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Bone broth has become such a wellness staple in many homes, mine included. The bone broth diet has risen in popularity as well, along with other dietary approaches like intermittent fasting and the paleo diet.
I’ve researched and tried so many things in the wellness world, and a bone broth diet is no exception. If you’re considering one, here is a breakdown of what a bone broth diet is, along with benefits and potential drawbacks as well as a sample plan to follow.
As always, all health is personal and individual — work with your healthcare provider to find the right fit for you.
What Is a Bone Broth Diet?
The 21-day bone broth diet was first popularized by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, who wrote the book Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet. Since then, many other practitioners of the low-carb, paleo, and intermittent fasting mindsets have used or adapted the concept.
On Dr. Kellann’s plan, the idea is not that you only drink bone broth for 21 days. Instead, it’s a modified fasting plan that has you following a paleo diet strictly for three weeks, but on six out of the 21 days, you are drinking only bone broth. Because bone broth contains some nutrients, it’s not the same as fasting from all food.
One cup of bone broth contains:
- 42 calories
- 0.6 grams of fat
- 0.4 grams of carbohydrates
- 8.8 grams of protein
- 17% daily value of vitamin B3
- 12% daily value of vitamin B6
- 12% daily value of selenium
- 9% daily value of vitamin B12
- 8% daily value of potassium
- 7% daily value of vitamin A
- 7% daily value of phosphorous
- 5% daily value of choline
In that nearly 9 grams of protein per cup, there are amino acids like glycine, lysine, proline, and glutamine. These amino acids are part of the reason why bone broth is considered a healing superfood. Proteins are the building blocks of life, and your body can use amino acids to rebuild and repair. More on specific health benefits of bone broth below.
A 21-day bone broth diet is not meant to be a long-term lifestyle. Dr. Kellyann Petrucci presents it as a way to jumpstart weight loss and to fight signs of aging. It can really be viewed as a short-term modified fast with a specific purpose in mind. Some use it for weight loss while others use it for gut health, anti-inflammatory benefits, or even blood sugar support.
While the initial bone broth diet is 21 days, it can be used for longer-term weight loss and weight management by modifying the plan. You can also transition from doing a bone broth diet into following a traditional Paleo diet, Whole30, or similar grain-free food plan.
Let’s explore why bone broth is so healthy in the first place.
Health Benefits of Bone Broth
Bone broth isn’t just soup stock. It is derived from ancestral diet traditions where every part of the animal was utilized, including the bones. Animal bones were simmered for 24 hours or longer, with nutrients found in the bones extracted into the liquid. The presence of protein and other nutrients is what gives bone broth its health benefits.
Thanks to pressure cookers, bone broth can be made much faster than 24 hours. You don’t have to babysit a pot on your stove for one to two days to get it done. But however you decide to make it (or buy it), bone broth offers some impressive health benefits.
Fights Inflammation and Joint Pain
Collagen is essential to tissues throughout the human body, including in the skin, tendons, and joints. Bone broth contains accessible nutrients like collagen that can help to support the body’s own collagen stores, helping to provide relief for arthritis and other inflammatory joint conditions.
Research from 2006 explains how collagen can be beneficial for treating pain associated with arthritis. An animal study from 2017 in PloS One found that collagen had an anti-inflammatory effect on arthritis and even protected against joint damage.
Glycine, an amino acid found in bone broth, has a protective and anti-inflammatory effect in the body. It supports the entire digestive tract, even helping to prevent ulcers. It fights inflammation, helps to provide balance to the immune system, and protects against unnatural cell death and damage.
Supports Gut Health
As you may have noticed above, bone broth contains a lot of nutrients for just one cup of liquid. B vitamins, minerals, and vitamin A are present in decent amounts along with protein and amino acids. Even if you eat a pristine diet, focusing on nutrient-rich foods like bone broth can support gut health.
If you have leaky gut or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), then you may not be absorbing all of the nutrients you’re eating. Focusing on nutrient dense foods can help your body get what it needs. Beyond that, bone broth contains specific nutrients that help the tissue of the gut lining to heal. Collagen is potentially the most famous gut-healing nutrient, but glutamine plays an important role, too.
In 2017 research from Food and Function, collagen is shown to improve intestinal barrier function by supporting the function of tight junctions. Leaky gut occurs when tight junctions become loose, allowing particles to enter the bloodstream that shouldn’t be there. By optimizing how tight junctions work, you effectively “seal” up your leaky gut.
Glutamine is an essential amino acid in the body for many reasons. Research from The International Journal of Molecular Sciences explains how glutamine is necessary for maintaining proper intestinal physical function. It’s also proven vital for managing diseases of the intestines.
Glutamine is so beneficial for the gut because of the way that it promotes intestinal cell replication, and the more cells replicate, the better chance to heal and replace those that are damaged. Glutamine also helps to control the proteins that are in charge of regulating the tight junctions and defends against untimely cell death. Glutamine stores can quickly get too low since the amino acid can be lost during stress, infections, and autoimmune or chronic disease.
Promotes Weight Loss
No scientific or clinical studies have been done on the exact effects of this bone broth diet pattern, but we can infer benefits based on other similar diet plans.
Gelatin is derived from collagen and is what gives bone broth the jiggly, solid consistency when it’s refrigerated. It is also what helps bone broth promote weight loss, since consuming this can lead to feelings of fullness and may decrease the desire to snack.
A 2008 study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a 3-week Paleo diet showed benefits in healthy people. While it was a small study, where only 14 people completed the program, the results noted weight loss, decreased body mass, reduced waist circumference, and lowered systolic blood pressure.
A 2020 randomized clinical trial that followed 34 older men and women for eight weeks found a significantly greater benefit from a low-carb diet versus a low-fat diet. A Paleo diet is typically low-carb and higher in healthy fats. The trial found that adults who followed the low-carb diet lost three times more fat than those who were on the low fat diet.
Health Benefits of Modified Fasting
A bone broth diet is a modified fasting plan, incorporating principles of intermittent fasting. When most people think of fasting, they think of not eating anything at all. However, many types of fasting involve modifications to normal dietary intake.
There are several demonstrated benefits to modified fasting. A 2018 review found that intermittent fasting for weight loss was more effective (in two studies) or equally effective (in three studies) compared to a non-fasting low-calorie diet. Yet many find paleo eating to be far more satisfying than a traditional low-calorie diet where you always have the potential to feel deprived.
The bone broth diet approach of eating paleo meals five days a week and consuming only bone broth for the other two fits a pattern of time-restricted feeding. This method can support heart health and metabolism, with even more far-reaching positive impacts on gene expression, hormone levels, and cell growth. It also promotes autophagy, which is the body’s built-in way of clearing out damaged cells before they become problematic. It also has anti-aging effects, too.
That’s quite a collection of benefits!
How to Follow a Bone Broth Diet
A bone broth diet is built on the foundation of a paleo diet, which eliminates grains, legumes, and dairy products and focuses on veggies, grass-fed meats, and other nourishing whole foods. You’ll eat this way five days a week, and then on two days (not back-to-back), you’ll only have one cup of bone broth at six different times. On non-fasting days, you’ll also drink some bone broth in addition to Paleo, sugar-free meals.
If you’ve never tried intermittent fasting before, a bone broth diet strikes a balance that might help people who tend to get shaky from low blood sugar if they go too long without food. Since bone broth contains protein, it can help to provide some balance.
Beef bone broth, chicken bone broth, and even fish bone broth can be used for a bone broth diet plan.
Here’s a sample meal plan for following a bone broth diet.
Day 1 (Food)
Day 2 (Food)
Day 3 (Fasting)
- 8 AM: 1 cup bone broth
- 10 AM: 1 cup bone broth
- 12 PM: 1 cup bone broth
- 3 PM: 1 cup bone broth
- 5 PM: 1 cup bone broth
- 7 PM: 1 cup bone broth
Day 4 (Food)
Day 5 (Food)
Day 6 (Fasting)
- 8AM: 1 cup bone broth
- 10AM: 1 cup bone broth
- 12PM: 1 cup bone broth
- 3PM: 1 cup bone broth
- 5PM: 1 cup bone broth
- 7PM: 1 cup bone broth
Day 7 (Food)
Who Should Not Try a Bone Broth Diet
While a bone broth diet is probably okay for adults who don’t have underlying conditions, it is definitely not a good idea for pregnant or breastfeeding women because they shouldn’t be restricting calories at all. Research also suggests it’s not right for anyone under age 21 or with diagnosed conditions (unless your doctor has suggested it).
While weight loss diet plans can have benefits, sometimes the downsides of caloric restriction outweigh the benefits. Make sure you’re following a dietary plan that is right for you and not just because it’s popular or you want a quick fix solution.
Also, keep in mind that bone broth and soup stock are not the same thing, so make sure that you are getting the right item if you are purchasing. Many companies offer paleo-friendly bone broth if you don’t have time or access to make your own, but it’s really simple to do it yourself. Just follow this recipe.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
What do you think about a bone broth diet? Would you ever try it along with a Paleo diet?
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