The 3 Red Flags of Bone Broth Supplements
Bone broth is the newest health trend sweeping blogs and supplement stores. Here at Woodstock Vitamins we’re big fans of bone broth slow cooked at home because it has so many great health benefits. Sadly, however the supplement industry is using this wholesome, nutritious food and creating bone broth products that have little to no nutritional benefits. Once again, they are deceiving people and separating you from your hard earned dollars for sub-par products. We hope to teach you all about bone broth and help you learn some red flags to be aware of when buying a bone broth product.
Bone Broth - A Hearty, Old Fashioned Food
Way back when, in an era where we had more time for bonding, thought, and cooking, homemade broths were common. Making a great broth consisted of taking whole chickens or turkeys, placing them in a pot with water, vegetables, and other nutrient-dense foods and cooking the mixture slowly over time, usually multiple hours or even days. The hot water and soaking allowed for the extraction of some healthy compounds found in bones, such as collagen and gelatins. The slow cooking of the protein sources made them more easily digestible. The compounds in a broth were often a good choice for people who were sick or had gut irritation, as homemade broths had compounds that were gentle and helped reduce local inflammation. The salt, potassium, and other minerals, as well as the fluid, helps rehydrate and rebalance electrolytes. Homemade, real broth was something wonderful.
Modern Broth & Our Boneless Meals
Modern broth isn’t quite the same as the wholesome broth of our past. Rather than using whole chicken or turkey, many broths will use pieces of chicken, vegetables, and noodles. Because these broths are made by merely warming these mixtures, the broth will not have the nutrients of a broth cooked slowly. These mixtures are also missing the soft bones containing the collagen and gelatin that bone broths contain.
We welcome the trend back to a real-food approach to broth. Here’s a sample of a great broth recipe we recommend:
Vitality Bone Broth
- 4 pounds of beef bones with marrow
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 2 medium onions, peel on, sliced in half
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 18-20 cups cold water
- Place all the ingredients in a 10-quart capacity crock-pot.
- Add in water.
- Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce and simmer gently, skimming the fat that rises to the surface occasionally.
- Allow to Simmer for 24-48 hours.
- Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Discard solids and strain remainder in a bowl through a colander. Let stock cool to room temperature, cover, and chill.
- Use within a week, or freeze up to 3 months.
Bone Broth Supplements
As is usually the case in our fast-paced culture, supplement companies have stepped in with dollar signs in their eyes to provide an alternative to the shopping, prepping, cooking and cleaning needed for a good broth. Again, leave it to the supplement companies to take a wholesome, nourishing old world remedy and make it a pricey adulterated formula.
This is a very important fact you must ALWAYS remember when discussing bone broth supplements: bone broth is a WHOLE FOOD supplement, meaning the benefit comes from eating the foods, not individual compounds found within the food. Taking a protein supplement (one important ingredient) isn’t the same as eating broth (protein and LOTS of other healthy stuff). The best bone broth supplement would be one that contains quality ingredients (high-quality vegetables, free-range poultry, etc) cooked correctly, then converted into a supplement in a minimally processed manner.
As we’ve discussed before (most recently with cherries), there are so many fake whole food products on the market, it’s hard to know what you are getting. We believe this is happening with bone broth. Here are the red flags we have been looking out for:
Fake Bone Broth Strike 1 - Price
This is the most telling piece, and as we learn more about these supplements, price will most likely just be a small part of the problem. How much does a well made bone broth cost?
Our local butcher charges $6 per pint. High-quality stuff. EPIC Provisions, the brand of bone broth supplement we carry in-store, charges $7 per pint.
Leading bone broth supplements (most are powdered - more on this next), are charging $1.50 per pint. This is a hint to us that the supplement is made with very poor to low-quality ingredients or is not really true bone broth.
Shipping liquid bone broth coast-to-coast isn’t very cost effective for supplement companies. As such, the companies turned to a powdered form of bone broth. They first make the bone broth, then dehydrate the product and sell the leftover powder. This powder would then be rehydrated before use and heated.
Looking at this from the financial side still, how much bone broth would be needed to make a single jar of dehydrated powder? The easy answer is “lots” meaning the price would be MUCH more than a couple bucks per pint.
Fake Bone Broth Strike 2 - Color and Taste
Bone broth, when gently dehydrated, should have a certain color. If I sold you a jar of liquid bone broth and it was a clear or grey liquid, for example, you would probably tell us to take a hike. Bone broth powder, in many situations, is an off-white color instead of the darker shades leaning towards brown.
Color isn’t the only indicator, as we’re seeing people darkening up their products to more resemble higher-quality bone broth dehydrates.
Imagine what broth powder would taste like. For most of us that isn’t too hard… salty, maybe a little sweet. Maybe some herb or seasoning. Bone broth powder supplements are bland. Here’s a review from a leading internet doctor’s own website:
"This protein mixes very well, although it is bland in flavor, but that's OK. A slice of banana or a piece of other fruit is fine."
Taste can be faked as well by adding a little sodium or flavorings, so it is a single marker - not a conclusive piece of evidence.
Fake Bone Broth Strike 3 - Ingredients
More alarming than both of these red flags is the listing of ingredients on bone broth supplement containers. If we look at the nutritional or supplement facts on bone broth products out there, we see some interesting things. For example, a product that has no bones. But they call it bone broth. Hmmm.
Here’s an example of a company who is at least being honest about what is included in the product:
They've added supplements to the product to make it be more than a normal bone broth. I don't like the added flavors or the vegetable powders... would those naturally be in a normal bone broth?
Here’s a leading internet “doctor’s” label:
We would love to know more about what “Chicken Bone Broth Protein Concentrate” is and how it is made.
It could be done correctly, but the question is: what are they making? Is it a protein concentrate? Are they making bone broth powder? If it is a protein concentrate, then why bother with the broth? The broth’s benefit is from all the foods working synergistically together. Remember - think whole food supplement!
Here’s EPIC Provision’s label, a Vitality Approved brand:
It’s pretty to see the difference here. We are left with so many questions as to what is truly in Dr. Internet-face’s powder, while in EPIC’s all the ingredients are listed clear as day. This is what we look for here at Woodstock Vitamins. Honesty and clarity in labeling.
Here’s What We Think Bone Broth Supplements Really Are
Since this is a new trend, we don’t have conclusive evidence of the exact things that are or aren’t being done with regards to these products. We currently believe there are three scenarios for what most people’s bone broth supplement is:
- Inert or completely ineffective powders with maybe some flavors added. This would be the worst case scenario.
- A highly processed bone broth with added gelatin and collagen, two ingredients found in bones (and, in turn, bone broth). This product would test positively for the active ingredients in bone broth, but would be missing the vital benefits from the whole food product.
- The bone broth equivalent to juice. Maybe bone broth is just an extract and/or waste product from manufacturing of other food things that is sold and promoted as something it is not.
As bad options go, number 3 is the least-worst option, as it may have some healthy stuff left over. Most bone broth supplements are most likely highly processed and devoid of the nutritional goodies of a true bone broth.
Based on the ingredient lists, pricing, and physical characteristics, we are guessing the bone broth supplements that are out there are in fact, not actually bone broth, or if they do contain bone broth, it is highly processed and/or spiked with other ingredients to give the perception that it is high quality and a true food bone broth.
As with any whole food supplement, we recommend you eat the real food. Find a local place that uses quality ingredients and buy from them if you don’t want to DIY.
If you are looking for a bone broth supplement, look for one that is “Vitality Approved.” This would be a product that clearly lists the ingredients, is transparent in quality control, and is priced appropriately based on the materials used.
We are working tirelessly to discover what exactly is going on with these “bone broth protein powders”, as soon as we fully get the information we will pass it along.
Vital Proteins Bone Broth Collagen products are Vitality Approved, so you can be sure that you're getting quality products: pure, potent, and consistent batch to batch.
Just trying to keep it real...
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth