Bone Broth Benefits
One of the most popular recent food trends is consuming bone broth. While not a novel idea at all, this food has been used as a digestive tonic in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,500 years.
Bones and connective tissue are the only true dietary source of type II collagen, a protein known for keeping the skin smooth, while aiding in healthy teeth and joints. Additionally, bones are full of anti-inflammatory amino acids, minerals and compounds, which may help speed the body’s healing process from conditions like arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome, according to research compiled by Michelle Gimbar, registered dietitian nutritionist.
Since bones are not typically consumed in their whole form, many people make their own broth by cooking down animal bones, simmering them in water for 10 or more hours to release their powerful, healing nutrients. Simmering causes the bones and ligaments to release healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine.
The broth contains minerals in forms that the body easily absorbs: calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and others. However, already-prepared bone broth found in the grocery store does not typically contain the same healing properties since it is often made from bouillon and other flavorings. As with all healthy food choices, quality is key. Be sure to choose bone broth made from organic, grass-fed bones.
As we age, our bones naturally experience wear and tear, resulting in diminished joint cartilage. During simmering, collagen and gelatin are released, two components readily absorbable to aid in restoring joint cartilage when consumed. A study completed by Pennsylvania State University found that when athletes supplemented collagen in their diet, they began to show significant improvements in joint comfort and a decrease in factors that negatively impacted athletic performance.
Additionally, since collagen and gelatin are rich in anti-inflammatory amino acids, studies have shown that bone broth is beneficial in restoring strength of the gut lining and fighting food sensitivities; aiding the growth of probiotics in the gut; and supporting healthy inflammation levels in the digestive tract. Unlike many other foods consumed, bone broth is easily digested, making it soothing to the gastrointestinal tract, since the compounds are already fully broken down. Both collagen and gelatin may be able to seal and heal the holes associated with leaky gut syndrome.
While plants are a great source of vitamins and minerals which help stimulate the body to produce its own collagen, no plants exist that contain type II collagen, the form found in animal bones. Even when eating a variety of plants rich in collagen-boosting nutrients, the body may not be able to fully absorb them if the immune or digestive system is weak. However, as discussed, the collagen in bone broth is easily absorbed, even when the immune and digestive systems are compromised.
Morgan Heckel, MS, is a University of Delaware dietetic intern completing her outpatient clinical rotation with Dana Elia, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND and owner of Fusion Integrative Health & Wellness, LLC, located at 270 Granite Run Dr., in Lancaster.