Bone broth is a hot topic discussed in many newspapers, blogs and popular health shows. These sources report that drinking bone broth will make your bones strong, relieve joint pain, improve your digestion, and give you firmer skin. Where did this idea come from?

Bone broth contains collagen, which is the main protein in your body. Collagen protects your organs, joints and tendons; holds together your bones and muscles; and keeps your gut healthy. In addition to being found naturally in your body, collagen is also found in animal bones, the main ingredient used to make bone broth. Many people believe that when you drink broth, the collagen in the broth becomes collagen in your body. This is not true. When collagen is consumed, it cannot be used in its whole form. Instead, it is broken down in the body. According to research, collagen from bone broth does not help with increasing the strength of your bones, relieving joint pain, improving your digestion, or causing firmer skin.

The same sources that promote bone broth as beneficial, also report false information about the mineral content of bone broth. These claims state that bone broth is a good source of important minerals such as calcium and magnesium, and is a source of toxic minerals such as lead and cadmium. These claims are not true. Scientific research shows that bone broth contributes a very small amount of calcium and magnesium compared to your daily needs. Additionally, the risks associated with ingesting lead and cadmium from bone broth are considered minimal.

While bone broth will only provide small amounts of minerals, many home cooks are making their own broth, which is time-consuming. Many recipes recommend cooking bone broth from 8 to 24 hours. Is it worth making? Bone broth provides more protein per serving than regular meat broth. On average, chicken bone broth provides almost 9 grams more protein than regular chicken broth, making it a good source of protein.

To receive the most benefit from your homemade bone broth, it is best to add a variety of vegetables. The addition of vegetables will impact both the flavor and nutrient content of the broth. Because bone broth does not provide large amounts of minerals on its own, adding vegetables will improve the vitamin and mineral content. The addition of herbs will also improve the flavor and reduce the need for salt.

Bone broth will not help with joint pain or firm skin. If you are looking for ways to increase your protein consumption, stretch your food budget and add more vitamins and minerals to your diet, making your own bone broth may be for you.

Alexandra Frantz is a Penn State dietetic intern.