Benefits, Risks, Foods For Weight Loss

Benefits, Risks, Foods For Weight Loss

If you’ve seen your favorite wellness influencer sipping bone broth on a cozy morning and raving about its benefits for gut health and inflammation, that sounds about right. After all, the beverage-slash-soup is super trendy these days and does pack a major nutritional punch. If you’re on weight loss journey, you may have also stumbled on the bone broth diet as a quick way to shed pounds. But what is bone broth, exactly, and how does the diet work?

Bone broth is a clear soup made from slow-simmered poultry or beef animal bones, says Rebecca Russell, RD, founder of The Social Nutritionist. The six- to 24-hour simmering process allows the connective tissues and marrow from inside the bone to break down and release, creating a broth that’s naturally high in collagen, minerals, and amino acids, she explains. You can drink the broth as is or add it to your favorite soup recipes, stews, sauces, and smoothies.

The bone broth diet claims to come with a slew of health benefits, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. Ahead, dietitians break down everything you need to know, including what you can eat, the potential benefits and risks, and whether it can actually help you lose weight.

Meet the experts: Dani Rancourt, RD, is a dietitian and founder of Pivot Nutrition Coaching. Rebecca Russell, RD, is the founder of The Social Nutritionist. Allison Bray, RDN, is the director of adult nutrition therapy at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

The Bone Broth Diet, Explained

There are a few variations to the bone broth diet. The arguably most popular is a 21-day, low-carb diet plan created by naturopathic doctor Kellyann Petrucci, according Dani Rancourt, RD, founder of Pivot Nutrition Coaching.

This particular version of the bone broth diet focuses on three main elements: intermittent fasting, bone broth, and anti-inflammatory foods, says Rancourt. From there, the diet is broken into two parts: fasting days and non-fasting days, she says.

On two non-consecutive days a week, followers are intended to do a modified fast, drinking five to six 8-ounce servings of bone broth throughout the day, says Rancourt. The other five days are based on an anti-inflammatory paleo diet (ideally within an 8-hour eating window), consisting of protein, non-starchy veggies, and healthy fats, she explains. It’s also recommended to stop eating by 7 p.m. daily.

So what’s the objective? Per the official website, the bone broth diet claims to enhance satiety between meals, improve gut and joint health, reduce inflammation, and rev up weight loss efforts, says Allison Bray, RDN, director of adult nutrition therapy at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare.

Foods To Eat On The Bone Broth Diet

On fasting days, you’re recommended to drink six 8-ounce servings of bone broth as well as water, herbal tea, and coffee, says Rancourt. On non-fasting days, you follow a minimally processed, anti-inflammatory diet consisting of three meals a day and one to three cups of bone broth, she explains.

More specifically, the bone broth diet encourages high-quality animal proteins (like chicken, beef, and fish), non-starchy vegetables (like broccoli, asparagus, spinach, and mushrooms), and healthy fats (like avocado, nuts, flaxseed, and olives), says Rancourt.

Smaller amounts of starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, green peas, winter squash, and carrots are also permitted, says Bray. Milk alternatives, fruit, and natural sugar substitutes such as agave, date sugar, and honey are also allowed in moderation, she adds.

When it comes to portion size, here’s your plate blueprint, according to Rancourt:

  • ½ non-starchy veggies
  • ¼ lean protein
  • ¼ healthy fat

Foods To Avoid On The Bone Broth Diet

Like any so-called diet, there are some restrictions. On non-fasting days, followers should avoid grains, bread, legumes, peanuts, dairy, refined sugars, sugary beverages, refined vegetable oils, commercial sauces and condiments, alcohol, and all processed foods, says Rancourt.

On the two fasting days, all food is off limits, and you can only consume bone broth, water, herbal tea, and coffee, adds Russell.

Does the bone broth diet work for weight loss?

Yes and no. There’s no scientific research on actual weight loss results while on the bone broth diet, but calorie restriction is a big reason why you might lose weight, says Bray. “Bone broth is low in calories ranging between 40 to 50 calories per eight ounces and provides about one serving of protein per cup (8 to 10 grams),” she explains. High protein foods and non-starchy vegetables are also known to reduce overeating and limit the desire to snack between meals which may support weight loss, she adds.

That said, any weight loss may be short-term, and rebound weight gain is likely, according to Russell. “Sure, you could see weight loss during the 21 days of dieting, but once those 21 days are over, you may feel deprived from eliminating so many foods that you result to binge eating which can then lead to weight gain,” she explains, as can be the case with any short-term diet plan. “This can then lead to a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting which is detrimental to metabolism, weight gain, and gut health, and can lead to an increased risk of chronic disease.”

Benefits Of The Bone Broth Diet

Thanks to the natural collagen, minerals, and amino acids, there are some rewards to regularly drinking bone broth, says Russell. “Bone broth can help repair the gut lining, support joint health, improve skin elasticity, and it can offer a great source of hydration,” she explains. Given the diet promotes whole, minimally processed foods, you can also expect a higher nutritional value from your meals which is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, per a recent study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

You may also notice improved sleep, reduced cravings, weight loss, increased energy levels, and less inflammation, adds Rancourt. “The validity of some of these claims can be attributed to individual components of the diet,” she says. “For example, eating foods like salmon and dark leafy greens can help reduce inflammation, consuming adequate protein throughout the day can help reduce cravings and promote fat loss, and collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin are nutrients that can be found in bone broth and may improve joint health,” she explains.

With that in mind, most benefits of the bone broth diet are anecdotal, and there is no published evidence to support these claims, says Rancourt.

Risks Of The Bone Broth Diet

The bone broth diet is restrictive, so there are inherently some risks, says Russell. “During those two days of bone broth fasts, you’re only consuming about 600 calories which is significantly below the recommendation for any living human,” she explains. (FYI: On average, a typical adult woman needs about 1,600 to 2,000 calories per day.)

The diet is also low in carbohydrates which are crucial for energy and overall health, says Russell. That also means it’s likely low in fiber which can wreak havoc on your gut causing constipation, bloating, gas, and hemorrhoids, she explains.

You may be thinking, wait, isn’t bone broth supposed to support my gut health? The answer is technically yes, but bone broth can’t do all the heavy lifting and it’s best to also incorporate grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables, explains Russell.

Not to mention, any diet that severely restricts calories or entire food groups increases the risk of nutritional deficiencies, says Rancourt. For example, completely eliminating dairy can put you at risk of a calcium deficiency, she explains. On the flip side, consuming too much of a nutrient can also pose risks, says Bray. For example, bone broth can be high in sodium and potassium which may be dangerous for those with kidney disease, liver disease, or high blood pressure, she explains.

Who should try (or avoid) the bone broth diet?

Since intermittent fasting is a factor, the diet is not recommended for anyone who is pregnant or nursing, immunocompromised, or diabetic, says Rancourt. Those with a history of disordered eating should also steer clear, she adds. “Any diet that eliminates food groups or categorizes foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’—or in this case, ‘yes’ or ‘no’—is likely to foster an unhealthy relationship with food because eating a ‘disallowed’ food can result in feelings of guilt and shame.” Such feelings can then lead to further restriction and/or binging, she adds.

Finally, Rancourt says the bone broth diet is not ideal for athletes or anyone with a moderate- to high-intensity workout schedule—even if your goal is weight loss. Why? Your body needs carbohydrates to refuel post-workout, and the low-carb nature of the diet can lead to poor performance, fatigue, and an increased risk of injury, she says.

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Andi Breitowich is a Chicago-based writer and graduate student at Northwestern Medill. She’s a mass consumer of social media and cares about women’s rights, holistic wellness, and non-stigmatizing reproductive care. As a former collegiate pole vaulter, she has a love for all things fitness and is currently obsessed with Peloton Tread workouts and hot yoga.