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Can Bone Broth Really Give You Better Skin? We Asked the Experts

Here's everything you need to know about the trendy superfood
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When health devotees aren't sipping celery juice or kombucha, they're likely slurping bone broth (preferably whilst waxing poetic about the stuff, of course). If you thought grandma's chicken noodle soup was the miracle cure-all, lots of fans think bone broth has it beat. (Sorry, Gran.)

Many have touted bone broth as a veritable nutritional powerhouses. Furthermore, they are singing its praises for its beauty benefits... which is definitely intriguing, but is it actually true? As with any viral health fad, things can sometimes get bigged up without the cold, hard evidence to back it up. That's why we asked the experts how bone broth can nourish us from the inside out — and what exactly makes it so different from regular ol' soup.

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What Exactly Is Bone Broth?
Let's sort this one out: Naomi Whittel, New York Times bestselling author of "Glow15" and founder of OMI Skin Nutrition, says that bone broth is "a liquid made from bones and connective tissues of animals." (So, yes, the name is very literal.) The versatile and nourishing broth can be used for numerous things including soups, sauces, the base of gravies and even a healthy drink. (The wellness community is especially obsessed with the last option.)

Bone Broth Versus Soup

Does bone broth sound a bit like soup to you? Some might have even thought the terms were interchangeable. Bone broth is pretty much like the stock of a soup. Nutritionist of Carillon Miami Wellness Resort Staci Shacter MS RD LDN says that the differences between bone broth and regular chicken broth are cooking time and acid. With bone broth, a bit of apple cider vinegar (an acid) is typically added with the water and bones to help leach out more of the nutrients from the bones. Then, the bone broth is cooked low and slow to extract as much nutrients from the bones. Shacter says that some recipes call for simmering the bones for 24 hours.

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Bone Broth Nutrients
Bone broth contains gelatin, which is essentially cooked collagen, says Whittel. (That's why good bone broths turn into a gel when they're cooled.) Gelatin in bone broth contains three key amino acids: glycine, which reduces inflammation and is important in the production of DNA and RNA; proline, which contributes to healthy collagen production in skin and arteries, helps heal cartilage and cushions joints; and glutamine, which aids in healthy brain function, muscle building and is important in digestive and immune health.

Bone broth is also rich in minerals, particularly phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium and sodium, according to Whittel. She says that some of the minerals come from the breakdown of the bones and others come from vegetables that can used in making the broth.

Ironically, bone broth isn't overflowing with calcium. "You would think that bone broth would be a good source of calcium, but unfortunately not much of the calcium is present in the bone broth," says Shacter.

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Bone Broth Research
Bone broth is packed with good stuff and Whittel calls its health benefits "far reaching." However, Shacter cautions that some research studies on the benefits of collagen are mostly studying supplements as opposed to bone broth. And to further muddy things, the studies are often small and funded by companies making a product they are trying to promote.

The takeaway: It doesn't mean we're not getting benefits to hair, skin and nails by consuming bone broth — but it does mean that more research is still needed. That said, Shacter is still #teambonebroth because she has found in practice that whole foods are superior to supplements.

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Beauty Benefits: Skin Hydration and Elasticity
Shacter says that there is evidence that components found in bone broth (e.g. glycosaminoglycans such as keratan sulfate, dermatan sulfate, chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid) can support collagen production, improve skin elasticity and hydration, and protect against UV-induced skin damage.

Beauty Benefits: Collagen Support

Furthermore, Whittel says that bone broth can support the health of collagen structures throughout the body, including skin and joints. This is key because collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It's about one-third of the body's protein. However, collagen levels begin decreasing in our 20s at about one percent every year. Eeep. Collagen present in bone broth aids in hydration and helps maintain a youthful appearance as we age.

Beauty Benefits: Stronger Hair and Nails

The amino acids found in gelatin help with collagen production which results in stronger hair, nails and improved skin elasticity, according to Whittel. During her travels to China, Whittel learned that one of the health and beauty secrets of the women with flawless skin and thick, lustrous hair was eating parts of animals that provided a boost of collagen, protein and minerals, like chicken feet.

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