Learn which health benefits of bone broth are worth the buzz, and find ways to eat and cook with this trendy food.

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen and Lindsay Funston
Updated September 09, 2019

By now, you've definitely heard some of the hype around bone broth, the trendy, savory drink filling coffee cups and mugs. But this fad elixir isn't all that new.

"Bone broth has been around for centuries," says Sara Haas, R.D.N., a dietitian, chef, and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Doctors of Chinese medicine have turned to it to strengthen kidneys and support the digestive system, and the English have sipped beef tea (read: a steeped mixture of cubed beef and water) since the Victorian era.

But what is bone broth, exactly? And is bone broth good for you, really?

What Is Bone Broth?

It's pretty simple: Bone broth is an aromatic broth simmered with beef or poultry bones and vegetables.

And, nope, it isn't exactly the same thing as stock. The difference between a broth and a stock lies mainly the amount of time it's simmered. The longer the liquid cooks, the more nutrients and minerals leach from the bones. Broths are made by simmering the bones and some meat (typically that's already been roasted) of an animal or fish for a longgg time, often more than 24 hours, versus a stock which can finish cooking in about three. (Related: 5 Soup Cooking Hacks from a Dietitian)

How to Make Bone Broth

Making homemade bone broth is easy enough—once you have the bones and bone broth recipe. But you might head off to the supermarket only to find they don't have any lying around. Try your local butcher or Asian food market, and look for the "boniest bones" you can find, like beef knuckles, chicken necks, oxtails, soup bones, and even tiny feet. You can also repurpose bones from other dishes you've cooked, like roast chicken or turkey.

Then, consider this bone broth recipe: Once you have the bones, cram them all into a pot with whatever vegetables and herbs you have lying around. (Try one chopped carrot, two chopped stalks of celery, and aromatic herbs such as thyme, rosemary, parsley, or oregano—or any of these healthy herbs and spices.) Then add water to the top, and simmer on low for at least 20 hours. It will smell wonderful and you'll end up with a nutritious drink—or if all else fails, a delicious soup base. (Keep reading for more on how to use bone broth.)

Where to Buy Bone Broth

Don't feel like putting in all that effort to make your own bone broth? Don't blame you. The good news is that there are more and more places offering up ready-made cups of bone broth, as easy as grabbing a latté at Starbucks. For example, there's an entire shop devoted to bone broth in New York City, called Brodo, where you can get to-go cups of broth.

But you don't need to be in a big city to grab a cup. You can buy pre-made bone broth at your local grocery store or order it from easy online retailers like Amazon and Thrive Market. (There are even bone broth K-cups for your Keurig now, too!)

Keep an eye out for these bone broth brands:

8 Bone Broth Benefits That Do Awesome Things for Your Body

Bone broth offers a laundry list of body-boosting benefits: For one, it's a great source of protein (about 6 grams per cup) and minerals like calcium, phosphorous (good for bones and teeth), and potassium, which helps move nutrients into cells and waste out of cells. That's not all. Keep reading for more of the benefits of bone both.

1. Heal and seal your gut. A cup of bone broth a day can help with leaky gut syndrome, but it's also good for protecting non-leaky guts, according to Jill Grunewald, a holistic nutrition coach and founder of Healthful Elements. The gelatin in the bones typically used for making broth (such as knuckles, feet, and other joints) is said to help seal up holes in intestines. (People who have leaky gut syndrome have a porous intestinal lining.) This "patching" can help ease chronic diarrhea, constipation, and even some food intolerances. Not to mention, it goes down easy; that's why dietitians recommend broth as one of the best hangover foods or for patients with food sensitivities.

2. Protect your joints. Taking glucosamine supplements has long been used as a first line of treatment for people with joint pain, but it turns out that bone broth has glucosamine, too. Unlike pills, the broth offers other nutritional and health benefits that can help reduce pain. Chondroitin sulfate, which is found in the cartilage that protects joints, for example, has been shown to help prevent osteoarthritis.

3. Keep your collagen strong. According to Daniel Auer, a holistic medicine doctor based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the real benefit of bone broth is the low-and-slow cooking process, which breaks down the bones and connective tissues of the meat. As you sip the broth, you take in collagen (a building block of cells found everywhere from your skin and bones to your brain) and gelatin (a form of collagen that aids digestion)—both of which he says are incredibly healing. Experts are torn on whether you can gain the skin-firming, joint-strengthening benefits of collagen by ingesting it, but studies have shown an improvement in skin's elasticity and fine lines from collagen supplements. (Learn more about whether you should be adding collagen to your diet.)

4. Sleep better. Research has shown that glycine, found in bone broth, may help improve sleep and ward off fatigue. (Here are more tips on what to eat for better sleep.)

5. Support a healthy immune system. Because of bone broth's high concentration of minerals, Mark Sisson, author of The Primal Blueprint, goes as far as to call bone broth a "superfood" that can strengthen your immune system. (Stock up on these other immune system-boosting foods too.)

6. Increase bone strength. The phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium in the bones seep out into the broth, leaving you to sip all those essential nutrients for your own healthy bones.

7. Get some bone broth protein. We're not suggesting an entire bone broth diet. It cannot (and should not) be your only means for getting essential nutrients like amino acids. However, if you don't regularly eat meat, it can help supply amino acids from animal protein via bones. Amino acids are important for muscle recovery and energy—two key factors in your fitness performance.

8. Eat healthier. While the bone broth trend might have started with drinkable broth in a cup, there are many other ways you can eat and cook with bone broth. (DYK that bone broth is one of the top 50 winter foods for weight loss?) Check out some of the smart ideas, here:

How to Use Bone Broth

If the idea of drinking it out of your favorite coffee mug feels a little odd, don't worry: There are plenty of other ways to eat, drink, and use bone broth.

  • Drink it straight up. Pour it into a thermos and sip it on its own or as part of your lunch.
  • Use it to make grains. When cooking your favorite ancient grain, such as quinoa or farro, use bone broth instead of water for added flavor and all the health benefits
  • Freeze for later use. Pour bone broth into ice cube trays and freeze. You'll have individually portioned broth at the ready.
  • Make soup. This is a tried-and-true way to use bone broth. Start from scratch (when possible) or use store-bought bone broth as the base for any soup or stew. (Try these bone broth soup recipes or these low-carb keto soups.)
  • Make a bone broth smoothie bowl. Yes, you read that right. Bone broth smoothie bowls are a thing.
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