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Here’s Why Humans Have Been Drinking Bone Broth for Thousands of Years

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Schoolchildren line up for free issue of soup and a slice of bread in the Depression, Belmore North Public School, Sydney, 2 August 1934. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

“Bone broth isn’t just broth. And it isn’t just soup. It’s concentrated healing,” states Kellyann Petrucci, author of “Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet.”15

“Good broth will resurrect the dead,” a South American proverb.

Roast chicken and short ribs are delicious, but you’re likely missing out on the best part of the meat when you toss the leftover bones. Bone broth is a delicious and nutritious meal on its own, but it can also be added to many different recipes. Bone broth has been used for thousands of years not just for its taste, but also its healing properties. In this article, we will explore what bone broth really is, what makes it nutritious, and ways you can utilize it in the kitchen.

What Is Bone Broth?

Often overlooked in the U.S., bone broth is made by boiling animal bones and the connective tissues of cows, chicken and fish.

Bone broth differs from regular broth and even stock because the latter two use bones, meat and vegetables, while the first truly only requires the bones (although vegetables and spices can be added to it). Additionally, broth and stock take a relatively short time to cook, up to two and 4-6 hours respectively, while bone broth takes much longer to prepare, up to 24 hours.

an image of a cave painting
Bison cave painting in the great Hall of Polychromes, located in the Cave of Altamira, Spain. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

“A bone broth can’t really be overcooked,” explains New York chef Marco Canora13, “because the point is to break down all of the cartilage until there’s a lot of collagen-rich gelatin in that broth.”

The longer cooking time pulls out a maximum amount of nutrients, gelatin and flavor. If you need further proof that bone broth is different, just refrigerate it. Unlike stock or regular broth, bone broth will quickly turn into a Jell-O like, solid form while the other two will remain in liquid form.

What Is the History of Bone Broth?

Bone broth is relatively new to most consumers. It started gaining popularity in the U.S. about seven years ago when the Paleo-diet craze started. When health-conscious individuals were advised to eat like their ancestors — the cavemen from 2.5 million years ago — they began to seek more meat-sources to include in their diet.

images of vintage bone broth commercials

images of vintage bone broth commercials
Vintage advertisements from Bovril’s “Liquid Beef.” Courtesy: Unilever Brands UK

Shortly after, bone broth began to pop up in Whole Foods and other grocery stores for up to $10 per container. In fact, sales of bone broth tripled in just one year, rising from $5.83 million in 2016 to $17.54 million in 2017¹. Worldwide bone broth sales are forecasted to surpass $2.83 billion by 2024².

While it’s great that Americans are becoming more aware of bone broth, don’t mistake it for a trend. Bone broth has been around for thousands of years (at a much lower price too!). It’s regarded by many as the world’s first “fast food,” one that is affordable and requires little preparation to make.

Our ancestors were hunters-gatherers who survived on whatever they could hunt and forage. They wasted little, and made food and clothing from animals, as well as shelter and tools. Bones, hooves, knuckles and legs were difficult to eat and didn’t work for any other purpose. So our ancestors burned them to extract the nutrients inside.

The process likely started by dropping hot stones right on top of the animal bones about 2,500 years ago, but evolved into using the abdominal pouches of animals to hold the bones over hot rocks (likely to avoid being burned). The invention of the pot around 2nd century B.C. in ancient China made the process of bone broth preparation easier because the bones and other parts could now be boiled over a fire.

images of early cooking pots
(Right) Ancient Greek casserole and brazier, 6th/4th century BC, exhibited in the Ancient Agora Museum in Athens, housed in the Stoa of Attalus. (Left) Replica of a Viking cooking-pot hanging over a fire. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

The word broth actually comes from the German word bru, which means “to prepare by boiling,” according to the book, “On Food And Cooking: The Science And Lore Of The Kitchen”14. This is when the true medicinal powers of bone broth were discovered, as evidenced by records from Traditional Chinese Medicine from that time. Chinese medical practitioners prescribed bone broth for a variety of different ailments.

Bone broth was actually used by ancient cultures all over the world. One of Greek’s most notable figures, the ancient physician Hippocrates, who was born around 460BC, recommended it for healing the gut.

The popularity of bone broth spread far and wide — from the Middle East, where it became known as “Jewish penicillin,” to the Caribbean, where they still call it ““cow foot soup.”

The preparation of bone broth began declining during the Industrial Revolution, when many people couldn’t afford to pay for fuel to make a fire. This is when broth powders and bouillons propelled the rise of “portable soup,” which was used by the likes of Napoleon to feed his French army.

an image of servicemen taking portable soup
American soup kitchen in Italy. The Canteen Service of the American Red Cross gave a number of  kitchen trucks to the Italian Government to serve portable (beef) soup. Photo shows one of the new trucks in operation; Allied officers are being served by canteen workers, 1918. Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
an image of soup kitchens in Italy
Photo shows a truck given to the Italian government by The Canteen Service of the American Red Cross to serve portable (beef) soup in 1918.

The invention of canning in the 1800s led to the creation of condensed soup, which Campbell’s monopolized starting in 1869 in Camden, New Jersey. It was originally cooked by famous chefs who used the highest ingredients, but has evolved into a very different and inferior product today, that’s full of monosodium glutamate (MSG), fillers, pesticides and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).

MSG is largely responsible for replacing bone broth in 1908 because it fooled consumers into tasting the flavor of meat without any actual meat present. This chemical is still present in many popular soups, stews, gravies and sauces.

If you want good-quality bone broth without forking over a ton of money, you can easily make it at home yourself. We don’t doubt that you will after reading all about its benefits.

Benefits of Drinking Bone Broth

“It’s an old-fashioned remedy for the modern world,” says Dr. Kaayla Daniel, Vice President of the Weston A. Price Foundation and co-author of the book, “Nourishing Broth.”16 

IN-DEPTH: Bone Broth Nutritional Facts

It is heralded for its “unique” nutritional content, and for being high in protein while low in calories. Bone broth has a host of nutrients, such as:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Silicon
  • Glucosamine
  • Chondroitin Sulfate
  • Collagen
  • Amino Acids (proline, glycine and glutamine that build protein)
  • Iron
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin K
  • Magnesium
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Bone broth is nutrient dense and is extolled by many for its medicinal uses.

 

Bone Broth Is Gut Healing

The amino acids, especially glutamine, in bone broth have incredible properties that strengthen our digestive system. A 2017 study³ reported that bone broth was able to heal the intestinal barrier in both animals and humans. Glutamine can help with gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and leaky gut syndrome.

Bone broth improves the digestive process, helping to relieve constipation, gas and diarrhea. It helps to grow “good bacteria” in our digestive track via probiotics that have been shown to have amazing benefits for both the mind and body.

With recent findings4 indicating that most of our immune system is found in the gut, keeping it healthy is of the utmost importance—and it’s easy and affordable to do so by making your own bone broth.

In fact, bone broth is the principal ingredient in the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, by Russian neurologist Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride to treat food sensitivities and allergies, neurological and intestinal conditions because of imbalanced bacteria in the gut.

It’s no wonder that bone broth is used in both the Paleo and Keto diets, as its properties help users lose weight.

an image of a beef tea ad
A vintage print advertisement for Beef Tea. Courtesy: Isabella Alden

Bone Broth Contains Skin-Smoothing Collagen

From collagen peptides powder to collagen capsules, people are paying a lot of money to promote youth and their appearance. This is due to collagen’s unique ability to help our skin rejuvenate itself and look younger.

Collagen is a protein found in our bodies, more specifically in our muscles, tendons, digestive system, blood vessels, bones and skin. It is responsible for making our hair and nails grow, as well as regulating our skin, tissues, bones, tendons and gut health.

Collagen is the most abundant protein, called a complex protein because it has 19 amino acids, including:

  • Glycine: The smallest protein has a big job of building DNA strands, as well as helping to build creatine that helps our muscles develop and produce energy during workouts.
  • Glutamine: One of the most common amino acids that is created in the body naturally and consumed in our diets. Glutamine regulates mental health and prevents sleep disorders, anxiety, stress and poor concentration. It also controls our immune system and digestive track, muscle mass, joints and even has wound healing abilities.
  • Proline: Helps our blood vessels, joins and cardiovascular system work properly.
  • Arginine (also called L-arginine): Arginine turns into nitric oxide in our bodies, which controls heart and arterial health, improves blood circulation and the immune system.

Obviously, collagen is a pretty important nutrient and plays a big part in helping us grow properly, maintain our health and our looks. Although collagen is necessary at all parts of our lives, our bodies produce less collagen as we age; so it’s vital to seek other supplementary sources of collagen.

Collagen has been scientifically proven to:

  • Promote better skin elasticity and skin moisture with little to no side effects5
  • Decrease cellulite6
  • Reduce joint pain7
  • Improve osteoporosis symptoms8

Now that you know this, you can ditch your $50 collagen cream and treat yourself to a much more affordable and proven solution!

an image of people drinking beef tea
Lady Katherine Cook giving out beef tea to patients in the Men’s Ward, (New) Mengo Hospital, Uganda Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Bone Broth Has Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients

Inflammation is a natural process. It’s the way our immune system heals injuries and fights infections. However, sometimes this process can go into overdrive and try to “heal” things that don’t need healing, which leads to chronic inflammation. This occurs when well-meaning blood cells try to heal healthy parts of our body. This is dangerous for our health, and it can lead to a host of different health concerns, such as:

  • Autoimmune Disease
  • Heart Attack
  • Stroke
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Leaky Gut Syndrome

One of the best and most natural ways to fight inflammation without medicine is to eat a non-inflammatory diet. Bone broth is recognized for its ability to reduce inflammation in the gut9.  Dr. Kellyann recommends drinking at least one cup of bone broth daily for maximum benefits.

Bone Broth Fights Cold and Flu

Chicken soup is often referred to as “penicillin,” and scientists definitely agree. There’s a reason that chicken soup is not only comforting, but also a popular staple we tend to crave during times of  cold or flu. That’s because chicken soup is actually proven to help our bodies fight infections.

Research shows that chicken soup, which is made from bone broth:

  • May be responsible for slowing or blocking the migration of these WBCs to the upper respiratory tract and thus, aid in relieving cold symptoms10
  • Could help inhibit the pro-inflammatory conditions typically associated with the initial stages of viral infections and prevent the development of the common cold10
  • May improve the ability of the tiny hairline projections in the nose (called cilia) to prevent infectious particles from afflicting the body11
an image of a beef tea recipe
This 1896 trade card for Armour’s Extract of Beef promotes the product’s use in making soups. Courtesy: Isabella Alden

How to Prepare Bone Broth

Here’s a great recipe to make bone broth at home. You don’t need to purchase new meat to make bone broth as it requires bones, not meat. After you’ve enjoyed a chicken or beef dish (such as short ribs), reuse the bones to make a brand new recipe — bone broth.

Bone Broth

Enjoy a low calorie and high protein recipe that you can eat on the go!
Print Recipe
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time8 hours

Ingredients

  • 4 lbs meat bones marrow, knuckles or short ribs
  • 2 medium carrots cut into two inch pieces
  • 1 medium leek peeled, cut into two inch pieces
  • 1 garlic head quartered
  • medium onion quartered
  • 2 bay leaves
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 450°F. Place beef bones, carrots, leek, onion, and garlic on a roasting
    pan or rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Toss the contents of the pan and
    continue to roast until deeply browned, about 20 minutes more.
  • Fill a large (at least 6-quart) stockpot with 12 cups of water (preferably filtered) . Add
    bay leaves, peppercorns, and vinegar. Scrape the roasted bones and vegetables
    into the pot along with any juices. Add more water if necessary to cover bones and
    vegetables.
  • Cover the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook
    with lid slightly ajar, skimming foam and excess fat occasionally, for at least 8 but up to
    24 hours on the stovetop. (Do not leave on stovetop unattended, simply cool and
    continue simmering the next day.) The longer you simmer it, the better your broth will
    be. Add more water if necessary to ensure bones and vegetables are fully submerged.
    Alternately, you can cook the broth in a slow cooker on low for the same amount of
    time.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly. Strain broth using a fine-mesh sieve
    and discard bones and vegetables. Let continue to cool until barely warm, then
    refrigerate in smaller containers overnight. Remove solidified fat from the top of the
    chilled broth.

Bone broth is perfect for meal prepping, as it can be refrigerated for up to five days, or frozen for up to six months. Plus, it can be added as a base for many dishes, such as:

  • Soup
  • Stew
  • Stuffing
  • Gravy
  • Pate
  • Rice
  • Meat Marinade

Get the Benefits of Bone Broth Without the Hassle Today

It’s so easy and affordable to incorporate bone broth into your daily diet. However, if you want an even easier way to get the benefits of bone broth with no effort, try Total Bone Broth.

Enjoy glowing skin, strong joints, increased muscle development and cardiovascular health with a daily cup of Total Bone Broth. Each fat-free serving provides a hearty dose of protein and dozen of amino acids like glycine, proline and arginine. Our broth is sourced from grass-fed, GMO-free, organic beef bones.

We are so convinced that you will love this product that we challenge you to try it for 60 days. If you don’t experience the great benefits yourself, you will get your money back.

Now that you know how good it is for you, try making it! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Citations and Sources

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Renata Ilitsky

Renata Ilitsky is a professional content writer and editor with over a decade of experience. Although she writes for various industries, she is the most passionate about health and holistic niches. Aside from her personal blog, Simple Natural Solutions, she has created content for Healthline, Dr. Willard's, Westside NeuroTherapeutics, EC3 Health and more!
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