Is Bone Broth Good For Your Bones?

Published: September 24, 2019
Updated: April 22, 2020

Why is everyone talking about bone broth?

Lots of you have been asking us this question lately. And I understand why. Recently, media coverage of food and health trends has had plenty to say about bone broth. Nutrition gurus, social-media influencers, celebrities, athletes… they’ve all been sharing their enthusiasm for it.

Well, the claims made about bone broth certainly are intriguing. Devotees say it offers a wide variety of health benefits — that it boosts immunity, speeds healing, eases away wrinkles, strengthens hair and nails, soothes digestion, and more! 

It’s also said to support healthy bones.

That’s a lot for a food to live up to. And when something seems too good to be true, it’s natural to be skeptical. I certainly was!

So, I decided to dig into the bone-broth trend. Where did it come from? And is it really as beneficial as it’s made out to be? 

Here’s what I found.

What is Bone Broth?

Even if you aren’t familiar with the term “bone broth,” you actually already know what it is. That’s because it’s existed for centuries under many other names — most commonly, stock. The French call it bouillon or consommé. In Italy, it’s known as brodo. The bases used to make steaming bowls of Asian noodles are a type of bone broth. You might even just call it soup!

Bone broth is one of the oldest cooked food preparations. Basically, it’s animal bones (cut in pieces to expose their marrow) boiled in water for several hours. Our prehistoric ancestors would have done this over an open fire, using the bones from that day’s kill.

While the recipe for bone broth has evolved a bit (nowadays we tend to add vegetables and herbs), not much about it has changed since caveman times.

And, in a funny way, it’s because of cavemen that you might’ve been hearing so much about bone broth. Have you also heard about the Paleo diet? Well, the two are deeply connected. 

The Paleo diet is based on mimicking what primitive (Paleolithic) man consumed millions of years ago. The Paleo diet is defined as a diet that “typically includes lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds — foods that in the past could be obtained by hunting and gathering.” It’s high in protein and low in refined carbs, and restricts the consumption of dairy, grains, legumes, sugar, potatoes, and processed foods. 

Why? Well, Paleo is based on the theory that the human body wasn’t designed to consume many of the foods in the modern diet. (“Modern,” in this case, means after the introduction of 20th-century agriculture.) The Paleo diet, the thinking goes, is in harmony with what nature intends us to eat — the diet of our primitive ancestors, who didn’t experience the widespread problems of obesity and disease that are so common today. As a happy side effect, Paleo can also promote weight loss.

So, what could be more “primitive” — and, therefore, better for our bodies — than bone broth, right?

Bone broth and bone health

Fortunately, you don’t need to be following any particular diet to enjoy bone broth.

As for the argument that bone broth is really just stock with a newfangled name — that’s mostly true. In fact, culinary experts point out that broth, as we’ve traditionally known it, is different from stock because it doesn’t contain a lot of bones. Rather, broth gets most of its flavor from meat, such as a chicken carcass. Stock, on the other hand, is made with lots of bones (which may still have a bit of meat on them). The bones are often roasted beforehand to provide a richer taste. Veggies and herbs can be added to both broth and stock.

BrothStock
Broth doesn’t contain a lot of bones and gets most of its flavor from meat, such as a chicken carcass. Stock, on the other hand, is made with lots of bones (which may still have a bit of meat on them). The bones are often roasted beforehand to provide a richer taste.

Something lots of people agree on about bone broth, though, is that it’s delicious. It’s also a deeply nostalgic dish if you have childhood memories of a parent or grandparent who cooked homemade soup when you had a cold.


But is bone broth actually good for you?

The Nutritional Value of Bone Broth

Millions of people have believed in the healing power of soup for a very long time. But there’s surprisingly little scientific research to either support or disprove its therapeutic value.

In fact, to find one of the few known studies about it, we have to go all the way back to 1934. That’s when British researchers tried to get to the bottom of a typical broth’s healthfulness when fed to infants. They concluded that it was “not of great nutritional value.” 

In 2000, a U.S. study found that “traditional chicken soup” “may contain a number of substances with beneficial medicinal activity” in cases of upper respiratory tract infection, although their combined therapeutic impact is mild. 

Since then, though, no further scientific studies about soup have been published. And none of the studies that do exist are specifically about bone broth. That’s a key point, because bone broth isn’t exactly like an ordinary soup. Why?

Well, during the cooking process for bone broth, the bones release their nutrients into the water. (They also give broth its rich, mildly salty taste.) Then you consume that nutrient-dense water. Unlike a basic soup — a meat-based broth that’s typically cooked for only a few hours — bone broth is simmered for as long as one or two days. That allows plenty of time for the water to draw out larger amounts of collagen and minerals. (Most recipes suggest adding a small amount of an acidic liquid to the pot, like wine or apple cider vinegar. This encourages nutrient extraction.) If you use bones from organic, pasture-fed animals and add lots of vegetables, you’ll improve its nutritional profile that much more!

But does even a long-simmered bone broth contain enough additional nutrients to raise it above the ordinary soup you already love? Read on to learn more.

Collagen

When you make a traditional broth (that is, with meat but not bones), it remains a liquid after it’s allowed to cool. A bone broth, though, becomes a gelatin. That’s because of the collagen in the broth.

Collagen is the primary protein in your body’s connective tissue — the tissue that literally holds your body together. (The word collagen comes from “kolla,” the Greek word for glue, and “gen,” which means producing.) Collagen is in your muscles, skin, tendons, blood vessels, digestive tract and, yes, your bones.

Beginning in your 20s, your body’s collagen production starts to slow down at a rate of about 1% per year. This is why all of us eventually start to experience joint pain. Our cartilage (the protective tissue at the ends of long bones and joints) wears away and isn’t replaced.

So, you’re probably starting to see why bone broth is thought to be a valuable weapon in the fight against collagen loss. While a batch of broth boils away on the stove for a day or two, its bones release their collagen into the water. (At room temperature, collagen becomes a gelatin, which causes the broth to solidify.) By ingesting the collagen-rich broth, you’re restoring some of the collagen your body may no longer be able to make on its own.

But there’s another reason why your body needs more collagen. Remember the Paleo diet I mentioned earlier? Well, one of the ways the modern diet has changed for the worse is we don’t consume as much collagen as we used to. One of the big reasons for this is that our primitive ancestors didn’t just eat the “muscle meats” that are still popular today — things you’d recognize as ribeye steak or chicken breast. They ate the whole animal, including things like skin, tendons, ligaments and bones. That’s where the collagen is. 

So, it’s not just that your body is producing less collagen due to aging. You’re also probably getting less from your daily diet. Bone broth is one way to add it back in. What’s more, bone broth also contains moderate amounts of calcium and magnesium — both of which are among the most important nutrients for achieving optimal bone health. 

Protein

Now, while there’s no Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for collagen, remember that collagen is a type of protein. So, you can consider bone broth a part of your RDA for protein. Your personal protein needs will be determined by factors like gender, age, weight, and level of activity. This page can help you figure out your daily protein needs. You would need to drink gallons of bone broth in a single day to exceed a typical person’s protein RDA, so feel free to enjoy it!

In addition to bone broth, it’s always a good idea to eat more of the foods that help your body manufacture collagen on its own. Not surprisingly, these are foods that most of us need more of in our diet anyway, and that benefit the entire body in dozens of ways.

Specifically, reach for foods that are high in vitamin C. Adequate vitamin C intake is essential for collagen production, so be sure to enjoy plenty of oranges, kale, broccoli and red peppers. Or take a supplement that offers enough vitamin C to make up for the shortfall in your diet. The recommended daily dosage of AlgaeCal Plus provides not only a clinical amount of vitamin C… It also includes highly absorbable  silicon — a nutrient that plays an important role in collagen production — plus calcium and magnesium in the preferred 2:1 ratio, and all the other essential bone-supporting minerals. 

In short, bone broth may not be a “miracle food” on its own… but remember, no single food is. It may sound obvious, but you need a diverse diet to experience the full benefits of good nutrition. And bone broth — especially an organic one, enhanced with lots of vegetables — can certainly be a part of that.

Other Benefits of Bone Broth

Skin Health

Decreased collagen production affects more than your joints. It also has a significant impact on your skin.

Collagen makes up 70% of the protein in skin. When that collagen isn’t adequately replaced, it results in the signs of aging you’re all too familiar with. Wrinkles. Sagging. A less “dewy” appearance…

The idea that supplementary collagen can improve skin health isn’t a new one. In Asian countries — where collagen has been added to various snacks, and even a beer marketed to women — collagen is prized for its supposed age-defying properties. (In China, women have been consuming donkey skin, allegedly since the 1st century, to access its collagen content.) In the 1980s, collagen became a popular injectable, particularly for the lips. But its popularity declined because of allergic reactions in some patients and a short efficacy period.

There’s been some research showing that collagen supplements might help reduce the visible signs of aging. This would suggest that the naturally occurring collagen in bone broth would have a similar effect.

But there’s a catch. Supplements are made with collagen that’s been hydrolyzed. (This means the amino acids have been purified and broken down, so they’re more easily absorbed during digestion.) The collagen in bone broth hasn’t been hydrolyzed, so it may not have an impact on your skin’s appearance.

Gut Health

Many bone-broth advocates say regular consumption of broth can be useful for preventing or even healing gut issues. “Gut,” in this context, refers to your large and small intestine, not your stomach. It may also be referred to as the “gastrointestinal tract” or the “digestive tract”. The gut is where all the food you eat gets processed, to be either absorbed by the body or passed out in a bowel movement.

Since about 75% of the body’s immune system activity happens in the gut, maintaining its delicate balance of “friendly” bacteria is critical to overall good health. Poor gut health can contribute to a variety of serious health issues, including obesity, diabetes, digestive disorders, insomnia and depression. 

Not long ago, mainstream media articles started appearing about a condition called “leaky gut syndrome.” Although the concept is new to most medical doctors, researchers in alternative and integrative medicine have been aware of it for decades.

To understand what leaky gut syndrome is, it’s important to know that the walls of your intestines are lined with a protective barrier. This barrier is critical, because it prevents things like partially digested food and toxins from passing through the intestinal wall and getting absorbed into the bloodstream. If the barrier becomes weakened, that’s leaky gut syndrome. (It’s also known as “increased intestinal permeability”.) Some doctors believe it can lead to various inflammation-related illnesses — anything from food sensitivities and skin problems to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and even autism.


The collagen content in bone broth may be soothing to the digestive system. More importantly, it may help to nourish and maintain the intestinal barrier, thereby reducing the chances of a leaky gut.

How to Make Bone Broth

Homemade Bone Broth

Prep Time 1 hr
Cook Time 1 d
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 8
Calories 28 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs bones
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups organic carrot roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup organic onion roughly chopped
  • 1 cup organic celery roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • filtered water
  • your choice of spices

Instructions
 

  • For a richer flavor, roast the bones first. Preheat your oven to 400F. Arrange the bones in a roasting pan or on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place on the middle oven rack and roast for 30 minutes.
  • Place the bones in a large stock pot. Pour in cool filtered water until it covers the bones by about 1 inch.
  • Add the apple cider vinegar to the water and let the bones sit, without heating, for 30 minutes. The vinegar will help draw more nutrients out of the bones.
  • Chop the vegetables whatever size you like and add them to the pot, along with salt, pepper, and your choice of herbs and spices.
  • Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it’s rapidly boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover almost all the way.
  • After the first few hours of simmering, your broth may have a layer of foam on the surface. Use a large spoon to remove the foam and discard it. (Organic/grass-fed bones will produce less foam.)
  • Continue to simmer, covered almost all the way, for 24-48 hours. (24 hours is usually enough for poultry bones.)
  • If using garlic and/or parsley, add during the last 30 minutes of cooking.
  • Let the broth cool. Using a metal strainer, strain the cooled broth into resealable containers. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Your broth can also be frozen for later use.

Notes

Note #1: We strongly recommend using bones from an animal that was organically raised. (And if you choose beef bones, use bones from grass-fed cattle.) Animals that have been organically raised are less likely to contain antibiotic, hormone and pesticide residues.
 
Note #2: Ask your butcher for bones that still have connective tissue attached. This will increase the collagen content of your broth.
 
Note #3: After your broth has completely cooled in the fridge, a layer of fat will form on the top. Use a slotted spoon or a fork to remove it. The remaining broth will have a gelatin-like consistency at room temperature (because of the collagen) but will return to a liquid when you reheat it.

Nutrition

Calories: 28kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 37mgPotassium: 204mgFiber: 2gSugar: 3gVitamin A: 6003IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 31mgIron: 1mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Takeaways of Bone Broth

As with so many food trends (especially those associated with health claims or a popular diet), it can be easy to be suspicious about bone broth. But not only is there an encouraging amount of evidence about bone broth’s benefits — there’s also nothing to suggest it’s harmful.

One thing I don’t question is that bone broth really is delicious and comforting. So if you enjoy it, by all means continue to do so. Just be aware that not all bone broths are created equal. Many commercially prepared broths contain added sodium, sugar, and artificial ingredients. The best bone broth (in terms of both quality and flavor) is homemade — ideally with bones from organically raised animals. If you do buy your broth from the store, though, make sure it’s organic. And check the ingredients list and nutrition panel. If there’s anything in it you wouldn’t add if you were making it at home, take a pass! There are plenty of quality brands to choose from.

And here’s a final key point. In most of the research out there, the most nutrient-dense broths are those that contain the most vegetables. So feel free to add lots (plus fresh herbs, too!), and experiment to find what tastes best to you. You’ll be improving the broth’s nutritional profile, and it’ll taste even better!

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  1. Stephanie

    September 25, 2019 , 7:24 am

    ? I don’t feel like I know one iota more than I knew about bone broth before I read this “article” which doesn’t really seem to give any hard info and tippy toes around. I don’t know if was of any service though many of the articles are good. If you even believe it’s just comforting, then maybe a “good” recipe would be useful??? If the idea or info is so lukewarm, I’d say don’t bother to post. Seriously…

  2. Megan AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 12:19 pm

    Hi Stephanie, thank you for your honest feedback! ?

    We definitely see where you’re coming from as we don’t take a strong stance on this topic. We’re often asked about the benefits of bone broth so we decided to share what the research says – and while there’s some evidence that supports bone broth, it isn’t super strong. We tried to share information while, at the same time, not misrepresenting what research shows.

    We love the idea of adding a recipe and will keep this in mind for future articles! ?

    Thanks again, Stephanie, and we do hope you’ll continue to enjoy our articles – don’t hesitate to let us know whenever you have feedback on how we can improve!

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  3. Guillermo Gomez

    September 25, 2019 , 7:34 am

    I do certainly appreciate your eagerness to pass on very useful information to all AlgaeCal’s customers. However, I seldom find the time to read it all….and I’m retired and have time to do it.
    I really do not know what to suggest, but generally speaking, you should dosify, some how, the release of such useful information. ¿Do you know how many people read all your educational emails? Rather than continuing doing what you feel is useful (and all is useful) you should concentrate on a few topics at a time and see if people reply to you.
    I apologize if you may feel I’m unkind with my comments.

  4. Megan AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 10:48 am

    Hi Guillermo!

    No need to apologize at all. We are always looking for ways to improve and feedback like this helps us do exactly that! We hope you’ll continue to take a look at our articles and please don’t hesitate to let us know how we can do better! ❤️

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  5. Marzanna

    September 25, 2019 , 8:00 am

    I wish that above article, which was interesting, would include a recipe for making own bone broth.

  6. Megan AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 10:58 am

    Thank you for the wonderful suggestion, Marzanna!

    While we don’t have a recipe of our own at the moment, here is a delicious recipe that you can try in the meantime! 😀

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  7. Mary Lou Jankowski

    September 25, 2019 , 8:12 am

    Thx for this info on bone broth my mother always cooked bones for soup she used a lot of beef bone course in the 50s it was. Good meat I need a lot of food info to improve my diet
    Thx again

  8. Megan AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 11:00 am

    We’re so glad you enjoyed the info, Mary!

    Yum, homemade bone broth is always delicious 🙂 A nutritious diet certainly is important – feel free to take a look at the rest of the articles & recipes on our blog here.

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  9. deborah wetzel

    September 27, 2019 , 12:58 pm

    Hi. does it matter if the bones are not organic? thanks.

  10. Megan AlgaeCal

    October 1, 2019 , 10:38 am

    Hi Deborah!

    We recommend opting for organic foods whenever possible to reduce exposure to harmful substances! 🙂

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  11. Penny

    September 25, 2019 , 9:45 am

    I’ve been giving bone broth to dogs for years, not realizing I should be eating it myself! I will change that now!

  12. Megan AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 11:03 am

    You have some lucky dogs, Penny!

    Yes, you can definitely enjoy bone broth yourself as well 🙂

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  13. Doris

    September 25, 2019 , 10:26 am

    I shop at butcher shops that sell organic, pasture raised meat but they don’t sell bones. What meat or chicken do you buy to make the broth? I can cool it overnight to eliminate the fat.

  14. Megan AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 11:09 am

    Great question, Doris!

    Bone broth is very versatile and you can try different meats – the most commonly used ones are beef and chicken! You can use whichever parts the butcher shop has available, including short ribs, oxtail, marrow, knuckles, and neckbones.

    Hope this helps and that you’re able to enjoy a delicious bowl of bone broth soon! ?

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  15. Holly

    September 25, 2019 , 1:11 pm

    Oh dear! What can us vegetarians do?!

  16. Megan AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 11:26 am

    Hi Holly!

    There’s an informative article on how vegetarians and vegans can support their collagen production here.

    Hope you find this helpful! 🙂

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  17. Helgard Berrettini

    September 25, 2019 , 1:36 pm

    Bone broth was a good replacement for meat during WWII. My mother made lots of soups with either beef or chicken bones, vegetables and noodles, a full meal for growing children
    I still make broth for soup, in a hot cup with a scrambles egg, is a delicious snack.
    Thank’s for bringing a good thing to life.

  18. Megan AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 11:24 am

    Yum, your mother’s recipe sounds delicious, Helgard!

    Glad you’re continuing to make yummy, nutritious broth! ?

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  19. Diane Sellers

    September 25, 2019 , 3:31 pm

    I always make my own bone broth from the carcass of chickens and use it not just for soups but for the liquid for rice dishes and dried beans. I use a pressure cooker and add 1/4 c vinegar to draw out the nutrients in the marrow of the long bones to make the broth even healthier.

  20. Blaire AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 11:07 am

    Thank you so much for sharing, Diane! That sounds like a great method ?

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  21. Mary Rose

    September 26, 2019 , 12:15 am

    Will consuming bone broth increase my “bad” cholesterol?

  22. Blaire AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 11:31 am

    Hi Mary,

    Thanks for your inquiry! Bone broth should not increase “bad” cholesterol. A recent study actually showed that bone broth made from dry-cured ham bones may have heart benefits. You can view this study here! Of course, bone broths vary depending on the kind you consume, so please do check the nutritional content beforehand.

    Any further questions, don’t hesitate!

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  23. Cindy

    September 26, 2019 , 5:14 am

    What about the lead that’s released when animal bones are boiled?

  24. Blaire AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 11:08 am

    Hi Cindy,

    Thanks for reaching out! Yes, lead is present in bone broth, like all foods. However, it is safe to consume bone broth in moderation ?

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  25. Tianna Galgano

    September 26, 2019 , 8:40 am

    Just read the entire article. I don’t see in this extensive article if bone broth helps increase bone density. Does it?

  26. Blaire AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 10:56 am

    Hi Tianna,

    Good question! Bone broth contains collagen, which is beneficial for bone health. If you’re interested, we have a great article on collagen here.

    Hope that helps! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have further questions 🙂

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  27. deborah wetzel

    September 27, 2019 , 12:57 pm

    Hi AlgaeCal. so does that mean I should not skim off what I think is the fat that rises to the top of the bone broth I make from bones at home? is that fat or is that collagen? Thanks

  28. Megan AlgaeCal

    October 1, 2019 , 10:27 am

    Good question, Deborah!

    You can continue to skim off the fat if you prefer to – the collagen will be dispersed in your broth. One way to do this is to let the broth cool in the fridge and just before heating it up to drink, skim off the solid layer on top. Hope this helps! ?

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

  29. Sherry

    October 6, 2020 , 10:48 pm

    The fat will rise to the top of the broth. When it cools it will become solid like lard. The jelly like clear yellowish (chicken) or brownish (beef) is the collogen.

  30. Katherine Beauchamp

    September 26, 2019 , 8:38 pm

    Thank you for this.

    Did you find anything regarding iron in bone broth? Is it a way of getting iron stores up?

    Kate

  31. Blaire AlgaeCal

    September 27, 2019 , 10:46 am

    Hi Kate,

    Glad you enjoyed the article! Iron amounts in bone broth will depend on what kind you get so it is best to check the nutrition label of the particular brand you use. You could always rev up the iron content by adding ingredients like spinach! It is important to note that iron intake varies for different individuals, so it’s recommended to check how much you need with your doctor ?

    – Blaire @ AlgaeCal

  32. Shirley Sills

    October 18, 2019 , 3:12 pm

    I’ve started taking both products and was wondering if they affect your bowel movements.
    I’m experiencing a little bit of diarrhea since starting them.. Just wondered if that is normal.

    Thanks,
    Shirley
    .

  33. Megan AlgaeCal

    October 22, 2019 , 11:59 am

    Hi Shirley, glad you reached out!

    This is not something we expect from AlgaeCal, however, we recently identified the reason some people do experience this — plus a simple solution!

    There is a bio-active form of vitamin B6 our body creates called pyridoxal-5-phosphate (otherwise known as P5P) that’s essential for magnesium absorption. The problem is, ~25% of the population don’t do a good job of converting vitamin B6 to P5P, which means when they take magnesium their body is unable to absorb it. This can lead to side effects like loose stool, diarrhea, muscle cramps, headaches, etc. If you’re part of this 25% of people, you can take a P5P supplement which will help your body absorb magnesium properly. Lara Pizzorno suggests 25mg P5P with each dose of AlgaeCal Plus.

    Shirley, one more thing to consider is whether you’re taking any additional magnesium supplements. If so, you may want to discontinue them. For more information or if you need clarification, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Bone Health Consultants by calling 1-800-820-0184! ?

    -Megan @ AlgaeCal

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,
Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, PhD - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Dr. Carole McArthur
MD, PhD - Professor of Immunology, Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City; Director of Residency Research in Pathology, Truman Medical Center.,