The biggest opportunity in protein is quality, not quantity.
Today we are talking about one of the three macronutrients that make up our food – protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Protein is a critical building block for our health and wellbeing. The book Nature’s Robots described it well. “Proteins are amazing molecules. They spark the chemical reactions that form the basis for life, transmit signals in the body, identify and kill foreign invaders, and form the engines that make us move. For every task in a living organism, there is a protein designed to carry it out.”
But before we start getting a bit geeky about protein, we should be clear about one thing. Walking down the grocery aisles, you would think that there is a protein crisis in America. Every product on the shelf seems to want to help us hit our protein “goals”. But the reality is that the average American gets almost double the amount of protein that they need (about .36 grams/lb of body weight per day).
Our obsession with macronutrients seems to go in waves and nutritional science is notoriously difficult. The 1970s were all about low fat and eating carbs. Now carbs are demonized, and the keto movement has highlighted the value of healthy fats. It’s hard to keep up! The reality is that we need all three in our diet. What gets lost in the focus on nutrition fact panels and “hitting our macro #s” is the quality of those nutrients!
We would argue that the quality of the protein we are consuming is just as important (or more important) than the quantity. Not all proteins are created equal and [SPOILER ALERT!] we assert that 1) getting a diverse array of protein from a range of whole foods is best, and 2) the proteins in bone broth are hard to get from other foods.
What do we know about proteins and which proteins are “essential”?
Early researchers erroneously believed that proteins were one big molecule. Today they describe them as a chain of up to 20 amino acids. Nine of those amino acids are considered essential because our bodies cannot produce them on their own – they need to be obtained from what we consume. The other 11 amino acids are considered “non-essential” because they can be produced by the human body – but the body’s ability to produce them is dictated by a range of factors, including the amount of essential amino acids consumed as well as whether we are tired, stressed, or sick.
One example of a “non-essential” amino acid is taurine. Depending on your age and social predilections, you may recognize this as the active ingredient in Red Bull and other energy drinks. We really don’t recommend it as a conversation starter, but try telling someone who is out clubbing at 4am that the taurine in their Red Bull is non-essential!
The point here is that there is a lot going on with proteins, and it can’t really be reduced to one number. In particular, when we are stressed, tired, sick, or just generally want to feel better, some specific, high quality proteins can go a long way. Bone broth provides these in a real food form that makes it very easy for your body to digest. Nutritionists call this protein bioavailability (another benefit of broth vs supplements).
In the meantime, here is a summary of the specific amino acids in the high quality protein that you get from Brodo!
What amino acids can I find in a bone broth and why are they good for me?
If you want healthy skin, hair, and nails, stronger bones and joints, it’s important to get collagen in your diet. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. But our natural production declines as we age, causing wrinkles, sagging skin, weak joints, and other signs of aging. A well-made bone broth like Brodo is rich in gelatin, the term for collagen in cooked form. Gelatin actually formed the cornerstone of French nutritional science for decades.
Often marketed as a sleep aid, glycine plays a crucial role in all sorts of bodily functions. This extends from your muscles to your gut to your brain (the so-called Gut-Brain connection). This versatile amino acid works to calm your nerves, improve digestion, and support your liver’s ability to remove toxins. It’s also a key building-block for glutathione, the superhero antioxidant that fights disease and slows the signs of aging. Research suggests that boosting your glycine intake has “broad potential” to improve your health in so many ways, from fighting inflammation to preventing heart problems. And yes, studies show, it can help you sleep. Glycine is abundant in bone broth. If you have trouble winding down at night, a warm, soothing mug of broth may be just the trick!
Long a popular supplement for bodybuilders, glutamine is a vital amino acid that your body craves in abundance. It fuels the growth of all kinds of cells, from your brain down to your intestines. Athletes and other fitness buffs commonly take glutamine supplements to burn fat, build muscle, and recover faster after workouts. But research indicates that glutamine helps in many other ways too, like boosting immunity and improving mental health. One study showed that critically ill patients have a better chance of survival and recovery when they get more glutamine from their diets.
Perhaps most importantly, glutamine helps to maintain a healthy gut, which is essential to overall wellness. It works to repair and rebuild the digestive tract, reducing the intestinal inflammation that often leads to other health problems, ranging from heartburn and bloating to itchy skin and food allergies. Bone broth is a great source of glutamine.
If you’re suffering from joint pain or weakness, then it helps to get more glucosamine, an amino sugar that fires up the growth and repair of cartilage. Several studies have shown its effectiveness in reducing the symptoms of osteoporosis. Most joint-support pills on the market contain some combination of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. Bone broth gives you even more support. In addition to glucosamine, the boiled-down cartilage in broth also contains chondroitin and multiple other joint-supporting carbohydrates known as glycosaminoglycans. You get all the tools you need for growing connective tissue and easing joint pain naturally. And you get them all in the same cup.
An amino acid that supports your muscles, alanine is another popular supplement for athletes. It is also commonly used by the U.S. military during combat training. Multiple studies have shown that it helps to reduce fatigue and improve performance during high-intensity exercise. Recent testing of elite soldiers also showed potential cognitive benefits and better ability to stay focused under stress. Broth also includes histidine. In your body, these two amino acids combine to form carnosine, an important antioxidant for muscle and brain tissue.
This all-star amino acid works to heal wounds, reduce blood pressure, and improve heart health. Arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, which is essential for healthy blood flow. That is why you seen it used in treatments for men with erectile dysfunction. It also plays a role in the body’s production of human growth hormone and creatine. This makes it yet another favorite supplement for athletes and bodybuilders. Arginine also makes bone broth a protein-sparing food, meaning it helps your body make more efficient use protein. So, if you’re looking to reduce your meat consumption, arginine-rich broth can help you accomplish this without sacrificing the nutritional benefits.
Don’t Forget Delicious
After all this nutritional science, we can’t help reminding you of the nutritional value of deliciousness! Your body actually knows what it needs and it will tell you if you are willing to listen to it. One of the great things about our shops is that every day we get to see those Aha moments when people connect all the hype around the benefits of bone broth to the deliciousness of the real thing. Deliciousness is what really works – because deliciousness is what makes it easy and enjoyable for people to make something a lifelong, healthy habit.