Drinking broth made from chicken, goose, lamb, cow and other animals has become very popular in recent years as broth may be able to help accelerate healing, increase your energy levels, stop inflammation and support your immune system. Bone broth has also been incorporated as a healthy food in many diets, like the paleo diet and Dr. Kellyann's 21-Day Bone Broth Diet, with the idea that it can help support weight loss.
While chicken broth and other bone broths can certainly be part of a healthy diet, you shouldn't use chicken broth as a meal replacement. There aren't enough calories or other nutrients in this product.
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Chicken broth typically has between five and 20 calories per cup-sized serving (240 milliliters). If this is all you’re consuming, you’ll certainly lose weight, but your weight loss may not be healthy.
Chicken Broth and Weight Loss
Any healthy chicken broth diet won't involve just chicken broth. Although chicken broth can have fat, protein and carbohydrates, it doesn't usually have enough nutrients or calories to actually nourish your body when consumed on its own. Of course, this ultimately depends on whether or not you're making your own chicken broth. However, most people need about 2,000 calories per day, somewhat impossible to consume just drinking chicken broth. It's also unlikely you could consume all your daily calories or recommended daily nutrients from just chicken broth.
A healthy chicken broth diet will include consuming chicken broth (or other animal broths) on a regular basis. You'll typically integrate the broth into foods like smoothies and soups or drink it on its own. Of course, the average chicken broth diet won't allow eating just anything. Most meal plans resemble paleo or ketogenic diets. Some bone broth diets, like Dr. Kellyann's 21-Day Bone Broth Diet, use chicken broth and other animal broths as a way to support intermittent fasting.
If you're keen on incorporating chicken broth into your diet, you can also use it to cook with. Use chicken broth to make richer sauces, stews and a variety of other foods. You can even swap boiling water for boiling chicken broth and use it to cook grain-based foods like couscous, rice, pasta or quinoa.
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Chicken Broth Nutrition Facts
Whether or not your chicken broth has any nutritional value comes down to the product you've chosen. If you're making your own chicken broth, things can be a bit more complicated. Many people who drink broths think their product should be like consommé: clear, clarified stock.
However, homemade bone broths are more similar to standard chicken stock: They are typically cloudier, more intense and have more collagen and gelatin from slow cooking the bone marrow over a longer period. Commercially bought chicken broths will often be somewhere in between a consommé and a chicken stock. If you're specifically looking for bone broth, look for a product that will solidify when it becomes cold.
In most commercially bought chicken broths, you'll likely find ingredients like organic chicken stock, organic vegetable stock, vegetable powders, spices, salt and even sugar. A 1-cup serving (240 milliliters) of Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth has:
- 20 calories
- 1 gram of fat
- 2 grams of carbohydrates (1 of these grams comes from sugar)
- 1 gram of protein
- 6 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin A
- 31 percent of the DV for sodium
In the same sized serving of an unbranded chicken broth taken from the USDA Branded Food Products Database, you'll find:
- 5 calories
- 1 gram of protein
- 6 percent of the DV for sodium
This product also contains trace amounts of calcium and potassium. Unlike the chicken broth produced by Imagine, this product has no fat or carbohydrates. If you make your own homemade chicken broth, you may end up with something that nutritionally resembles these products. However, chances are you'll end up with something completely different, unless you've made your chicken broth with bouillon cubes.
Read more: 10 Easy Clean-Eating Recipes
Is Chicken Broth Actually Healthy?
According to a July 2017 study in the journal Food and Nutrition Research, bone broths have been considered to be healthy for many decades. It's only been in more recent years that any health benefits have been proven. Chicken broth can help support your immune system by helping to reduce inflammation or increasing your mucus production when you have a respiratory infection. Bone broths are increasingly recommended for people trying to improve the health of the gut-brain axis or those with gut and psychology syndrome (GAPS).
The main issue with chicken broth is that not all chicken broths are created equal. Consider the amount of sodium some chicken broths contain. If you're drinking multiple servings of chicken broth a day, you'd easily meet your daily value for sodium after consuming a bit more than 3 cups (720 milliliters) of Imagine Organic Free Range Chicken Broth.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, but ideally recommends 1,500 milligrams of sodium or less. You should restrict your sodium intake, as it can affect your cardiovascular health by impacting your blood pressure. Of course, not all chicken broths are rich in sodium, so if you're purchasing pre-prepared chicken broth, make sure to check its nutritional content.
Cooking chicken broth at home is a good way to make sure your bone broth doesn't have excessive sodium content. It's also a good way to enrich your broth with healthy antioxidants, which also have a range of health benefits. Like bone broth, antioxidants like phenolics can support your immune system by reducing inflammation and allergies. They can also impart a variety of cardioprotective effects. Although the term antioxidants may sound fancy, many vegetables, herbs and other plant-based products contain these nutrients. You can find antioxidants in a variety of foods, including:
- Green and red pepper
- Greens: spinach, lettuce, kale, endive, sweet potato leaves
- Onion, garlic, ginger
- Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage
- Roots: potato, carrot
- Sponge gourd
- Seeds: flaxseed, sesame seed, fenugreek
- Olive oil
- Spices: Rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, clove, black pepper, turmeric
- Journal of Renal Nutrition: "A Sip Above the Rest…Is Bone Broth All Its Boiled Up to Be?"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Full Report (All Nutrients): 45358174, Chicken Broth, Upc: 072431009198"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Full Report (All Nutrients): 45242291, Chicken Broth, Upc: 099482442514"
- Imagine: "Organic Free Range Chicken Broth"
- American Heart Association: "Why Should I Limit Sodium?"
- Food and Nutrition Research: "Essential and Toxic Metals in Animal Bone Broths"
- Journal of Functional Foods: "Phenolics and Polyphenolics in Foods, Beverages and Spices: Antioxidant Activity and Health Effects – a Review"