Bone marrow food, such as bone broth or bone marrow soup, is an essential component of several popular diets. However, the true benefits of bone marrow food are still being investigated, with some research showing that bone broth is a poor source of calcium and magnesium.
Currently, there is no scientific evidence supporting claims that eating bone marrow soup has health benefits such as anti-inflammatory and gut-healing qualities.
Bone broth is made by simmering the bones of animals such as cows, fish or poultry in water for hours and hours, until a thick liquid forms. It may be sipped straight, or augmented with vegetables and herbs.
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Benefits of Bone Marrow
A November 2017 article in the Journal of Renal Nutrition describes bone broth as a traditional food source that has been used for centuries and is now popular within the health food segment. It is particularly lauded by those who follow the Paleo diet, which promotes foods of the pre-agricultural era such as sustainably-sourced meats, fish, nuts, vegetables and fruits and does not include legumes, dairy, refined sugar, cereal grains and processed foods.
Read More: Why Go Paleo?
Bone broth is touted as being able to heal everything from the common cold to osteoarthritis. Proponents of consuming bone broth claim it is high in collagen and various vitamins and minerals. They also tout it as an aid for sleep, anti-inflammation, gut-healing and weight loss.
There have been no conclusive scientific studies that show that bone marrow soup has real health benefits, despite its rise in popularity. Still, it is a source of protein, about 6 to 12 grams per cup, according to Harvard Women's Health Watch.
Disadvantages to Bone Broth
A study published in the July 2017 issue of the journal Food & Nutrition Research highlights one disadvantage to eating bone marrow soup — bones store heavy metals, particularly lead. This means that lead may be released during the process of cooking bone broth.
However, the study concluded that the amounts of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium present in commercial bone broth and soup are very low, with concentrations in the range of a few micrograms per serving
When looking at the calcium and magnesium levels in homemade or commercial bone broth, the study found that found them to be just a minute fraction of the daily requirements. Broth is not a good source of daily calcium and magnesium doses.
In terms of nutrition, the nutritional content of bone broth depends on how much fat is left in the broth, the amount of sodium and whether or not it contains vegetables.
Make Bone Marrow Soup
Whether you drink bone marrow soup for a health boost, or simply want a hearty, warm bowl of comfort to sip on winter afternoons, it's simple enough to make bone broth. (Alternatively, many grocery stores now stock bone broth, and restaurants often sell bone broth that you can purchase to take home.)
Start with 4 pounds of beef bones and a few vegetables such as carrots, onions and celery. You can roast the meat and vegetables beforehand, which will give a greater depth of flavor to the broth. Roast the bones at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about a half hour. (The vegetables may be roasted for 10 minutes.)
Place the bones and vegetables in a large soup pot and cover with water. Herbs such as bay leaves, peppercorns and garlic may be added as well. Bring the soup to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer, skimming off the fat and foam as it comes to the surface. The broth should be simmered for a minimum of 3 hours, and up to 2 days, before being put through a fine-mesh strainer to remove the solids. Bone marrow soup may be incorporated into heartier soups, reduced or thickened to make gravy or eaten on its own.
Read More: Bone Soup Nutrition
- Journal of Renal Nutrition: "A Sip Above the Rest…Is Bone Broth All Its Boiled up to Be?"
- Food & Nutrition Research: "Essential and Toxic Metals in Animal Bone Broths"
- Harvard Medical School, Harvard Women's Health Watch: "What's the Scoop on Bone Soup?"
- UC San Diego Health: "Taking Stock: the Health and Hype of Bone Broth"