Bone broth: Is it really good for you?

When it comes to stocks and broths, it seems everything old is new again.

For years home cooks made “stock” because they knew it was packed with flavour, and presumably because they wouldn’t be seen dead using cubes or powders.

The wellness movement is pushing the goodness of broth – essentially, the boiling up of animal bones and connective tissue, sometimes for up to half a day.

It’s a star of the paleo movement and super-hip broth bars are even popping up in cities worldwide.

What are the benefits of bone broth?

Bone broth fans tout it as a remedy for colds and flu, and a preventer of everything from chronic illnesses and auto-immune disorders to digestive distress and even some cancers.

Certified nutritionist Emma Sgourakis says the magical element in bone broths is the amino acid glycine, contained within the gelatine found in connective tissue.

Emma, who runs The Nutrition Coach, says glycine is anti-inflammatory, hydrating, can heal damaged intestinal lining (“leaky gut” syndrome) and can be useful in combating acid deficiency in the stomach (hypochlorhydria).

How to make bone broth

Emma recommends using cuts high in cartilage, ligaments and tendons that are important, more so than the bone.

Ideally it should result in a good “rubbery … gelatinous broth”, rather than “bone broth”.

Emma suggests cuts such as oxtail, neck, beef cheeks, oyster blade, chicken feet, necks and wings.

Cooking a broth for more than three or four hours “damages the glutamine and other amino acids, and degrades nutrients”, she says.

Testing those health claims

Accredited practising dietitian Lisa Donaldson acknowledges bone broth’s new-found acceptance, but says there is “little evidence supporting the health benefits of bone broth beyond those of stock or soup, due to the limited research in this area”.

“Bone broth is perfectly safe to consume,” she says.

“However, it is not a cure-all drink and should not be consumed at the expense of other nutritious foods or food groups.”

Lisa, of the Dietitians Association of Australia, says broths, soups and casseroles loaded with vegetables can be enjoyed all year round, and can all be a beneficial way to boost your veggie intake.

As with many soups, stocks and broths, it is important to look at the salt content, particularly if you need a reduced-salt diet.

If you are looking to consume bone broth, include it as a part of a balanced diet that focuses on wholefoods – such as vegetables, lean meats, fresh fruits, wholegrains, healthy fats and dairy/dairy alternatives.

Bone broth recipes to try

Written by Mike Bruce.