The Bone Broth Diet: What Is it, and How Can I Start?

So you've heard bone broth is the new "it" thing. You've likely heard that it can help with your leaky gut, curb cravings, improve digestion, promote weight loss, and improve your skin. But are all these claims true? What about the bone broth diet? What exactly is involved? How long do you have to be on it to see results? And is there any difference between cooking with bone broth and drinking it as part of this diet? Bone broth might not be the magic elixir that every paleo and keto blogger raves about, but it does have some pretty fantastic qualities, and the ingredients found inside have been shown in clinical studies to have a lasting and positive impact on your health. There's no magic bullet, but the bone broth diet is one way to jump-start your bone broth consumption, boost your metabolism, and promote weight loss. It's a 21-day plan that just about anyone can do, but it does require that you follow a few simple rules. Let's take a look.

What Is the Bone Broth Diet?

The bone broth diet plan was originally developed by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci in her book, Bone Broth Diet (1). The tagline claims that by following this diet, you can lose 14 pounds, 4 inches, and your wrinkles in 21 days. Her book outlines the health benefits of bone broth and intermittent fasting, while promoting a nutrient-dense, gluten-free diet filled with fresh vegetables, healthy proteins, healthy fats, and some fruit. Basically, the diet you follow is the Paleo diet with the addition of bone broth. In addition to adding bone broth into your daily routine, you also have to eliminate a number of foods, including:
  • Gluten
  • Alcohol
  • Sugar
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Soy
  • All processed foods
These eliminations are mostly consistent with the Paleo diet with the exception of the sugar. Even paleo treats using coconut sugar, honey, or maple syrup are off-limits during this 21-day diet. But it's only 21 days — you can do anything for 21 days, right? The second important component of this diet is intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is exactly what it sounds like: short-term bouts of fasting that you do intermittently. In other words, this isn't the Master Cleanse where you can't eat anything except spicy lemonade for seven days. In this case, fasting happens once or twice a week, with the exception of one nutrient-dense drink. You guessed it: bone broth. The goal of intermittent fasting, in general, is usually to lose weight, and studies back up the claims that it works. In a review of the four best studies done on intermittent fasting, all of them showed not only consistent fat loss, but also a decrease in low-density lipoproteins or LDL cholesterol — that's the bad kind (2). So the benefits of fasting are documented. Over the course of this 21-day bone broth diet, you'll be eating a healthy, Paleo diet for 5-6 days, then choosing one or two days to fast. During the fast, you'll drink bone broth instead of eating. You're also free to drink water and herbal tea on these days. On fasting days, it's a good idea to forego working out or doing anything overly strenuous, as you'll likely tap your energy stores pretty quickly and get hungry. Once your fasting day is over, you can resume your paleo diet the next morning with a delicious, whole foods breakfast. On eating days, drink bone broth instead of eating snacks between meals. If you're feeling extra ambitious, consider opting for low-carb foods on the eating days to help boost fat-burning even more.

How to Make Your Own Bone Broth

raw meat and bone
Bone broth is the result of simmering the bones of animals (usually beef bones or chicken bones) in water and a bit of acid (like apple cider vinegar or lemon juice) for a period of time long enough for the bones to break down partially into the liquid. This usually takes 10-24 hours, but you can speed up the process by using a pressure cooker or instant pot. Bone broth isn't the same thing as chicken broth or beef broth, which is not cooked long enough to achieve the same level of breakdown or the same level of health benefits. In addition to bones and water, bone broth usually includes nutritious veggies like onions, garlic, celery, and carrots — the standard ingredients you'd find in a chicken soup. These ingredients not only add a few extra nutritional perks to your golden elixir, they also improve the flavor. You can cook with bone broth or simply warm it in a coffee mug and sip away. Just add a pinch of salt. If you're making beef bone broth, it's a good idea to roast the bones in the oven before boiling them, as it will yield a tastier result. If you become a seasoned bone broth maker, you might begin saving the bones and veggie scraps from dinner and dinner prep and storing them in a sealed freezer bag until you're ready to make broth. You can also supplement your cooking scraps with finds from your local butcher. The best bones to use are those that include joints: chicken feet, chicken wings, beef knuckles. Luckily, those are among the least expensive items at your local butcher. If you can get organic, grass-fed, or pasture-raised bones, that's the ideal way to go. This way, you avoid the chemicals and toxins associated with big industrial farming. Marrow bones are also great and full of nutrients, but they won't yield as much collagen as the bones that have joints. It's a good idea to combine them with bones with joints for the best result, but it's not 100% necessary. The presence and density of collagen is what makes your bone broth turn from liquid to gel in the refrigerator. You know you've extracted the good stuff from the bones if you end up with beef or chicken Jell-O in the fridge. If you don't have time to make your own bone broth, you can also buy it.

Health Benefits of Both Broth

As we said before, there are endless claims online about the health benefits of bone broth. Some are rooted in fact, and some are great ideas that could be true but haven't been borne out by science. What we know for sure is that bone broth is rich in minerals, glucosamine, chondroitin, and amino acids from collagen that can give your health a boost. Since bone broth contains the broken down components of the bones that you've boiled, the liquid gold in your coffee mug offers minerals and natural compounds like glucosamine and chondroitin from those bones and joints. Other minerals include (3):
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Zinc
Importantly, collagen is a major ingredient in bone broth. Collagen, best known in the beauty industry for plumping and tightening skin, is the most abundant protein in the body. It plays a vital role in the health of your bones and joints, skin, hair and nails, muscles, and organs. There are 28 different types of collagen, and collagen protein makes up about 30% of the protein in your whole body (4). Consuming collagen has been shown to speed up wound healing, improve skin elasticity, promote healthier-looking skin, increase the quantity of collagen in the skin, and reduce skin sagging (5)(6). It's also been shown in studies to reduce inflammation around osteoarthritic joints and improve overall joint health in both animal and human subjects (7)(8). Gelatin is a processed form of collagen, which is what turns your broth into a gel in the refrigerator. Gelatin may promote a healthy digestive system. It binds to water in your intestine and helps improve overall digestion by moving things through your GI tract more efficiently. Gelatin also helps protect the mucosal membrane in your gut lining to promote healthy gut function over time, according to a study done in animals (9). More work needs to be done in the area of bone broth and gut health, but preliminary research and anecdotal evidence is promising. The amino acids found in bone broth are also beneficial for promoting a healthy gut. Glutamine is important in the proper formation and functioning of the intestinal lining, which helps prevent leaky gut syndrome (10). Glycine and arginine both offer strong anti-inflammatory effects (11). Chronic inflammation is at the root of nearly every chronic disease in the developed world, so taking steps to quell it is a great way to protect your health (12). The arginine in bone broth could help stave off inflammation, particularly in obese adults. Two studies (one on humans and one on animals) showed a relationship between higher arginine levels and reduced inflammation in obese subjects (13) (14).

Time to Start Your Bone Broth Diet

A woman holds a mug full of bone broth
Now that you know how to make bone broth, the health benefits of drinking it every day, and the weight loss potential of the bone broth diet, you're probably itching to get started. When you head to the grocery store, make sure you get enough ingredients for a few weeks' worth of broth and that you have a big enough pot to accommodate your ingredients. You're more likely to stick to the diet plan for 21 days if you don't have to make multiple batches of bone broth. Stick with high-quality ingredients and don't forget to salt the water to get a delicious bone broth as your finished product. As with any major dietary changes, it's important to talk to a medical professional before you embark on this 21-day bone broth fast. While there aren't any known side-effects to this diet, we recommend checking in to ensure your doctor or nutritionist knows and approves of this plan for you.

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