a clinical dietitian at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, answers commonly asked questions about bone broth.

What is bone broth?
Bone broth is traditionally made from bones of any animal or fish, depending upon the region of the world. The bones are simmered for up to 24 hours with filtered water and any desired vegetables. The mixture is then strained and the broth is kept for use as a tonic or base for soups and sauces.

Is it just a fad?
No. In fact, bone broth was a staple of preindustrial societies and continues to be a central part of cooking in many cultures and countries today. Bone broths are used to prepare soups, reductions and sauces. Today, bone broth is enjoying widespread popularity, which is promising for many reasons.

What are the nutritional benefits of bone broth?
By cooking the broth for such a long time, gelatin, collagen and some minerals are released from the bone and its connective tissues. Often, a small amount of apple cider vinegar is added to help with this release of nutrients.

One of the many benefits is the supportive properties of glycine and proline, which are released from collagen as it breaks down. These essential amino acids are the building blocks for our bones, as well as skin and many other functions in our bodies.

Gelatin is also very important for our health as it breaks down to provide hyaluronic acid, which lubricates our joints as synovial fluid, and chondroitin sulfate, which helps maintain joint health.

People use bone broth for a number of reasons, such as a sports recovery drink, to heal leaky gut syndrome, to help with achy joints, to improve bone health and to promote glowing skin. Not all of the claims for health benefit have been properly researched, but rest assured there will be studies looking at many of these claims in the future.

You might think that bone broth is a good source of calcium since bones are made of minerals, including calcium, but recent studies show that the calcium content is in fact quite low.

Is there a difference between homemade and store-bought broth?
Yes. Store-bought bone broth does not contain as much of the valuable minerals, nor does it contain the gelatin, which is such an important part of bone broth. Store-bought broth is cooked at high temperatures and for a short time, whereas homemade broth is simmered for a longer period.

Are there any benefits to choosing grass-fed, pastured or organic bones for making broth?
Yes. Factory-farmed meat and poultry come from animals that are very unhealthy, so it is best to choose organic, grass-fed or pastured bones as much as possible.

How can I make healthy bone broth even healthier?
By adding vegetables to the stock, the mineral content appears to be increased, as shown by recent testing.

Are there any downsides to consuming bone broth?
Some testing has shown low levels of lead in bone broth. However, it appears the levels are below those allowed by the EPA's limit for tap water. There are no other apparent downsides to bone broth.

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