This is a post written in collaboration with Kettle & Fire—an Elephant partner. We’re honored to work with anyone this dedicated to the highest possible ethical, welfare, and quality standards in their products for those who want or need to incorporate bone broth in their diets. ~ Ed.
There’s been a lot of talk about bone broth in the health world lately.
It’s more than just a passing trend though—it’s an ancient remedy that traverses centuries, borders, and cultures.
But how much of what we read and hear (both for and against) is truth, and how much is just talk? Is bone broth really the healing miracle remedy many experts say it is? Do its alleged hidden dangers have any basis?
We asked the genuinely caring folks at Kettle & Fire to help us sort the myths from the facts about bone broth.
Full disclosure: They are the makers of the only shelf-stable, premium quality bone broth on the market from the bones of humanely raised, 100 percent grass-fed and finished animals, with no antibiotics or hormones, artificial ingredients, additives or preservatives, and no extra sodium, so obviously they’re in the pro broth camp.
But they’re also totally obsessed with natural health and wellness, transparency, and strict ethical and quality standards.
So, let’s get down to the marrow:
Fact: Bone broth is the greatest source of natural collagen.
The most important thing you need to know about collagen is that it’s the most abundant protein in the human body. Skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, you name the connective tissue and collagen is there.
Collagen in and of itself is important for skin and bone health. In fact, it’s so important that it’s sold in countless forms as a supplement, and even in creams. It’s best known for improving skin elasticity and anti-aging properties, as well as reducing skin roughness. Grass-fed bone broth (which excludes chicken and fish broth) is both the most collagen-rich and wallet-friendly solution for all of these.
The amino acids in collagen help to reduce inflammation, strengthen the gut lining, and enrich our digestive and immune systems. Beautiful, glowing skin is the most visible benefit, but is simply a merry byproduct working in harmony with all the benefits to our inner systems.
Myth: Bone broth contains glutamates, which can cause some scary sounding health issues.
This misconception is based on the logic that cooking bones for long periods of time breaks down naturally occurring amino acids and releases high levels of glutamic acid into the broth, causing some of the same problems associated with the food additive, MSG (monosodium glutamate), like increased brain barrier permeability, otherwise known as “leaky brain.”
There are several flaws in this theory.
Some articles warning that bone broth is dangerous have named glutamic acid in general as a problem with long-cooked broths.
The most important thing to note is that not all glutamates are the same. Naturally occurring free glutamate is not MSG—as it does not contain the contaminates and by-products that are found in synthetic MSG—and these are what is believed to cause sensitivity to MSG, not the glutamic acid. (2) (3)
But, if we should be suspicious of bone broth just on the basis of its total glutamic acid content, there are plenty of other foods we should be even more concerned about, considering just a few examples: half a cup of unsalted tomato paste contains 1930 mg of glutamic acid and an ounce of walnuts contains 1420 mg, compared to about 1013 mg in 8 oz. of broth.
More importantly, we have no idea whether the glutamic acid measured in broth is bound (making it theoretically less harmful) or free (making it behave similarly to MSG). By contrast, we do know the free glutamate content of some other foods. Per 100 g, peas have 200 mg, red grapes have 184 mg, broccoli has 176 mg, ripe tomatoes have 140 mg, potatoes have 102 mg, and even human breast milk has 18 mg.
Even if cooking bones for extended periods does release some free glutamate, the levels probably don’t exceed those of many of these other foods (especially given the lower levels of glutamic acid as a starting place). So again, if we’re going to single out free glutamate as a health danger, a lot of other nutritious, natural foods will have to get blacklisted too! (4)
Fact: Bone broth is proven to help heal a host of common, often debilitating health issues.
Kettle & Fire is obsessive about ensuring their product is made only from the marrow bones of happy, healthy animals and organic veggies which produce nutritious collagen that breaks down into nutritious gelatin, which contains an abundance of many important healing nutrients which are proven to help improve joint health, arthritis, hair growth, and blood sugar regulation, and may also benefit those with acne, eczema, PMS, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and even autoimmune disease.
This is because all of these issues originate in one place: the gut.
A “leaky gut” to be specific, which is the more commonly known term for a separation between the tight junctions of your gut (intestinal) lining, which basically creates holes allowing your body to reabsorb potentially harmful substances and waste that is supposed to be eliminated in your stool. This weakens your immune system, causes food intolerances and cravings, hormonal imbalances, and a whole host of health issues including those listed above.
A variety of things cause leaky gut: stress, gastrointestinal infections, alcohol, smoking, inflammation, poor diet, and consuming foods we’re allergic or sensitive to. Basically, in today’s 24/7, stress-induced world, leaky gut is pretty common. But bone broth helps to close up those holes and rebuild our gut lining. The secret ingredient? Glutamine.
Glutamine is a conditional amino acid, which are basically amino acids our bodies only needs in times of illness and stress. It is known to help normalize stomach acid production, which in turn helps provide the conditions for the gut lining to repair itself.
Myth: Bone broth contains heavy metals.
The argument here boils down to animals’ bones absorbing lead from polluted environments. “Because heavy metals bind to apatite (the primary mineral component of bones and teeth), there’s some concern that bones sequester heavy metals and contain dangerously high levels (which, in turn, could seep into broth). This is especially true for bones from animals that are exposed to heavy metals in their environment or feed.” (1)
However, the 2013 case study (1) often pointed to by those “against” did not prove there to be dangerous levels of lead contamination in broths. In fact, what it revealed was not even close to the levels considered safe in normal drinking water. In addition the nutrients abundant in a diet consisting of whole, real food (which is what bone broth is recommended as part of) can help protect against lead toxicity—nutrients like: vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, and iron—which makes lead exposure from broth even less likely.
The key here, which is something of a theme when it comes to safe, healthy, nutritious food, be it vegetable or animal: its nutrient content depends heavily on its provenance. Meaning, if you want the digestive and immune-boosting benefits bone broth can provide, you have to be drinking bone broth made from a healthy animal (i.e. grass-fed, pasture-raised or wild-caught animals).
Bones from 100 percent grass and natural-fed and finished animals, raised organically on smaller-scale, high welfare farms are vastly preferable. And this is exactly what you’re guaranteed to get in a pack of Kettle & Fire bone broth.
Fact: Bone broth is a fertility powerhouse.
How you eat plays a huge role in your ability to conceive. Just as there are foods that hinder fertility efforts, there are also foods that support your hormones and their fertile flow. And bone broth is one of the most fertility-friendly foods out there.
According to Dr. Marc Sklar, also known as the fertility expert, “Bone broth, the way my grandmothers used to make it, is full of nutrients that every cell in our body needs to thrive. The cells that make up our eggs and sperm are no different. Often, I see patients who are lacking in proper nutrition and bone broth can help reset their entire foundation. There is
nothing more important than providing those cells (the very cells that make up baby-to-be) with the proper nutrients it needs in order to create the healthiest and happiest child possible.”
Bone broth is such a powerful fertility food because it heals your gut, and your gut is 100 percent linked to your hormonal health.
These are just a few of the proven benefits of bone broth. On balance, our best advice is to try it for yourself by incorporating some bone broth into your diet, especially if its therapeutic benefits sound like they might be what your body needs, but always consult with a medical professional before making any drastic dietary changes.
Most importantly, if you are going to try it or to make your own, ensure it’s organic, 100 percent grass-fed and finished, from healthy, well-cared-for animals and trustworthy sources.
If you’re going to buy packaged, make sure it’s sustainable. Kettle & Fire‘s bone broth comes in 100 percent recyclable packaging, made of FSC-certified paper and wood fibre, a natural and renewable raw material which does not release any harmful chemical byproducts during the manufacturing process.
Enjoy the broth, recycle the rest. Happy sipping!