If you’ve checked out any health-related television programs, magazines, or websites in the past year chances are you’ve seen something about bone broth. You may be wondering why everyone is talking about a soup made from boiling animal bones!
While people have known about the healing benefits of bone broth for generations, it has recently gained increased attention as a simple approach to improving health for children and adults. Bone broth has nutritional benefits that can support digestion, weight reduction, skin and joint health, sleep, and more. As a professional working with children and young adults, I often incorporate bone broth into treatment plans to aide in gut healing and to support brain function.
Drinking bone broth has the potential to support health in numerous ways. Our parents and grandparents inherently knew about the immune system benefits, as many of us were taught to drink chicken soup (broth) when we were feeling ill. Here are some of the key nutritional benefits of bone broth:
- Bone broth is a good source of protein. Many of the children and young adults I treat have poor protein intake, which can lead to a host of physical and mental health challenges. Bone broth helps ensure that your child is getting enough protein each day.
- It is very rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Most of the people I treat have suboptimal intake of numerous vitamins and minerals, which can cause and/or worsen their symptoms. Magnesium is especially important for children and adults with anxiety, mood, attention, and sleep symptoms, and bone broth is a good source of magnesium.
- I think the most impressive nutritional quality of bone broth is that it is very rich in amino acids, specifically proline and glycine. These are very healing for the gut, which is important because a healthy gut leads to a healthy brain. They also help reduce inflammation, which has been implicated in depression, anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorder, and a host of other mental and physical health conditions. These amino acids also help strengthen the immune system, and this is why we are told that chicken soup is good to eat when you are sick! If your child has allergies, frequent illness, or other immune challenges then bone broth can be a helpful immune system support. Glycine is also essential for healthy central nervous system function, and it helps calm excitatory neurotransmitters. This supports general calming, relaxation, and anxiety reduction. Finally, these amino acids support overall brain function, including memory, focus, and mood regulation.
- Bone broth is also a major source of the amino acid l-glutamine, which is necessary for gut health. The gut is often referred to as “the second brain” because of the many connections between the gut and the brain, and the ways in which the gut impacts brain function. There is a substantial amount of research showing the connection between gut health and mental health, and it is now known that problems in the gut can cause or worsen problems in the brain – including anxiety, depression, insomnia, autism, ADHD, and many more. L-glutamine is very healing for the gut, and helps strengthen gut physiology and function. As a result, it is helpful for supporting brain function and symptom improvement for mental illness issues in addition to improving many physical issues.
- While we can certainly obtain protein, and therefore amino acids, from other foods, they are very absorbable from broth. This makes bone broth an ideal option for children and adults who don’t like to eat meat, or who struggle with digesting other protein sources.
- Finally, bone broth is effective at reducing inflammation. Research continues to highlight the connections between inflammation in the body and various aspects of brain function. Inflammation has been linked to a variety of mental health issues including depression, autism spectrum disorders, and seizure disorders. Bone broth is a simple tool for supporting a reduction of inflammation-related symptoms in the brain.
Another benefit of bone broth is that it is simple and inexpensive to make in your own kitchen. With a little effort you can make a large batch of broth that will last your family for many days, and you can freeze it to last even longer. We recently made a batch from our Thanksgiving turkey, and I’ve documented the general process here:
Place bones (can be chicken, turkey, beef, etc.) in a large stock pot and cover with water and 1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar. You can use an entire chicken or turkey carcass, which is what we did here with our Thanksgiving turkey.
Add salt, pepper. garlic, and/or whatever other herbs and flavorings you wish. Add vegetables such as carrots, onions, and celery.
Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to a low simmer for at least 8 hours, but you can cook it for 24 hours or more. The longer you cook the broth the more nutrients and gelatin will seep into the broth from the bones. We cooked ours for 14 hours and here is what it looked liked when it was done cooking.
Strain the broth into a large bowl.
You can portion your broth into smaller containers for easy storage and freezing. We like to use these small storage containers as they stack nicely in our fridge and freezer, and are just the right amount to defrost and pour into a mug to reheat.
Drink up! Our whole family loves bone broth and drinks it regularly. Here is my daughter enjoying this batch from our holiday turkey.
There are endless varieties of bone broth, as you can change the flavor, texture, and nutrient profile by using different bones, adding a variety of vegetables, and experimenting with flavors. If you’re excited to try making bone broth at home, I highly recommend Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Cookbook. This excellent resource has 125 recipes for making and using bone broth. You are sure to find a favorite for your kids and family!
While homemade bone broth is the most economical option, there are many excellent brands that sell ready to heat bone broth. Epic bone broth is delicious and available in many stores as well as online, as is Pacific Natural Foods organic bone broth. One of my favorite pre-made bone broth products is Chicken SLIM Broth from Dr. Kellyann.
A hesitation I sometimes hear from parents about trying bone broth with their child is that the child won’t want to drink it. While most adults and children find it delicious, it can take some getting used to for children who have picky eating tendencies, rigid eating patterns, or who aren’t used to drinking soups. The good news is that there are many ways to start incorporating bone broth into your child’s diet, even if they won’t drink it. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Add bone broth to tomato sauce or any other sauce you use when cooking
- Make the bone broth into a soup your child enjoys by adding other ingredients
- Cook rice or noodles with broth instead of water
- Add a little bone broth to shakes or smoothies
- Saute or boil vegetables in broth instead of water
- Add a little to condiments, dips, salsa, etc.
- Use broth instead of milk or other liquid when mashing potatoes, cauliflower, or other veggies
With a little thought and creativity you will find that you can enhance the health benefits of many foods by incorporating even small amounts of bone broth into your meal or snack preparation. There are so many valuable nutritional benefits of bone broth that even small amounts are helpful. If your children are hesitant to drink it straight, then sneak it into their diet wherever you can!
Bone broth is a simple and effective way to support health for the whole family. Try making a batch and see what benefits you and your family experience.
Have you tried bone broth? Do your kids drink it? Do you have bone broth making tips to share? Post your experiences and questions in the comments!