But is it worth the hype?
Yogis, facialists, and the hip, health-conscious people of New York are going crazy over bone broth this winter, with trendy East Village restaurants like Brodo offering 16-ounce to-go cups of gingered, grass-fed beef broth for nine dollars and subscription services like Bone Deep and Harmony selling a similar recipe at 15 bucks for 32-ounces. Sure, everyone knows that chicken soup is good for the soul, but what are the actual health benefits of broth?
According to integrative and functional medicine physician Frank Lipman, MD, founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City and author of The New Health Rules, there are many. “Broths contain gelatin and collagen, which are wonder-nutrients for our skin,” Lipman explains. “Broth feeds the epidermis, dermis and underlying connective tissue layers of the skin from the inside out with the collagen, elastin and other nutrients it needs to plump out, helping to heal scars and smooth out fine lines,” he explains to LivingHealthy.
According to Lipman, bone broth is also great for bones and joints, as it boosts your mineral intake with its supply of calcium, magnesium, potassium, silicon, sulfur and phosphorous. In addition, glucosamine, chondroitin, collagen, and gelatin (all found in bone broth) are important nutrients for supporting our bones and reducing inflammation. Bone broth’s gelatin and collagen also helps soothe the intestinal tract and aids in the healing of leaky gut (a.k.a. intestinal permeability).
Turns out grandma did know a thing or two about how to get over a bug. “Bone broth provides a rich array of nutrients, which support your immune system, so no wonder it’s a traditional folk remedy for colds and flus!” says Lipman. “Cysteine, an amino acid found in chicken, helps to thin mucus so it can be expelled more easily. So when you feel a cold brewing— turn to chicken soup.”
However, Larry Kaskel, MD, medical director of Northwestern Wellness Center, isn’t quite as enthusiastic as Lipman. “Bone broth has lots of health nutrients, is good for hydration and tastes good, but there is little scientific data or studies to prove it has any real health benefits,” Kaskel says. “But it is definitely more good for you than bad,” he adds, citing that the most compelling study done in 2000 by the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Stephen Rennard, MD, showed that the movement of the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection, neutrophils, were inhibited by chicken soup, which in effect, proved that the soup helped reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms. “Being that [bone broth] is a natural food, it is a better option than taking over-the-counter cough and cold medicine because it has fewer side effects,” says Kaskel.
If you want bone broth on a budget, Lipman suggests making your own. “Bones are usually very inexpensive at the butcher, and you just need some vegetables and a little apple cider vinegar to make a whole pot of broth. You can also use the bones more than once, making homemade bone broth even more affordable.” We bet grandma would approve.