One of the reasons that bone broth is so popular these days is the myriad of health benefits that it provides. From rejuvenating gut health to lowering inflammation, bone broth is one of the best things you can do for your body to promote optimum wellness.
Given bone broth’s many benefits, and the fact that it is chock full of so many nutrients, it may come as a shock to find that liquid bone broth is actually quite low in calcium. Though it contains bone-building trace minerals and supports bone health in other ways (more on that below), bone broth contains a fraction of the calcium found in a glass of milk.
Ironically, in one of the most popular and widely-cited studies on bone broth, performed by King’s College Hospital in London in 1934, it was actually determined that the most calcium-rich bone broth was actually from batches that contained the most veggies. And before you discount a 1934 study as being “too old”, remember that bone broth has been around for centuries and has been used as a healing tonic since ancient times. Given the lengthy history of bone broth as a part of ancient nutrition and healing, it’s surprising that it is just now beginning to be studied by the modern medical community in the United States.
Does Bone Broth Support Bone Health?
In addition to supporting whole system health, savory bone broth actually does provide some benefit to your bones and joint health, despite not being a valuable source of calcium. If you study natural health and food as medicine, you know that there’s no such thing as a miracle food and that the body is best served by obtaining a variety of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from whole-foods sources. So while it may be surprising to learn that bone broth isn’t rich in calcium (despite being made from bones!), there are many other nutrients in bone broth that offer a restorative and medicinal effect on many systems within the body, including your bones through things like glycine, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
Bone broth is one of the best dietary sources of collagen protein, which is rich in essential amino acids and helps your body to build stronger cartilage and connective tissue, and healthier joints. What does this mean for your bones? Cartilage is the strong connective tissue that makes up various parts of the body including the nose, ear, bronchial tubes, and acts as a cushion and shock absorber in areas of the body where bone meets bone.
As you might expect, when cartilage weakens, as it often does with age or strenuous physical activity, it can cause friction between bones, resulting in constant pain with movement. Collagen peptide-rich bone broth helps to strengthen and repair cartilage tissue, resulting in less pain and inflammation in joints, and healthier bones.
Collagen is one of the most important building blocks of healthy bones, and since the modern diet is sorely lacking in sources of collagen, bone broth provides one of the best and easiest ways for our bodies to obtain this crucial nutrient.
What Other Health Benefits Are Obtained From Collagen?
Collagen provides the foundation for connective tissue, ligaments, skin, and bones. Due to its high levels of amino acids, collagen is responsible for a host of crucial health processes such as aiding in detoxification, healing and sealing the intestinal lining, and restoring the gut microbiome.
Collagen helps to seal nutrients in the gut, assisting the body in digesting and absorbing them, and at the same time keeps toxins and harmful bacteria from permeating the intestinal wall. When cooked, collagen turns into gelatin, which aids digestion in three separate ways:
- Gelatin’s high levels of glutamic acid support a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach (which protects from harmful bacteria and hinders inflammation and infection).
- Gelatin helps break down food by promoting the production of gastric juices.
- Gelatin helps food move through the digestive process more easily, by binding to water.
In addition to the wonders it performs for your digestive system, collagen has been known to improve the health of skin, hair, nails, and joints.
Other Whole-Food Sources of Calcium
So, if bone broth doesn’t provide an adequate source of calcium, you may be wondering where else you can obtain calcium from your diet, especially if you follow a paleo diet or tend to stay away from dairy. After all, everyone knows that milk and dairy products contain high levels of calcium, but for many people, dairy can be difficult to digest if not downright inflammatory.
As discovered in the King’s College Hospital study, vegetables can be an excellent source of calcium! It’s easy to obtain calcium from a whole-foods based diet, even if you prefer not to consume dairy. Some of the best plant-based sources of calcium are:
- Seeds (such as chia, sunflower, or sesame)
- Beans and lentils
- Leafy greens (kale, collard greens, broccoli)
- Citrus fruits
- Sweet potatoes
So, while the vast benefits of bone broth may not extend to supplying you with an abundance of calcium, there are plenty of ways to obtain calcium in your diet by eating nutrient-dense foods as part of a balanced diet. And what bone broth will do is improve your digestion, so that your body is able to better absorb the calcium you obtain from other sources.
What About Bone Broth Powder?
You may think that consuming your bone broth in the form of a bone broth powder will provide you with more calcium than regular bone broth. Chances are it won’t unless it has been fortified with excess calcium not generally obtained during the cooking process.
While bone broth powder has become popular in recent years alongside protein powder milkshakes and smoothies, we recommend obtaining your bone broth from fresh, whole-food sources rather than a supplement. While any form of bone broth is better than none at all, we always prefer to use fresh, homemade quality bone broth when possible. It’s much easier to ensure the quality of your bone broth and the potency of its ingredients when your bone broth is fresh and homemade to be gluten-free, dairy free, paleo-friendly, keto-friendly, and low in carbs.
If you aren’t interested in making your own bone broth, it’s easy to find pre-made bone broth. Just make sure that your source is reputable, and uses only the highest quality organic and grass-fed ingredients. Since the best bone broth is simmered for hours upon hours to get every last nutrient out of the bones and into your bone broth, using only the bones of organic, non-GMO, grass-fed and pastured animals ensures that the low and slow simmering of your bone broth is only drawing out vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, not hormone, pesticide, preservative, and sweetener residues from conventionally raised animals.
When bone broth is made using only the highest quality bones, your bone broth will be full of wholesome and nutrient-dense vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and collagen, which most of us don’t get nearly enough of in our daily diet.
Two of our favorite sources for ready-made bone broth are The Osso Good Co. and Flavor Chef. These companies pride themselves on small-batch processing using high-quality organic and grass-fed ingredients. Osso Good and Flavor Chef focus on quality over quantity, and each batch of bone broth is simmered for 12-24 hours for maximum flavor. When you can’t or don’t want to make bone broth yourself, Osso Good and Flavor Chef are the next best thing to homemade beef bone broth and chicken bone broth!
So, while bone broth may not be an excellent source of calcium or vegan, it is chock full of vitamins, trace minerals, and amino acids which provide a wealth of benefits to your immune system, digestive system, and can even help with weight loss. And bone broth still benefits your bones by providing protein-rich collagen which helps to build and strengthen bones, joints, cartilage, and healthy skin.