Bone Broth: What It Does to Your Body

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on October 31, 2023
6 min read

Bone broth is liquid made from boiling animal bones and connective tissue. Chefs use stock as a base for soups, sauces, and gravies. Some people drink it on its own.

People have been making bone broth since the beginning of humankind. Anthropologists think people drank liquid infused with bones and other animal parts as early as prehistoric times.

People all over the planet make bone broth from the animals that live nearby. The popular Japanese ramen dish tonkatsu—"pork bone broth" in English—is one example.

Technically, you can make a bone broth out of anything with bones and skin. But most are made using leftovers from the butcher's block. The most common types of bone broth available in grocery stores include:

Chicken bone broth

This is the most popular type of bone broth in the U.S. Chicken bone broth has a higher amino acid content than beef bone broth—though it is less nutrient-dense than turkey bone broth. It is also lower in fat than most other types of bone broth and has a relatively mild flavor that blends well into a variety of dishes.

Beef bone broth

While not as rich in amino acids as chicken bone broth, beef bone broth packs slightly more fat. This makes it a perfect base for rich stews and soups, such as French onion. Price-wise, it is about comparable to chicken bone broth, though it may be slightly more expensive if you make it at home with store-bought bones.

Pork bone broth

Pork bone broth forms the basis for many popular east Asian dishes, including tonkotsu ramen and bak kut teh. While historically less common on the U.S. market, more Americans have begun catching on to pork bone broth in recent years. This broth is sometimes made with pigs' feet in addition to bones and skin to give it an extra-gelatinous texture.

In general, the difference between broth and stock boils down to their primary ingredient. Animal-based stocks are made using bones, while broths are made using meat and skin. Bone broth combines the best of both worlds: bones, meat, and sometimes skin or other tissue go into the recipe. In addition to these base ingredients, stocks and broths may contain aromatic vegetables, and broths are usually seasoned with salt (and sometimes pepper) as well.

Vegetable-based stocks and broths do not contain any meat or skeletal material. Instead, veggie stocks sometimes include meat-free gelatin as a thickener.

Health benefits of bone broth include:

Better hydration

The high water content in bone broth helps you stay hydrated. Water makes up 70% of the body and impacts virtually every bodily function.

Improved sleep

Bone broth contains small amounts of the amino acid glycine, which may promote relaxation and deeper, more restorative sleep.

Collagen boost

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. Its braided, chain-like structure helps it strengthen a variety of tissues, including skin, bones, muscles, and tendons. Bone broth is naturally high in collagen. But there is little evidence that eating collagen-rich foods will help your body make more of the protein.

Reduced inflammation

Some studies suggest that bone broth can help reduce inflammation. Chronic inflammation is associated with a host of conditions, including arthritis, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis. The amino acids in bone broth may work to counteract inflammation-causing compounds in your body.

Bone broth for weight loss

Bone broth can be a part of a healthy weight loss regime. It is loaded with proteinabout 10 grams per servingthat can help you feel full for longer. This extra protein can also assist in building lean muscle mass, which in turn enables your body to burn more calories throughout the day. Experts recommended that most people take in at least 0.8 grams of protein a day per kilogram of body weight. To maximize lean muscle gain, be sure to incorporate exercise into your daily routine as well.

Bone broth is easy to make and a flavorful part of many complex, delicious recipes. It's also a great way to use otherwise inedible animal bones and tissues.

Nutrients per serving

Every batch of bone broth is unique, so it's impossible to calculate the exact nutrient content. However, because beef stock is among the more common broths around the world, it's a decent reference point. One cup of beef bone broth contains:

  • Calories: 39
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 0 grams

Bone broth also contains small amounts of calcium, iron, and potassium.

Bone broth protein

The protein content in bone broth may support your body as it builds bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.

If you want to reap the nutritional benefits of bone broth without eating soup, you could try taking it in powder form. Bone broth protein powder is a nutritional supplement designed to quickly deliver protein to your muscles. This concentrated form of bone broth packs about 20 grams of protein per 22 gram scoop, according to the manufacturers. But many brands also contain artificial sweeteners, which can cause digestive issues like bloating and diarrhea.

While bone broth is generally considered safe to consume, there are some potential risks to be aware of.

Lead contamination. Some studies show elevated levels of lead in bone broths, which can be harmful to health if consumed in large amounts.

Bacterial contamination. Improper preparation and storage of bone broth can lead to bacterial growth, increasing the risk of foodborne illness.

Allergic reactions. Bone broth may contain allergens such as dairy or shellfish, so it is important to check the ingredients before consuming.

Interaction with medications. Bone broth contains amino acids and minerals that can interact with certain medications, such as blood thinners.

It is important to follow proper food safety guidelines when preparing and storing bone broth to minimize the risk of these potential issues. You should also consult a doctor before consuming bone broth, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or take medications.

This bone broth recipe is simple:

  1. Fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water.
  2. Add 2-4 pounds of animal bones and, optionally, connective tissue.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 12-24 hours.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The longer you simmer broth, the more flavor it will take on from the bones and tissue.

Add flavor to your bone broth with ingredients like onion, celery, carrot, parsley, thyme, and garlic. Add these before you boil the broth.

You can also prepare bone broth in a pressure cooker or slow cooker.

Beef, chicken, and pork bone broths are the most common types. But you can create bone broth from virtually any animal's bones and connective tissue. Some examples include turkey, veal, lamb, bison, buffalo, deer, and fish. You can also use a mix of bones from different animals.

Use your bone broth as a base for soups, sauces, and gravy or drink it on its own.

Here are a few other ways to use bone broth:

  • Add flavor to pasta by boiling it in bone broth instead of water.
  • Add to casseroles for more flavor and moistness.
  • Use as a flavorful base for nutritious vegetable soup.
  • Sip hot bone broth to soothe a sore throat.
  • Drink bone broth between meals as a low-calorie snack.

Bone broth combines the richness of a stock with the drinkability of a broth. It can make a healthy addition to your diet and contains nutrients such as collagen, electrolytes, and various amino acids. Consuming bone broth can help reduce inflammation and build muscle when combined with daily exercise.

Several popular claims about the benefits of bone broth may be overstated. So far, we don't have scientific evidence that bone broth can relieve joint pain, make skin firmer, improve digestion, or strengthen bone.