Breaking Down Bone Broth
Bone broth is a traditional kitchen remedy that has been used across the globe. In general, bone broth is made by boiling bones in water with a splash of acid (like vinegar) and time. Through this process, the nutrients are extracted from the bones and into the liquid. There is limited research supporting the health benefits of bone broth, likely because it is difficult to standardize, however I continue to stand behind its benefits and regular use.
The nutritional content of bone broth derives from the nutrients present in bone itself and the cartilage that covers the ends of bones to form joints. Bone and cartilage contain an array of minerals and collagen fibers that are broken down and extracted into the liquid during bone broth preparation. Bones contain bone marrow, which add to its blood building and energizing qualities. Red bone marrow is where red and white blood cells are born. Red blood cells carry oxygen to our tissues, giving us life force, or prana. White blood cells make up our immunity that is responsible for keeping us safe from pathogens. It is these minerals and collagen products that give bone broth its nutritive powers.
Collagen and Gelatin
Collagen functions to hold the body together and it is the most abundant protein in the body, accounting for ¼ of our total protein (1). Among its many functions, it gives strength to our tendons, ligaments, bones and wound healing while improving the laxity of the skin (2). While collagen refers to a particular protein in the body, gelatin is the food term. Gelatin describes the collagen extracted in bone broth. When done properly, this is the Jell-O quality to cooled bone broth. Gelatin decreases inflammation of the gut by healing the mucus layer and supporting a healthy microbiota (3). It also aids in digestion, particularly of beans, meat and grains.
Calcium and phosphorus are the most abundant minerals with some small amounts of magnesium, sodium and bicarbonate (4). An optimal diet provides the minerals important for maintaining bone strength. Collagen, the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom, is made up of amino acids, with the most abundant being: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline (5).
This is the most important amino acid found in animals. Glycine acts as a neurotransmitter in the nervous system and it defends the body against injury and disease (6). Glycine supplementation is a safe approach to improving sleep quality (7) and works by inhibiting the nervous system transmission thus having a calming/sedating effect. There are studies showing that glycine supplementation is associated with reduced risk of asthma, better wound healing, improved digestion and improved liver function (8).
Proline plays an important role in protein production. It makes up about 17 percent of collagen therefore is important for supporting tissues abundant in collagen like muscles, bones, skin and tendons (9).
These substances are naturally jelly-like and you may be familiar with some of these compounds like hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate. GAGs are found in the extracellular matrix of cartilage and play critical roles in the development, normal function and damage-response of the central nervous system (10).
Bones and cartilage contain a lot of nutrients that support multiple systems. I broke it down and highlighted some of the key players in bone broth, hoping to inspire this into your kitchen.
Stay tuned for next week where I share THE recipe for bone broth recipe that will knock your socks off.
Summary of health benefits
- Minerals in bone broth help maintain bone strength.
- Can improve sleep quality
- Reduce asthma risk
- Promote wound healing
- Improve gastric acid secretion
- Support detox
- Supports muscles, bones, skin, and tendon
- Heals the gut
- Modulates intestinal microbiota
- Aids digestion
- Supports nervous system development, function and damage-response