Bone broth – a superfood?

Bone broth – or stock as it is commonly known – is frequently attributed fantastic nutritional properties.

Are these claims fact or fiction?

1. Bone broth is high in potassium

– true-ish

Homemade bone broth contains about 50-200mg potassium per 100ml which is about an eighth to a half that you’d typically find in a banana.

2. Bone broth is high in protein

– true-ish

Home cooked broth contains about 2g per 100ml. To consume the same amount of protein as contained in an egg = 350ml broth = so some might consider that ‘high in protein’.

3. Bone broth is high in vitamins

– false

The vitamin content is negligible – zero vitamin C, zero vitamin D, some may contain small amounts of B vitamins.

4. Bone broth is high in minerals

– false

To meet your recommended nutrient intake of iron you’d need to drink at least 3 litres.

To meet your recommended nutrient intake of calcium it would be 20 litres!

5. The longer you boil bones the more nutrition you get from them

– true and false

The amount of protein obtained from bones increases with time but the other nutrients – potassium, calcium, iron etc plateau off after an hour.

6. Using lemon juice or vinegar to make it extracts more nutrients

– false

The 1934 study referenced below showed this wasn’t true.

7. Using organic bones means that there will be no toxic elements in it

– false

A small study raised concerns that organic chicken bone broth contained ‘markedly high lead concentrations’. This is of concern if consuming large amounts and particularly for young children.

8. Bone broth is good/safe for babies

– false, false, false

Bone broth used to be used as a weaning food and even a breast milk substitute up until the 1930s when it was realised the nutritional content was so poor. Babies relying on bone broth as a major source of nutrition were at risk of malnutrition and even death. Making homemade weaning foods for babies and including some stock is not a problem as long as salt isn’t used.

Conclusion

A well made stock is a delicious base to many foods – but its nutritional content is far from super.

Refs: 

1) McCance RA, et al. Arch Dis Child. 1934. Bone and vegetable broth. Full text here – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1975347/

2) Monro JA, et al. Med Hypotheses. 2013. The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets. Full text here – http://www.medical-hypotheses.com/article/S0306-9877(13)00013-3/abstract

3) United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: https://ndb.nal.usda.gov – search for broth

4) Image source: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ZN6M2LCcDaY/T0kCRCXROrI/AAAAAAAAB0Y/iUyIl7hrBTI/s320/Cooled+Beef+Broth+001.JPG