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Benefits Of Broth & Stock: The Evidence

Yummy, rich and versatile, stock is a staple in our house. Here’s the boil down (ha!) of the evidence-based benefits of broth and stock, to the best of my knowledge.

While there are few scientific studies on the health benefits of bone broth and stock, the fact I find most compelling is their wide use in traditional cultures around the world – there’s seolleongtang in Korea, sopa de lima in the Yucatán and “Jewish penicillin”, to name a few. There’s even evidence of pottery bowls (i.e. vessels for eating hot liquid) dating as far back as about 20,000 BC (reference).

We’ve evolved eating broth and stocks and, to me as an ecologist, that says a lot towards the potential for our bodies to use the nutrients they provide. In addition to the ecology, here are the benefits of broth and stock:

Practical Benefits

  1. Get the full value from your purchase by using the whole animal.
  2. Easy to make! (See recipe links below)
  3. Delicious and versatile: Stock (bones, meat, veggies) and broth (meat, veggies) are great on their own or as the base of soups and sauces

Health Benefits

  1. A good source of protein. It contains 6-12 grams of protein per cup and in an easy-to-digest liquid form, perfect for postpartum, post surgery or people with digestive problems (reference).
  2. An effective way to hydrate. Stock and broth usually have a good balance of sodium, minerals and amino acids that make it a good replenisher after physical activity or illness (reference).
  3. Helps clear nasal passages. A 1978 study of nine women and six men reported in the journal Chest found that sipping hot chicken soup (i.e. stock with meat, vegetables) increased the flow of mucus significantly better than sipping either hot or cold water.
  4. May reduce inflammation. A study in 2000 determined that chicken soup (bones, meat, veggies) inhibits the activity of neutrophils—white blood cells that are the “first responders” of inflammation. However, this effect hasn’t been confirmed in controlled studies in humans (reference).

This is not to say there aren’t other benefits of broth and stock. Many people say they simply feel good after having stock or broth, and a feeling of wellbeing is worth more than a research study!

But aren’t there even more benefits, like detoxification and joint health? Sure, other websites have additional claims (some even with references!) In contrast to the evidence-based benefits listed above, the other claims are indirect –  based on the benefits of specific constituents of broth and stock.

For example, we know stock contains collagen and one study found that oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides significantly improved skin elasticity and tended to improve skin moisture content (reference). Given that our body builds its own collagen and it isn’t directly transported into joints and skin, it is a logical fallacy to equate results from specific peptides with skin-firming properties of stock. Yes, it makes sense that consuming collagen would help us make it, but no research to my knowledge has directly demonstrated this… yet.

Other Points to Consider

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the potentially harmful effects of bone broth and stocks. The biggest concern is lead from bones as a result of higher background levels of heavy metals in our world these days (reference).

To this, I think it is important to emphasize that broth and stocks are not silver bullet solutions; everything in moderation; and to only use pasture-raised birds fed clean feed.

Links to recipes

Classic Chicken Stock

Instant Pot Chicken Stock

Photo credit: www.livinglovesuperfoods.com

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