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Top 5 health benefits of bone broth

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A long-established kitchen staple, bone broth has gained new recognition as a health food. We asked Registered Nutritionist, Rachel Philpotts to investigate the hype.

What is bone broth?

Bone broth is the clear, protein-rich liquid obtained by simmering meaty joints and bones in water. It distinguishes itself from stock due to its lengthy cooking time. Much like stock, it can be used as a base for soups, stews and risottos.

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Discover more health benefit guides and check out our nourishing broth recipes, from warming winter broths to spicy Asian noodle broths.

Nutritional profile of bone broth

Bone broth is simple to make, however, the nutritional value will vary depending on the bones used, how long they are cooked for and what additions are included.

For the best results, select joint bones such as knuckles and feet. Cooking ‘low and slow’ and with an acidic ingredient will enhance nutrient extraction. Vegetables, herbs and grains can be added during the last hour for added flavour and nutrition.

Learn how to make a slow cooker bone broth.

Top 5 health benefits of bone broth

1. May be anti-ageing

Bone broth is associated with collagen, a structural protein found in skin, cartilage and bone. When boiled, the collagen in connective tissue is broken down into gelatine and various other health promoting amino acids, such as glycine and glutamine.

Consuming 300ml of bone broth has been shown to increase plasma levels of the precursor amino acids glycine and proline that are required to form collagen.

In clinical trials collagen, taken as a supplement, was able to improve the hydration, elasticity and appearance of wrinkles in human skin. Collagen also increased the bone mineral density in post-menopausal women and when combined with resistance training improved lean muscle mass and increased fat loss. Similar findings suggest an improvement in the body composition of elderly men.

Find out what to eat for your age.

2. Good for digestion and gut health

Gelatine is the most abundant protein in bone broth. Once in the digestive tract, gelatine binds with water to support the healthy movement of food through the intestines.

Animal studies suggests gelatine, alongside other amino acids found in bone broth, may have therapeutic potential in inflammatory bowel disease although more research is needed to assess the relevance to humans.

Discover more digestive health recipes and tips.

3. May support immune function

Not only is the small intestine the primary site for nutrient absorption, it is also the first line of defence in our immune system. If the gut barrier becomes damaged or ‘leaky’, this can disrupt immune function. The amino acids found in bone broth may be protective.

A recent study concluded that intravenous supplementation of the amino acid glutamine was able to support intestinal barrier function in critically ill patients. Similarly, supplementation with glycine was able to increase intestinal immunity and microbial diversity in mice.

Discover more immune-friendly recipes.

4. May support joint health

Studies suggest that collagen derived from chicken cartilage is effective at improving pain, stiffness and joint function in patients with osteoarthritis.

Gelatine may also be beneficial for injury prevention and tissue repair. A 2017 study found that supplementation with gelatine alongside vitamin C improved collagen synthesis post exercise and was able to repair tendons.

Discover what to eat for healthy joints.

5. May help promote sleep

The amino acid glycine, present in bone broth, has multiple functions in the body including supporting healthy sleep patterns. Research shows dietary glycine has proved effective at improving the sleep quality of patients with insomnia. It is thought that glycine exerts its effect by regulating our internal body clock and lowering our body temperature to prepare us for sleep.

Can’t sleep? Read this guide on how to get a better night’s rest.

It should be noted, that to date, there’s little evidence on the specific use of bone broth, with many of these findings based on supplemental or animal studies.

Is bone broth safe for everyone?

Although considered a safe inclusion as part of a balanced diet, it is worth remembering that because bone binds heavy metals, bone broth itself maybe a source of contaminants, such as lead. This is especially relevant for children.

Those following a low sodium diet should consider the salt content of broth recipes.

Bone broth recipes

Bone broth
All-in-one chunky winter broth
Kale & chorizo broth
Mussels in spiced broth

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Gut health: what does it really mean?
How to support your immunity
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This article was reviewed on 26th November 2021 by Kerry Torrens.

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Rachel Philpotts is a registered nutritionist and mental health specialist. She is an accredited member of British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Rachel works privately with high-achieving clients to improve their mood and combat stress. Find out more at re-nutrition.co.uk.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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