Bone broth was one of the big diet trends of 2015, with rumors about its super nutrition echoing through food media and restaurants from New York’s Brodo to Portland’s Cultured Caveman.
To be clear, there is nothing new about bone broth. Around the world, grandmothers have been have been using the feet, knuckles, tendons and bones of all sizes from poultry, beef, pig and fish to make rich, nourishing broths practically forever. But lately, the list of bone broth's rumored healing and restorative properties seems to be getting longer and longer.
What does this miracle food do? The list of cure-alls starts at healing “leaky gut syndrome” and in their book Nourishing Broth, authors Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel assert that bone broth can help with a variety of ailments including better sleep, smoother skin, stronger bones, more energy, and immune and joint support. If that isn’t enough to get you on the band wagon, it is extremely cheap to make.
So how much of it is true? Well, it is definitely a cost effective solution to expensive meal supplements, but most scientists agree that many of the claims made about bone broth are overblown.
William Percy, an associate professor at the University of South Dakota notes “Since we don't absorb collagen whole, the idea that eating collagen somehow promotes bone growth is just wishful thinking,". Instead, he says, “the digestive system will break down the collagen into amino acids, and the body will use these building blocks wherever they're needed”. What's more, bone broth may provide vitamins and enzymes, but they get denatured from heat as the broth cooks, rendering them less useful to the body (similar to the way the nutritional value of olive oil is compromised when heated).
So the long list of miracle cures isn’t all that it’s hyped to be. However, since bone broth can be tasty and affordable to add into your meal plan, what CAN bone broth do?
Rebecca Mohning, a registered dietitian and certified sports dietitian, works with endurance athletes through her Washington, D.C.-based practice, Expert Nutrition. Mohning says bone broth or soups made with it could help replace electrolytes after intense exercise and aid in post-workout recovery. "It's a nice way to rehydrate the body, because of the liquid, and then replenish the sodium — that electrolyte — that was lost through sweat during exercise," she said. The amino acids may also provide the body with the building blocks it needs to rebuild muscle. Bone broth has recently been praised by a number of professional athletes, including Kobe Bryant for just this effect.
The biggest benefits may be more of what you're not eating and replacing the soup with than the magical properties of the soup. This, in addition to creating the habit of preparing your own food from scratch are likely the most beneficial effect of bone broth (not to mention the placebo effect, I happen to love the placebo effect).