An ancient staple, bone broth dates back thousands of years. Used in cultures as medicine and a source of nourishment and energy, there is a good reason that this elixir is making a comeback in our modern world. But how does it differ from stock?
Bone broth is a nutrient-dense, savory liquid that is made by simmering animal bones and connective tissues in water for 20+ hours over a low heat. During the simmer, plant-based ingredients like fresh vegetables, roots, herbs, and spices are added to create an aromatic, robust flavor. By cooking the broth for such a long time, all of the nutritional goodness, such as collagen and gelatin, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds slowly seep out of the bones. After all is said and done, you’ll have a rich, hearty broth that’s great to use in recipes as a replacement to water, or regular broth and stock, or even to sip on like coffee or tea.
A high-quality bone broth will have a hearty portion of protein per serving, usually between 7-10 grams. Products labeled “bone broth” with less protein than this amount usually indicate that corners were cut. It’s also important to note if a broth becomes gelatinous when it is chilled, as it should become solid and gel when refrigerated. This indicates that the broth was made with bones containing a high amount of collagen. This combined with the proper amount of simmer time will result in a highly gelatinous broth, which is the only tangible attribute that separates a true bone broth from a product that’s labeled and marketed as such.
Speaking of collagen, another special protein that goes hand in hand with it is gelatin. Gelatin is THE healing component of bone broth, and what makes bone broth, well…bone broth. Without the high amount of gelatin and collagen, you simply have stock and/or broth.
To further help determine if you’re bone broth is actually bone broth, always look at the ingredients. This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you don’t see “bones” listed as an ingredient, there’s a good chance the product you are holding isn’t truly bone broth. If you see “beef stock” and “chicken stock” listed as the first ingredient, that’s exactly what it is, but marketed as bone broth. Since bone broth has become wildly popular, broth and stock makers are simply labeling their products as bone broth, despite not possessing any of its qualities.
Last but not least, you’ll want to make sure there aren’t any preservatives, hormones or antibiotics used on the animals. Grass-fed and organic sources are the best, but ensuring the bones are sourced from non-GMO, antibiotic-free sources, will ensure you’re getting the best bone broth.
Isn’t bone broth just stock?
Yes, and no. Let us explain.
While stock and bone broth are commonly used interchangeably, the major difference lies in their nutrition profiles. Those main differences are cook times as well as the presence of gelatin, which is directly related to type and quantity of bones. The longer cook time, the more nutrients that seep into the bone broth. The more nutrients, the more effective the product will be.
Like bone broth, stock is a liquid made by simmering bones, vegetables, spices, herbs, and sometimes meat, in water over a low heat for several hours. These ingredients are usually simmered for 6-8 hours, sometimes a little longer. This cooking process yields a neutral-flavored, and rich stock that contains some gelatin. Stocks can be used as bases for soups and meals, as its mild flavor profile make it a versatile base for many different types of dishes, soups, stews, sauces, and more.
What’s the Difference?
Although bone broth and stock might seem to be more similar than they are different, the seemingly small differences between the two actually add up to make quite the difference. While factors like ingredient quality and temperature are important to making stock and broth, the main differences between bone broth and stock are the types of bones used, the bone to water ratio, and the cooking time. In our experience, these are the 3 single most important factors that determine the nutrient content of a finished bone broth.
Types Of Bones
Not all bones are created equal. Marrow bones, for example, contain a lot of marrow but do not contain much cartilage and connective tissue. Bone marrow is essentially fat, and so it’s almost always skimmed off with other fat and impurities during the cooking process.
Collagen is found in cartilage and connective tissues, not in the bone itself. When cartilage and connective tissues are cooked in liquid over a long period of time, they break down into the broth as gelatin (cooked collagen). In order for gelatin to be present in bone broth, bones like beef knuckles, neck bones, joints, chicken feet, tendons, oxtail, and other parts of the animals are used to maximize collagen content. This combined with a high bone to water ratio is what makes bone broth different from stock.
Bone To Water Ratio
In classic stock making, a general rule of thumb for bone to water ratio is 1 pound of bones for every gallon of water. A properly made bone broth, however, will use at least 3 pounds of bones for every gallon of water. This results in a richer tasting broth with a much higher concentration of protein, collagen, amino acids and minerals.
This concentration of nutrients is what gives bone broth its superfood status. In order for there to be an effective amount of collagen and nutrients in the broth, there needs to be a high bone to water ratio. One way to tell if a bone broth was made with a high bone to water ratio is to put it in the fridge overnight. If made properly, the broth will have a jello-like consistency. Gelatin is the primary healing component of bone broth, so its presence is vital to reap the benefits.
Stock is usually simmered for 6-8 hours, and in some cases a little longer. On the other hand, a good bone broth is simmered for upwards of 24+ hours! While you might be wondering how much this can possibly matter, it makes quite the difference in their nutrition profiles.
The longer cooking time for bone broth allows for the proper extraction of all nutrients from the ingredients that are being used. Those nutrients include gelatin (cooked collagen), vitamins, minerals, etc., which are just not as prevalent in regular stock due to the bone types used, lower bone to water ratio, and shorter cook time.
These vital nutrients can only be extracted if the broth is left to simmer for a long period of time, as it requires many hours for the animal bones to break down properly so the nutrients can be released into the broth.
This combination of high-collagen bones, higher bone to water ratio, and longer cooking time results in two very different products.
Benefits of Bone Broth
Due to the long cooking times of bone broth, all of those nutrients come seeping out of the bones. Those nutrients, vitamins, amino acids, etc., all add up to a great big bowl of goodness. And all of that goodness ends up providing a plethora of health benefits for us as bone broth drinkers!
Bones that are used in high-quality bone broths are filled with collagen, which is extracted during the cooking process. Collagen, found in bone broth, is linked to numerous improvements in joint health, in particular with osteoarthritis (7, 9, 10). Amongst other nutrients, bone broth contains chondroitin and glucosamine, and studies have linked these two molecules with slowing down osteoarthritis and improving cartilage metabolism (12, 14).
Another nutrient present in bone broth is hyaluronic acid, which has been linked to skin rejuvenation and alleviating wrinkles (16, 17). Hyaluronic acid also works hand in hand with collagen, which does more than just help with joints. Collagen has been linked to improvements in skin hydration, elasticity, wound healing, as well as improving hair growth and strengthening brittle nails (19, 20, 21).
The state of your gut is associated to more than you might think. On top of digestion and well-being, gut health has been associated with your mental health, through means of the gut’s microbiota (22, 23). Not to fear, as bone broth contains nutrients, like glycine, as well as many different minerals, that have been linked to improvements in gut health (24, 26, 27).
The cause of many health detriments, inflammation can be tricky, as it’s not something that can always be physically seen. A well-made bone broth will naturally have gelatin, as well as numerous amino acids like arginine and glycine. All of these things have been linked to both the prevention, and improvement, of inflammatory conditions (28, 29, 31).
Glycine, a prevalent amino acid in bone broth, has been linked to more than just helping with inflammation. Glycine has been proven to improve sleep quality, regulate nighttime sleeping patterns, and reduce daytime fatigue (32, 34, 35).
Even though you might be drinking enough water throughout the day, your body might not be taking full advantage of that hydration. Your body needs the right minerals present to properly absorb the water in a hydrating way. Bone broth has a handful of minerals, including calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium, that have been linked to helping your body with proper hydration (36, 38).
A Better Option
Bone broth’s bolder taste and numerous health benefits make it a better buy than regular stock. And while no one is stopping you from going out and buying a carton of stock, upgrading to bone broth is an easy and simple way to get more nourishment in your day. So whether you’re looking to make the switch from stock to bone broth or not, you now have the knowledge to discern between the two and make the best decision possible.