The Benefits of Bone Broth & How to make Bone Broth
Why is Bone Broth good for you, and how do you make it?
At Advantage Meals and at Magic Meals (our local prepared meal delivery and diet coaching business), we have long heralded the benefits and suggested using bone broth in many of our recipes. But despite the fact that homemade bone broth is an old tradition, there are many questions surrounding this nutritious staple in modern times. Why is real bone broth so good for you? What are the benefits of bone broth? How do you make bone broth? What is the best bone broth recipe? You’ve come to the right place. We have made and consumed more bone broth than probably any family you know. We are your bone broth experts!
What Are the Benefits of Bone Broth
The list of benefits associated with real bone broth is long and dense, though the research is sometimes sparse. Here are just some of the bone broth benefits we personally believe in.
- Healthier, Stronger Bones
- Smoother Skin
- Stronger Hair and Nails
- Healthy Joints and Less Joint Pain
- Improved Digestion
- Stronger Immune Response
- Reversal of Arthritis
- Avoidance of Osteoporosis
- Relief from IBS and Crohns
- Even Cancer?
How can bone broth, this simple and traditional food, be so powerful? Here are the reasons why we believe that real homemade bone broth is good for you.
- Minerals – Bone broth is often touted as being very high in minerals, and it does contain calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, among others. However, the amounts are relatively low compared to other mineral sources, such as a cup of milk. The USDA has found ranges of 9 to 14 mg of calcium per cup, compared to 300 mg of calcium in milk. That’s a huge difference! But there is also evidence for regular bone broth consumption reversing osteopenia, a bone degenerative disease. How can this be?
- Collagen – This is the secret to the bone building properties of bone broth. Collagen is a kind of protein and it provides structure for bone building. Without a framework, all the minerals in the world can’t form bone. But with good framing from collagen, our bones can be strong and healthy. This same structural framework is how collagen also helps us have healthy, smooth skin and strong hair and nails.
- Protein – Bone broth has many amino acids, the building blocks of protein. However, it contains different ratios of these amino acids than muscle meat. It doesn’t contain high amounts of the nine essential amino acids (broth is low in tyrosine, low in histadine, and contains no tryptofan) so it is not a complete protein. But that is part of why it is so important! While broth can’t supply all your protein needs, it is incredibly complementary to muscle meat, providing large amounts of conditionally essential amino acids like glysine, proline and glutamate, which are low in muscle meat but serve important functions.
- Glysine – The simplest amino acid, glysine can be used to make other amino acids and can make up a deficit in times of need. Low glycine levels in the presence of high methionine levels (the most prevalent amino acid in muscle meat) may be connected to reduced longevity and the occurence of diabetes. If you eat muscle meat AND bone broth, you balance the glycine and methionine levels and could reduce the risk of diabetes and increase longevity.
- Proline – Vital for joints, hair, and skin. Important for skin health and wound healing.
- Glutamate – This is not the same as MSG, an additive to processed foods. This amino acid is important for gut health and healing for digestive diseases.
- Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) – These “protein sugars” are found in all connective tissues (think joints, tendons, ligaments and skin!) and the extracellular matrix (the space between all your cells) and thus play a large role in our overall health. Bone broth contains many of these GAGs, including the well known chondroitin and glucosamine. These are incredibly popular supplements for joint issues, and they work even better in synergy with all their pals that are in bone broth!
- Immune system – Cartilage is an important part of bone broth, and it stimulates every kind of white blood cell the body needs. Drinking broth will charge up your immune system.
- Anti-aging and cellulite reversal – The collagen (together with all the other goodies in bone broth) improves the structure and appearance of your skin, increasing hydration and reducing wrinkles. It’s like botox from the inside! Collagen also provides the structural framework in your inner layers of skin, where cellulite forms when there’s not enough structure. Reducing fat doesn’t always get rid of cellulite because it’s a structural problem. One that bone broth can fix!
There are a lot of doctors who have used bone broth therapeutically when treating their patients. Two of note include Dr. John F. Prudden, who documented consistent success treating rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, psoriasis, colitis and other autoimmune disorders, and spent the final years of his career healing cancer, and Dr. Terry Wahls, who includes bone broth in her protocol to fight multiple sclerosis.
In everything from the every day to the life threatening, bone broth can be beneficial and supportive for all of us.
How to make real bone broth
So you’re ready to make some bone broth. It’s an incredibly easy process, and while it does take some time, most of it is hands off. Once you get it started, you’re done for a few hours (depending on your cooking method).
Chicken broth is probably the most commonly made at home, and you can go about it several ways. My preferred method is to save the bones from whole chickens that we have roasted or bone-in chicken thighs, wings or breasts that we have eaten. I just throw the bones in a freezer bag and when it’s full, I know it’s time to make a batch of broth. You could also cook a chicken special for the occasion, if you want.
If you happen to have chicken feet (from a chicken you butchered or you can buy them from a butcher), they will add a huge dose of gelatinous collagen to your broth. If you don’t have the feet, that’s fine, too. You’ll still get yummy, nutritious broth.
Add a few vegetables, salt and pepper and you’re ready to cook your broth. I use onions, garlic, celery and carrots, along with a little thyme, pink sea salt and black peppercorns. You can use whole vegetables if you like and quarter them. Make sure to scrub them well and leave the peels on. They add extra nutrients and flavor, and you’re going to strain them out later. You can also save the peelings and parings from other meals in a freezer bag just like the bones. Anytime you cut up an onion, throw the outer peel in your bag; carrot peelings and celery ends and leaves can go in, too.
Some people add a couple of splashes of raw apple cider vinegar, claiming that it helps draw the minerals out of the bones. I haven’t found much great evidence for this, but I know ACV is good for me and it doesn’t make my broth taste weird, so I go ahead and include it.
Throw everything into a pot and barely cover with water. I use my Instant Pot and making bone broth is one of the reasons why I love it so much. I set it on high pressure for 2 ½ hours.
I used to make broth in an electric roaster, and chicken broth would simmer for 24 hours, beef broth for 48. While that made my house smell awesome and you could make a very large batch, I wished sometimes for a quicker option. In an Instant Pot , which is a digital pressure cooker, you get the same results in just a few hours. Bam!
The benefits of bone broth are being shared more and more widely, and with that comes a rise in companies that would like to make it for you, for a price! While you can buy good quality bone broth now, making your own guarantees that you know what’s in it. And you can’t beat the price.
Bone broth is truly a miracle food that can be made from scraps. Bones and bits that usually get thrown away can be saved. Pieces of vegetables normally not used can be thrown in. And what you get out of them has nutritional qualities that you can’t get in other foods. Our great-grandmothers and their great-grandmothers knew what they were doing.
If you want to have the benefits of bone broth without having to do-it-yourself, not to worry. There are quite a few companies making bone broth with bones from naturally raised animals and organic vegetables.
My first preference if I am buying broth is Bonafide Provisions Organic Chicken Bone Broth. The flavor is great and the product is jiggly when cold – that’s the collagen, so you know you’re getting the good stuff! I buy it at my local Natural Grocers in the freezer section. It can be purchased online in large quantities, and they ship it to you in dry ice. If you want to stock your freezer, this is a great way to go.
If you are ordering online, we also like Kettle and Fire Chicken and Beef Broth. They source quality ingredients and having shelf stable broth is sometimes very convenient.
Other Methods for DIY Bone Broth
Most slow cookers have less room, so I would make half a recipe. Throw everything in and set it on low for as long as it will let you. You’ll want it to continually simmer for about 24 hours, so you’ll probably have to check in every 8 hours to reset the timer.
Electric roasters are usually larger, so you’ll have room for this recipe and maybe more in one batch. A roaster will also need a 24 hour simmer. This was my go-to method for years, and I would make huge batches and freeze them flat in quart and gallon ziplock bags.
The stock pot takes the most watching but also gives you the most control. Once you’ve got everything in the pot, place it on high heat on the stovetop until it starts to simmer. Then turn it down to low, keep it covered, and let it simmer for 24 hours. Keep an eye on it at the beginning to make sure your simmer is low and you’re in no danger of boiling over.
Other Homemade Bone Broth Options
I’m talking about my favorite, basic chicken broth in this post, but of course there are lots of options!
Broth can be made with the bones of any animal you eat – turkey, duck, goose and other birds are going to need the same 2 ½ hours in the Instant Pot or 24 hour simmer as chicken. Don’t forget the feet if you have them. They provide the most collagen.
Beef broth is wonderful, too. Meaty soup bones provides nice flavor, especially if you roast them before you start the broth. Place them in a flat layer in a baking pan. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, give or take. The length of time will depend on the bones. Watch for the bones to start browning. That caramelization is what provides the extra flavor you’re looking for.
Include some marrow bones (leg bones are good for marrow) and beef knuckles (full of collagen) if you can. Ask your butcher for these bones specifically, and have them cut the bones to expose the inner surfaces. You’ll get more of the marrow and collagen out of the bones and into your broth.
Beef broth needs a longer cooking time. I do 4 hours on high in the Instant Pot or 48 hours in the crockpot, electric roaster or stock pot.
I have never made pork broth specifically, but it follows the same general guidelines as beef broth. Your best bets for bones with lots of collagen are the knuckles, feet and the hock. The hock will have meat that also supplies another layer of flavor and nutrition. Have these cut by your butcher and roast for extra flavor.
Mix and match! Who says you have to have a pure, one species broth? Keep all the bones from anything you cook and toss it all together. Add a ham hock to your chicken broth. Save the shells from any shellfish you eat and throw it in the stock pot.
You can also add organs to your bone broth to up the nutrient profile. Gizzards and hearts are good additions. I personally don’t add liver to my broth because I enjoy fried liver and onions too much!
Mix up your vegetables if you want. Add mushrooms. Try different herbs. The varieties are endless, and there is no one right way. Make your broth with what you’ve got and in a way that sounds good to you!
Basic Chicken Bone Broth Recipe
Makes 12 cups
- 1 gallon bag of leftover chicken bones – if using one whole chicken carcass, make half a recipe
- 1 onion, with skin or frozen scraps
- ½ cup celery, fresh or frozen pairings
- ½ cup carrot, fresh or frozen pairings
- 4 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp thyme
- 2 tsp pink sea salt
- 1 tsp peppercorns
If you’re using leftover bones that you’ve been stockpiling in the freezer, there’s no need to thaw them. Just throw them in the pot. For a whole chicken carcass, once you’re done eating and have gotten all the meat off you want, toss all the bones, cartilage and cooking juices in the pot.
If using vegetables scraps you’ve been saving, no need to thaw them, either. Toss them on top. For fresh vegetables, make sure they are clean and then quarter them. Add them to the pot with skins on.
Add the vinegar and herbs. Fill the pot with water to just cover the contents.
For the Instant Pot, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you lid is properly sealed and the vent is pointed to the “sealing” setting. Plug it in, set the pressure to high and the time to 150 minutes. Come back in a few hours when it’s done and has naturally released the pressure.
For the crockpot, use the low setting and cook for 24 hours.
For the electric roaster, bring to a low boil then lower heat and keep it at a low simmer for 24 hours.
For the stock pot, bring to a low boil then lower heat and keep it at a low simmer for 24 hours.
For all methods, once the cooking is done, let it cool enough to handle. To strain out the solids, I set a colander inside a stock pot and pour it through, removing the larger solids with tongs to make it easier.
Depending on how you are going to use your bone broth, you may want a finer strain. Cheesecloth works well, draped over the colander in your stock pot. Pour the broth through again, and the cheesecloth will catch all the smaller solids, leaving you with a beautiful, translucent broth ready for drinking, simmering vegetables, making soup, cooking sauces or whatever else you want to do with it!
To store, I portion it out into 2-3 cup containers. I’ve used quart-sized freezer bags and then frozen them flat. I’ve used glass jars, but this can be tricky. Since the broth will expand when frozen, make sure to leave lots of extra space at the top of the jar. There’s still a chance your jar may crack, so be aware and careful. Plastic containers with lids that are designed for freezer use will work, too.
Where to buy bone broth.
If you don’t have the time or resources to make your own bone broth, then buy the best bone broth that fits within your budget. Cut corners on cloths, not food.
When choosing a healthy bone broth to buy, look for the following:
- Grass Fed or Free Range
- Very Simple Ingredients (nothing from a laboratory)
You can find some decent options at the grocery store, but, by far, our favorite commercial available bone broth is made by one of our sponsors, The Osso Good Company.
Their bone broth is so healthy and so clean. The flavor is amazing and tells us that they are even more generous with the meat they leave on their bones than we are at our house. If the Osso Good Bone Broth fits in your budget, you are going to love this product.