The Benefits of Bone Broth

Last month, Kobe Bryant retired after 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers. Playing any professional sport for two decades, especially at Bryant’s level, requires a mix of skill, persistence, and conditioning – and, in Bryant’s case, a diet that includes bone broth.

According to the Washington Post, Bryant and his teammates on the Lakers started drinking bone broth in 2012. Many credit the broth with helping them recover from injuries and extend their playing careers. Bryant, who prefers his broth in the form of chicken tortilla soup, was able to play three more seasons after both rupturing his Achilles tendon and fracturing his knee in 2013.

Bone broth is beneficial for those of us who aren’t professional athletes, too. While bone broth is new to the West – and regarded by some as a nutrition fad, like kale or quinoa – it has been a staple of Eastern Medicine, and other cultures around the world, for thousands of years.

As the name implies, bone broth is made by simmering bones and cartilage for several hours. This process releases several beneficial nutrients:

  • Cartilage can help with arthritis, degenerative joint disease, inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS), and lowered immune function.
  • Bone marrow contains the stem cells that form red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Drinking bone broth infuses these materials in our own cells. This improves circulation, supports the flow of qi and strengthens the immune system.
  • The amino acids glycine and proline strengthen tissue and muscle, produce glucose as well as blood plasma, support digestion, and help detoxify the liver. These qualities are why bone broth is often a core component of controlled fasting and cleansing programs.
  • Collagen, which makes up 25 percent of the protein in the body, aids in healing tissue, repairing cartilage, digesting proteins, and coating the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. These qualities make bone broth a good treatment for IBS and leaky gut syndrome. (When collagen is extracted and used as food, it is referred to as gelatin.)
  • Minerals such as calcium and phosphorous further promote the health of the intestinal tract.

Beef, fish, lamb, pork, and poultry bones can be used for slow-cooked broth that will be stored and reheated. Buy quality bones from pasture raised animals (or wild caught in the case of fish bones).

Some people prefer to trim the fat and meat from the bones, but I recommend leaving a little bit on to maximize the nutrient density of the broth. Add enough water to cover and one or two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to help extract minerals from the bones. Cook low and slow for at least 12 hours. The longer the better. Using a slow cooker is great for this. Another option is to use a pressure cooker. This is a significantly faster method, requiring just one to two hours of cooking time. If you want you can add vegetables such as carrots, onions, celery, etc. for added flavor and nutrients. Personally, when I cook I save all of the vegetable peels and ends in a Ziplock bag in the freezer. When I’m ready to make a batch of bone broth I add the vegetable scraps to the pot with the bones.

Once cooked, bone broth can keep for up to five days in the refrigerator or several months in the freezer. Due to the high gelatin content of the collagen, refrigerated bone broth has the consistency of jelly (this is good!). You can drink the broth on its own or use it as the base for a soup – add meat or vegetables as desired.

Ask Your Acupuncturist

What’s the difference between homemade and commercial broth?

Homemade broth takes time and effort, but it is much healthier than the broth sold in grocery stores. Commercial broth, or stock, is made from animal skin at best and lab-produced bouillon or mixes at worst. This does not offer the same nutritional value as broth made from bones. Most brands of commercial broth is also high in sodium as well as monosodium glutamate (MSG).