Collagen has been a buzz word lately. More and more health-conscious individuals, athletes, or people with chronic diseases (like Lyme or Leaking gut) are talking about getting collagen supplements or drinking bone broth on a regular basis. There are lots of studies regarding collagen supplements, as this is a growing market and many companies fund such requests in order to boost their sales. Bone broth is something one can prepare at home, so, as expected, not much research has been done to support its benefits. So, is bone broth good for you? Read on to see why I believe it is, and why I think you should drink it on a regular basis.

What is Bone Broth?

Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones and connective tissues for long periods of time. One should simmer the bones for 12 to 24 hours.

You can use pretty much any animal bones to make bone broth – beef, chicken, pork, turkey, lamb, venison, fish, just to name a few. The best parts are cut bones with marrow, connective tissues like feet, beaks, hooves, knuckles, fins, etc. These contain collagen, and when cooked, collagen breaks down into gelatin, a great source of amino acids (especially glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline) most of us don’t normally get enough of.

Besides the high gelatin content, bone broth is a great source of nutrients, like vitamins (A, K), minerals (calcium, iron, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous), and glycosaminoglycans (hyaluronic acid, chondroitin, glucosamine). Adding vegetables and other ingredients when preparing the broth may add additional nutrients.

Is Bone Broth Good for You?

I think the above-mentioned list nutrients it contains is already a good argument for stating that bone broth is good for you. The amounts of each nutrient will differ from batch to batch, depending on the bones you use and what other ingredients you add to it, but some if not most of them should be present.

Probably the most important component is gelatin. This is the cooked form of the collagen. Through cooking, the amino acids are broken into smaller components after they are cooked long enough.

Gelatin has been shown to protect gastric mucosal integrity in rats1)G Samonina, L Lyapina, G Kopylova, V Pastorova V, Z Bakaeva, N Jeliaznik, S Zuykova, I Ashmarin – Protection of gastric mucosal integrity by gelatin and simple proline-containing peptides and is believed to have the same effect in humans.

Gelatin contains proline and glycine, two very important amino acids that the body uses to build connective tissue, including tendons and ligaments. Gelatin also contains two very important compounds: glucosamine and chondroitin. These are natural components of cartilage, the tissue that cushions the joints. There are multiple studies that indicate an apport of these nutrients leads to decreased joint pain and lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis2)T E Towheed, L Maxwell, T P Anastassiades, B Shea, J Houpt, V Robinson, M C Hochberg, G Wells – Glucosamine therapy for treating osteoarthritis, Florent Richy, Olivier Bruyere, Olivier Ethgen, Michel Cucherat, Yves Henrotin, Jean-Yves Reginster – Structural and symptomatic efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis: a comprehensive meta-analysis. Rheumatoid arthritis is another disease gelatin supplementation seems to help with. A randomized, double-blind trial involving 60 patients with severe, active rheumatoid arthritis showed very promising results: “a decrease in the number of swollen joints and tender joints occurred in subjects fed chicken type II collagen for 3 months but not in those that received a placebo. Four patients in the collagen group had complete remission of the disease. No side effects were evident.”3)D E Trentham, R A Dynesius-Trentham, E J Orav, D Combitchi, C Lorenzo, K L Sewell, D A Hafler, H L Weiner – Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis

Glutamine, an amino acid present in gelatine seems to play an important role in maintaining the function of the intestinal wall, being associated with prevention and even healing of the leaky gut4)Marcelo Campos, MD – Leaky gut: What is it, and what does it mean for you? condition. Leaky gut is an impairment of the lining of the small intestine that causes toxic waste and undigested food to pass (“leak”) into the bloodstream, leading to autoimmune diseases.

A 2019 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial concluded that after collagen supplements administration, subjects presented “significantly improved skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density after three months of intake”5)Liane Bolke, Gerrit Schlippe, Joachim Gerß, and Werner Voss1 – A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study.

Just one more thing I would like to mention on the benefits side: the amino acids present in bone broth (especially glycine and arginine) have strong anti-inflammatory properties6)Zhi Zhong, Micheal D Wheeler, Xiangli Li, Matthias Froh, Peter Schemmer, Ming Yin, Hartwig Bunzendaul, Blair Bradford, John J Lemasters – L-Glycine: a novel antiinflammatory, immunomodulatory, and cytoprotective agent.  This is very important especially for persons suffering from arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease, as it is one more way of acting besides the above-mentioned effects.

How to Make Bone Broth

Making your own bone broth is actually quite simple! Probably the most complicated part is to get some good quality bones. The bones should ideally be from organic sources, and when it comes to beef bones these should be from grass-fed animals. You can use the bones from the meat you cook, but you can also go to your local butcher and ask for bones – these are cheap and practical. The bones I love most are big beef bones cut into sections (so the marrow can cook well), and the bone ends, with as much connective tissue as possible.

Marrow Bones Cut

Marrow Bones Pipe Cut

There are many recipes for making the bone broth, and you can experiment until you find something that fits your taste. Many love to bake the bones in the oven before boiling, in order to give the broth a different taste. I like to boil them directly, so I simply put them into a large pot, cover them with cold water and add some apple cider vinegar. The apple cider vinegar helps break down the collagen. I also add some salt, pepper, bay leaves, a whole onion, 1-2 carrots, or whatever vegetables I have in the kitchen.

Next, I put on the lid, and place the pot on the stove, and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, I reduce the heat to a minimum and let simmer. The broth needs to simmer for as much as possible (at least 12 hours). Leaving it to simmer overnight can be dangerous, so you can take it off and resume in the morning. I try to time it so that I’m sure there will be enough liquid left by morning, and let it cook overnight. The liquid should reduce to about half the volume it had initially. I usually cook the broth for 14-18 hours.

Once the cooking is over, take it off the heat and let it cool. Take out the bones and vegetables, and strain the liquid. Once it is cooled you can store in the fridge.

How Long Can You Store Bone Broth?

Once prepared, the bone broth can only be stored in the fridge for a few days (up to 5). This is a time-consuming process, so nobody wants to repeat it every 4-5 days. Luckily there are alternatives:

  1. you can split in 1-portion-quantities, put in bags, and store in the refrigerator for a few good months (up to one year). An alternative is to use a silicone baking mold to do the portioning and freezing – all you need is a baking mold with recipients that fit your portion size.
  2. you can pour the broth in jars (ideally 1-2 portions per jar), and make sure there is a good (1/2”) layer of fat on top. Once cooled in the fridge, the fat will become solid and seal the broth beneath. Such a jar can last for a few months in the fridge. Once you break the fat layer, the broth will last for a few days, just as it would if stored directly in the fridge. The fat needs to be removed – you can either keep it for cooking or throw it away.

Here are pictures showing the bone broth worm and after being cooled down:

jar of warm bone broth

Warm bone broth

Cold bone broth

Cold bone broth

Once I finish baking a batch, I keep in a small pot or container the amount I will consume in the next 4-5 days and put the rest in jars as described in method 2. I consume those in the next few days also – I do not recommend actually storing bone broth for long periods of time.

How Much Bone Broth Should I Drink Daily?

Bone broth is good for the body and does not have side effects, so there is no such thing as too much bone broth (you can drink too much at once and feel sick though). I consider 1 or even 2 cups (237 ml or 474 ml) a good dose.

You might not want to drink it every day, and that’s fine – some is better than none, so drinking it whenever you can and want to is good.

How to Consume Bone Broth

I love to drink a hot mug of bone broth after adding some freshly grated ginger, curcumin, and black pepper. I talked about the benefits of consuming curcumin in this post.

You can also use it to prepare different dishes, like noodle or zoodle soups, mashed potatoes, stews, gravy, and many more. All you need to do is try things out and see how you like it the most.

Conclusion

Collagen is the single most abundant protein in mammals, is the main component of connective tissue. It is one of the most important building blocks for skin, bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Our bodies need it in order to function properly, and we can get it from food or supplements. Collagen is extremely important for the proper functioning of the tissue, especially the ones mentioned above, so we need to make sure we have enough. I always prefer food sources, and only take supplements when I really have to, so homemade bone broth is the way to go for me.

So, to sum it up, is bone broth is good for you? YES, and you should try to consume some as often as possible.

References

G Samonina, L Lyapina, G Kopylova, V Pastorova V, Z Bakaeva, N Jeliaznik, S Zuykova, I Ashmarin – Protection of gastric mucosal integrity by gelatin and simple proline-containing peptides
T E Towheed, L Maxwell, T P Anastassiades, B Shea, J Houpt, V Robinson, M C Hochberg, G Wells – Glucosamine therapy for treating osteoarthritis, Florent Richy, Olivier Bruyere, Olivier Ethgen, Michel Cucherat, Yves Henrotin, Jean-Yves Reginster – Structural and symptomatic efficacy of glucosamine and chondroitin in knee osteoarthritis: a comprehensive meta-analysis
D E Trentham, R A Dynesius-Trentham, E J Orav, D Combitchi, C Lorenzo, K L Sewell, D A Hafler, H L Weiner – Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis
Marcelo Campos, MD – Leaky gut: What is it, and what does it mean for you?
Liane Bolke, Gerrit Schlippe, Joachim Gerß, and Werner Voss1 – A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study
Zhi Zhong, Micheal D Wheeler, Xiangli Li, Matthias Froh, Peter Schemmer, Ming Yin, Hartwig Bunzendaul, Blair Bradford, John J Lemasters – L-Glycine: a novel antiinflammatory, immunomodulatory, and cytoprotective agent