What is bone broth, and should I have it?
Bone broth is exactly what it sounds like — a broth or stock made by simmering animal bones.
You simmer the bones for around 12–48 hours, so making it takes much longer than making other stocks and broths. For reference, vegetable and meat stocks simmer for about 4–6 hours and broths under 2 hours.
There are claims that bone broth can improve different aspects of your health. But there isn’t much research supporting these claims.
While bone broth can be a convenient way to add many different nutrients and other compounds to your diet, it isn’t clear how much of each nutrient the broth actually contains.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the benefits and risks of bone broth and whether it's worth including in your diet.
With ZOE’s personalized nutrition program, you can learn how to eat for your body and your long-term health goals.
How it’s made
You can make bone broth with a mix of leftover bones, either after a roast or from a butcher. Recipes vary, so it’s a good idea to look for one that suits your taste.
First, rinse the bones. If you haven’t roasted them already, do this next to add extra flavor, richness, and color to your broth.
Add the bones to a large pot or slow cooker, along with water, vinegar, and any recommended herbs and spices. Let it simmer for 12–48 hours. Late in this stage, you can add vegetables if you want.
After the simmering period, leave the broth to cool, then strain it into a storage container, discarding the bones and anything you added.
You can make bone broth with many different bones and other ingredients, and this determines the nutrition content.
As an example, 1 cup (253 g) of bone broth can contain about:
energy: 41 calories
protein: 9.4 g
total fat: 0.3 g
carbohydrates: 0.6 g
fiber: 0 g
sugar: 0.5 g
sodium: 486 milligrams, 20% daily value (DV)
calcium: 9 mg, 1% DV
potassium: 24 mg, 1% DV
Suggested health benefits
There are claims that bone broth can help with weight loss, gut health, and joint health — but there’s little evidence to support this.
Apart from protein, bone broth only contains small amounts of nutrients.
To make sure you’re meeting all your nutrition requirements, it's important to build a diverse diet rather than adding any specific food.
A balanced and nutrient-rich diet contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
There are some concerns about whether bone broth contains toxic metals, particularly lead.
In one study, researchers examined the lead content of bone broth made from chicken bones. They found that the broth contained over ten times more lead than the water alone.
However, in a later study, scientists stated that the lead content in bone broth is low. They did note that the nutritional content depends on the source of the bones and the method of preparation.
Unfortunately, the research into the toxic metal content of bone broth hasn’t arrived at clear findings. And because recipes vary, it’s difficult to know the nutrition content of your particular version.
Also, most bone broths are high in sodium, which can be bad for your heart if you have too much. One serving of broth can provide about 20% of your daily sodium requirement, depending on the recipe.
Is bone broth worth including in your diet?
Bone broth and stock are common bases for many recipes, such as soups, stews, casseroles, and gravies.
While bone broth can be a flavorful ingredient, it won’t make a big difference to your overall nutritional intake.
You don’t need to stop having bone broth, but it's important to make sure you’re getting what you need in the rest of your diet.
A good way to improve your nutrient intake is to eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, oils, nuts, and seeds.
Bone broth can be a good way to use up leftover animal bones.
This type of broth typically contains protein, but low amounts of other vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids, depending on your recipe and its ingredients.
Also, some bone broths may contain lead, a potentially toxic metal, but the research so far isn’t conclusive.
At ZOE, we know that all bodies respond to foods differently, so there's no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition.
The ZOE at-home test kit analyzes your blood fat and blood sugar responses, as well as the “good” and “bad” bugs living in your gut.
Based on your unique results, the ZOE personalized nutrition program provides recipes and advice so you can learn how to eat for your body.
Anti-aging effects of the Hanwoo leg bone, foot and tail infusions (HLI, HFI, and HTI) on skin fibroblast. Korean Journal for Food Science of Animal Resources. (2016). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4869551/
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Bone broth unlikely to provide reliable concentrations of collagen precursors compared with supplemental sources of collagen used in collagen research. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. (2019). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29893587/
Essential and toxic metals in animal bone broths. Food & Nutrition Research. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5533136/
How to make bone broth. (n.d.). https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-bone-broth-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-215311
The impact of excessive salt intake on human health. Nephrology. (2022). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35058650/
The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets. Medical Hypotheses. (2013). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23375414/