health

Explain to Me: Is drinking bone broth actually a good idea?

Forget all about cold-drip coffees and Instagrammable green smoothies; there’s a new beverage on the block that’s capturing hip hearts and tastebuds the world over. And it’s made of… boiled-down animal bones.

Although it’s been around for aeons, bone broth has had a bit of a renaissance lately, thanks in no small part to a bunch of cool New York eateries, famous foodie types like Gwyneth Paltrow and Pete Evans’ controversial children’s cookbook (that features a bone broth recipe experts are furious about).

Gwyneth’s not the only A-lister chugging bone broth; on Monday, actress Shailene Woodley revealed she has it for breakfast during her appearance on The David Letterman Show.

Gwyneth’s not the only A-lister chugging bone broth; on Monday, actress Shailene Woodley revealed she has it for breakfast during her appearance on The David Letterman Show.

“I’ve been into bone broth for a long time and it’s really cool because now there is this whole Paleo movement and it’s getting a lot of attention,” the 23-year-old Divergent star said. “What I think is beautiful about it is that you’re using the whole animal. You’re not just seeking out that perfect cut of muscle meat.”

Now, we know what you’re thinking: ‘isn’t bone broth just a catchier, more alliterative word for ‘stock’?’

Well, in a way, yes. Bone broth is prepared in a similar way to stock, and certainly looks (and probably tastes) like stock, but evidently there are small differences. Although both liquids are made with meat, bones and vegetables, broth typically contains more seasoning and a higher proportion of bones to meat than stock does. It also involves a longer preparation time.

“A stock is made, I think, between two and five hours and a broth is brewed anywhere from 24 to 36 hours,” Shailene Woodley explained to Letterman.

According to bone broth enthusiasts, the drink can deliver a host of health and even beauty benefits, ranging from improved gut health and digestion to shinier hair. It’s claimed these benefits derive from the various amino acids, nutrients and collagen naturally found in animal bones. Shailene Woodley, for one, claims it’s made a “big difference” to her health. “It’s known to be helpful with leaky gut or irritable bowel syndrome,” she says.

According to bone broth enthusiasts, the drink can deliver a host of health and even beauty benefits, ranging from improved gut health and digestion to shinier hair. Pic via Letterman.

So should we be buying in to the bone broth hype? According to Accredited Practising Dietitian Nicole Senior, the answer is a resounding no.

“If you want to have a nice, tasty, warming broth, then go for it, but don’t expect major health miracles,” she says.

“I think the benefits are overstated. I mean, a broth by its nature doesn’t contain much at all — basically it is flavoured water. I really don’t think it contains enough, really, to substantiate the claims that are being made about it.”

Nutritionist, chef and author Zoe Bingley-Pullin acknowledges there are some elements of bone broth that are beneficial — for example, it contains an amino acid called cysteine that can help to break down mucus, along with good fats. But how much broth is required to deliver these benefits is rarely indicated.

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“What I find misrepresentative is that they make these claims, but we have to break down the exact nutrients, the value and amount you need in order to make that claim,” Bingley-Pullin says. She also believes the nutritional value of bone broth is largely determined by the quality of ingredients used to make it.

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“If you use a free range hen that’s eaten good food … I believe you’ll get more and better quality nutrition that way,” she says. “I also think it’s the things you add into a bone broth. On the weekend I put a whole organic chicken into 2.5 litres of water. I added ginger, some gojis, and some cayenne pepper, so I know all of those things have incredible healing properties and anti inflammatory properties.”

Bone broth isn’t the only ‘superfood’ trend to emerge this year – we could be seeing more of these ones too. (Post continues after gallery.)

Although the trend of drinking bone broth by itself is yet to take hold in Australia — with winter on the way that could change — it has made headlines here for a different reason.

Celebrity chef and paleo diet advocate Pete Evans has drawn the ire of health experts around the country with his latest cookbook Bubba Yum Yum, a collection of paleo recipes designed for newborns and young children which has been withdrawn from publication. One of the recipes included was a bone broth, presented as a homemade version of baby formula.

Nicole Senior says this is a dangerous recommendation, born out of a “misguided fear of dairy milk”.

“I don’t think Pete Evans went so far as to say not to give your baby breast milk; I think if that is implied, that is diabolically irresponsible,” Senior says.

“But I think what he’s getting that is that he doesn’t believe human beings need to eat cow’s milk. Infant formula for babies that can’t breastfeed, or aren’t breastfed for whatever reason, I think he was proposing this as an alternative. Which is not recommended. The National Health and Medical Research Council say that for infants under 12 months, if they can’t have breast milk, then commercial infant formula is really the only alternative.”

Celebrity chef and paleo diet advocate Pete Evans has drawn the ire of health experts around the country with his latest cookbook Bubba Yum Yum, a collection of paleo recipes designed for newborns and young children which has been withdrawn from publication.

As for adults, Senior says adding bone broth to the diet won’t do any harm, but it also won’t provide any significant nutrients that don’t already exist in a balanced diet. Rather, she believes any of the health benefits contained in bone broth can be gained more a efficiently from a “nose to tail” approach to eating.

“What that means is that we should be eating more of the animals that we grow for food; instead of just choosing the popular cuts, if we’re going to kill an animal for food we might as well eat all of it, including the organ meat. I think including more organ meat in the diet is a really good way of boosting nutrition — things like liver, kidneys, they’re very nutritious yet we don’t eat a lot of them,” Senior says.

Keep reading: The truth about feeding paleo to babies.

Zoe Bingley-Pullin, on the other hand, recommends embracing bone broth as a more cost-efficient alternative to store-bought stock. “I think it’s a beautiful, tasty, yummy thing to add to your diet… it’s cost effective and a really good way to make lots of meals.”

If you’re the curious type and you want to try making bone broth from scratch, try this recipe from The Kitchn. If that’s not flavoursome enough, you can make like Shailene Woodley and add some extra ingredients to improve the taste:

Shailene Woodley’s bone broth

1 cup grass feed beef broth
1 tbsp. coconut oil
pinch of salt
1 cup ginger tea
pinch of tumeric
1 tbsp. colostrum

“Blend all in blender and swoon,” she says. Well, that bit’s easy.

Have you tried bone broth?

This post first appeared on The Glow. You can read the original here.

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