Do you really know what is in your newest wellness-inspired drink? “Bone broth is made from animal bones — typically cattle, chicken, beef or fish — and connective tissues, [which] are boiled to make a broth,” says Alissia Zenhausern, N.M.D., a naturopathic physician at NMD Wellness of Scottsdale. “Bone broth has been used for centuries. It was used in Chinese medicine 2,500 years ago [and] at the beginning of the 12th century, Egyptian physician Moses Maimonides was using bone broths to help remedy colds. [Since then] it has really grown in popularity as a great way to get high-quality protein and collagen,” she adds. “The broth also contains tons of minerals, amino acids and collagen that support healthy digestion as well as hair, skin and nails.”
In the case of homemade versus store-bought, Zenhausern says the benefits are the same. However, she advises against store-bought whenever possible since “store-bought bone broths always contain some type of preservatives or additives to improve its shelf life.”
Health Benefits of Bone Broth
Thanks to its array of vitamins, minerals and protein, bone broth has landed itself on the list of superfoods alongside favorites like turmeric, seaweed and functional mushrooms. Up ahead, take a closer look at what a cup full of bone broth contains and how it can aid health and beauty.
Calcium: “Aside from bone health, calcium is needed for healthy blood pressure and blood vessels,” notes Jeanette Kimszal, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “It also helps muscles function and makes nerves and hormones work to carry out their jobs in the body.”
Collagen: One of its most well-known attributes, the collagen found in bone broth can promote “smooth, supple skin and strong, healthy hair and nails,” says Sharon Brown, a clinical nutritionist and founder and CEO of bone broth company, Bonafide Provisions. Collagen is a structural protein and the star of youthful-looking skin, as it plumps the complexion and helps make fine lines and wrinkles less noticeable. “Collagen production naturally slows down as you age,” says Zenhausern. “Collagen makes up 80 percent of our skin when we are young and, unfortunately, after the age of 25, we are estimated to lose 1 percent of our collagen per year,” she adds. Incorporating a good source of collagen — such as bone broth — “provides you with additional collagen to help improve production.”
And while Zenhausern notes that bone broth is an excellent way to add collagen into your diet, drinking one cup is not going to “magically” change your skin. “This is a ritual that should be done daily or at least three to four times per week.”
In addition to hair, skin and nails, the collagen in bone broth can help “soothe the intestines and reduce inflammation,” says Brown. “Since 85 percent of the body’s immune system is found in the gut, this supports immunity and overall health,” she adds.
Copper: This nutrient has the ability to “prevent inflammation and oxidation of cells,” explains Kimszal. But, it also “helps cells create energy, form connective tissue, and maintain a normal function of the nervous system.” Having a normal functioning nervous system is necessary because “it controls all functions of the body,” says Kimszal. “The nervous system, tells the brain to walk, talk, speak, swallow, breathe and controls our ability to process and learn information.”
Gelatin: “Gelatin has been found to lower inflammation in the gut, which may help to improve gut health,” explains Kimszal.
Bone broth is a great way to get high-quality protein and collagen.
Glutamine: Thanks to its glutamine — which is “what cells use to help line the intestines,” says Kimszal — bone broth can help promote a healthier gut-lining. “Glutamine has been shown to help maintain the intestinal cell barrier to help prevent bacteria and toxins from getting inside. It helps gut cells to grow and multiply, [which] help strengthen the barrier.” On top of that, “this compound is also used by white blood cells to improve immune function,” says Kimszal.
Glycine: Bone broth also features a compound called glycine, which “helps make proteins and is found in the skin, muscle and connective tissue,” says Kimszal. “It has been used to improve mental function [and] helps to change blood sugar into energy.” Glycine has also been linked to memory and brain health, too. “When researched, glycine was found to improve visual and verbal episodic memory,” explains Kimszal. And, in the case of memory recognition, “those given glycine had faster response rates.”
Iron: The body needs iron for various functions, which is why getting enough in your diet can be ultra-beneficial. In the case of bone broth, “it moves oxygen through the body and aids in thyroid function,” says Kimszal.
Magnesium: Magnesium is beneficial to the absorption of vitamins and the minerals, calcium and vitamin D. “When there is not enough magnesium in the diet, absorption [of] calcium and vitamin D is thrown off,” explains Kimszal. Additionally, the mineral is necessary for “maintaining skeletal structure and muscle tone.”
Potassium: Bone broth also contains potassium, which can help counter “fatigue, muscle weakness, and balance fluid in the cells,” notes Kimszal. It is also a necessary nutrient for blood pressure balance and good heart health. Because of these benefits, potassium is beneficial to those that work out a lot, especially activities that work up a sweat like hot yoga and running.
Proline: An amino acid, proline helps “make proteins as well as improve wound healing,” says Kimszal. However, Kimszal notes that while proline can help with wound healing, “there is no specific research showing bone broth as a benefit for post-surgery recovery.” But it does act as a boost for collagen production, which “helps firm [the look of] skin.”
Sodium: “Sodium works in tandem with potassium [and] helps to maintain electrolyte balance in the body,” says Kimszal. It is required to maintain “blood volume and blood pressure.” According to Kimszal, sodium is an essential nutrient, however “it is something that needs to be monitored for those with high blood pressure.” Because of this, Kimszal recommends making bone broth from scratch as “they have no need to add any sodium since animal products naturally contain sodium.”
Vitamin D: Sipping on a cup of bone broth can also up your levels of vitamin D. “Vitamin D acts not only as a nutrient but also a hormone,” notes Kimszal. “It helps to strengthen bones by maintaining proper mineral levels of calcium and phosphorus so bones can grow and prevent diseases like osteoporosis,” she adds. On top of that, vitamin D “helps with cell growth, neuromuscular, and immune function, which can improve health. It also helps to reduce inflammation in the body.”
Zinc: “Zinc is a nutrient that is better absorbed from animal products, so bone broth is a great way to get your dose,” says Kimszal. “Cells need zinc to work properly and it helps for growth and development [of cells]. Zinc also improves immunity.”
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