Most people are only familiar with bone marrow because they hear about transplants or bone marrow disease in the news. But if you know someone with a life-threatening disease, then you know how important bone marrow is to your health.
Like bone broth, bone marrow (the edible type from animal bones) contains a wide variety of nutrients that help heal the body.
In addition to being a good source of healthy fat, bone marrow contains amino acids, vitamin B 12, and collagen to reduce inflammation, improve skin health, and improve immunity. It is also needed to make 200 billion new red blood cells daily!
When it comes to ingesting bone marrow, you might think that giving it to your dog as a treat is your only option. But did you know that eating bone marrow has lots of benefits for humans, too?
In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about bone marrow and how to incorporate it into your diet.
First of all, when talking about the topic of bone marrow, it’s important to note that there is a difference between human bone marrow and edible bone marrow from animals that we eat.
What is Human Bone Marrow?
By definition, human bone marrow is a soft, sponge-like tissue located in the middle of your bones. It’s responsible for making red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets (blood cells that clot to stop bleeding). These are also known as stem cells (1).
Red blood cells are important because they are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. White blood cells are needed to fight infections and boost your immunity.
There are three different types of white blood cells found in the body. Neutrophils and macrophages are white blood cells that fight fungal infections and bacterial infections by “ingesting” pathogens. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that fight fungal, bacterial and viral infections by attacking them.
Types of Human Bone Marrow
Research shows that there are two different types of human bone marrow. Red bone marrow is the part that contains blood stem cells. These cells eventually turn into red or white blood cells or platelets. Yellow marrow is the second type of bone marrow. It contains mostly fat (2).
Sometimes a bone marrow transplant is necessary to save a person’s life. Bone marrow that becomes non-functioning due to certain health conditions may need to be replaced.
Certain genetic diseases, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy are responsible for damaging bone marrow. A bone marrow transplant may also be necessary to fight cancer, such as leukemia. It can also be used to help boost immunity.
Here are some quick facts about human bone marrow:
- Bone marrow is the place in your body where new blood cells are made
- It has a song, sponge-like consistency and is located in the middle of large bones
- Bone marrow makes two different types of stem cells: hemopoietic (the kind that produces blood cells) and hemopoietic (the kind that produces fat, bone, and cartilage)
- The two different types of bone marrow are red marrow and yellow marrow
- Red marrow is responsible for producing most new blood cells, however; yellow marrow can produce some white blood cells
- The color of the marrow depends on how many fat cells it has (yellow marrow tends to have more)
- Both red marrow and yellow marrow contains several blood vessels
- At the time of birth, a newborn’s bone marrow is red and he or she develops yellow marrow with age
- The average adult has about 5.7 pounds of bone marrow and about half of this is red marrow
- Red bone marrow is primarily found in flat bones, including the breast bone, hip bone, ribs, shoulder blades, vertebrae, and skull. It can also be found in proximal ends of the humerus and femur bones.
- There are many diseases that involve bone marrow such as leukemia and infections that include tuberculosis, which leads to a decrease in the number of blood cells
- When the body loses a lot of blood, it can convert yellow marrow into red marrow to increase blood cell production
Research shows that bone marrow fat releases a hormone called adiponectin, which has been shown to maintain insulin sensitivity and break down fat.
According to one study, adiponectin also decreases the risk of obesity-related cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease (3).
What is Edible Bone Marrow?
Edible bone marrow (food) is the kind that comes from animals and can be cooked and eaten.
Bone marrow might not be something you grew up eating, but it is a great addition to the keto diet because it’s low in carbs and contains lots of healthy fats.
Edible bone marrow can come from several different animal sources. You can buy bone marrow that comes from cows, lambs, and moose.
The best place to buy edible bone marrow is from your local butcher. He or she will usually have the freshest bone marrow sourced from the cleanest animals.
Nutrition of Edible Bone Marrow
The source of your edible bone marrow may affect its nutritional value. Here is the nutritional information of a 100 gram serving of caribou (reindeer) bone marrow (4):
- 786 calories
- 84.40 grams of fat
- 0 grams of carbs
- 6.70 grams of protein
As you can see, bone marrow is a good source of fat. It is also low in carbohydrates, which makes it an ideal food for any low-carb or ketogenic dieter.
In addition to being low in carbs and high in fat, bone marrow also contains conjugated linoleic acid, collagen, B vitamins, and amino acids.
Health Benefits of Edible Bone Marrow
If you’ve never tried bone marrow before, then the thought of eating it might seem a little unusual.
Remember that the idea of eating bone broth seemed a little strange at first but many people love the digestive-promoting health benefits it offers!
Research shows that bone marrow has several health benefits. For example, it has been shown to keep us healthy and help fight disease.
However, more studies need to be done on the health benefits of ingesting bone marrow, so keep that in mind when reading some of these studies.
#1. It’s a great keto-friendly food.
Because it’s virtually free of carbs and high in good fats, bone marrow makes a great food to add to your keto diet.
Check out the end of this article for tips on how to prepare bone marrow and enjoy it on a keto diet.
#2. It’s very nutritious.
Many people on a low-carb or ketogenic diet eat meat because it’s high in fat and low in carbs. According to one study, edible reindeer bone marrow had higher nutritional values than its meat. This included higher levels of vitamins, including vitamin E and several B vitamins.
In fact, reindeer bone marrow had four times the amount of vitamin E as its meat. Reindeer bone marrow is also higher in several key minerals, such as selenium and calcium (5).
Although reindeer meat is not a popular type of meat to cook up on a weeknight, it’s interesting to know that bone marrow is a good source of key nutrients that traditional meat is lacking in.
More research needs to be done on the comparison of bone marrow to common types of meat that people eat regularly, such as chicken or beef.
#3. It may boost immunity and decrease inflammation.
One of the primary responsibilities of bone marrow is to produce immune-boosting blood cells to keep your body healthy.
Bone marrow that comes from goats, sheep, cows, and moose contains a type of fat that has been linked to enhanced immune function and decreased information known as conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) (6, 7).
According to one study, men who took 5.6 grams of CLA each day decreased several proteins that are involved in inflammation (8).
Again, remember that eating edible bone marrow may not give you these results. The best way to boost immunity and decrease inflammation is to eat an anti-inflammatory diet low in sugar.
As the study suggests, you may be able to take CLA to further increase your anti-inflammatory effects. Fresh bone marrow may contain traces of nutrients that can help you achieve these benefits.
You can read more about the health benefits of CLA and other healthy fats here.
#4. It may contain collagen and amino acids.
Some information claims that bone marrow is a good source of collagen and amino acids. One study found that one-third of the protein in animals comes from collagen, which is made up of 57% of the following amino acids: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline (Hyp) (9).
Collagen amino acids can be used for a number of different health benefits, including skin health and the maintenance of lean muscle mass. You can read more about the benefits of collagen here.
Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that the collagen and amino acids found in animals is present in bone marrow. A 2018 study found that bone broth, which is made from animal bones similar to bone marrow, is not a good source of collagen (10).
However, bone requires protein and other nutrients to help sustain its structure. According to the nutritional information provided above, a 100-gram serving of bone marrow provides 7 grams of protein. For this reason, you can add bone marrow to your diet to help enhance your overall protein intake.
How to Find and Cook Bone Marrow
Bone marrow is not something you’ll find on the menu of most restaurants. However, it’s often eaten as a delicacy in some countries. It’s also gaining in popularity in Westernized societies among the fitness-minded or low-carb community.
If you want to try bone marrow, then you’ll want to visit your local butcher. You might not be able to find bone marrow at your nearby grocery store.
However, bone marrow seems to be gaining in popularity so some stores might carry it! We recommend trying your local health store, but call ahead to be sure.
Keep in mind that no matter where you get your bone marrow from, it needs to come from a good, clean source. Many toxins are stored in animal fatty tissues.
This means that if you buy bone marrow from an animal treated with antibiotics, growth hormones and other chemicals, you’ll be ingesting a large portion of these hazardous chemicals, too. Look for bone marrow that comes from organic or grass-fed animals.
Learn the differences between organic and grass-fed here.
Your butcher should be able to tell you how the animal you are purchasing the bone marrow from was raised. If you can’t find any bone marrow nearby, then try shopping online and having some sent to you.
People who have tried bone marrow claim that it has a rich and creamy flavor similar to meat that has been cooked in butter. You can roast the bone marrow and use it like you would use regular butter, or you can turn your marrow into bone broth.
Cooking bone broth is simple. Follow these directions:
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with foil.
- Place the bone marrow on the baking sheet, season with salt and pepper then bake for about 15 minutes
- Once the marrow is cooked, use a spoon to scoop the marrow out of the bone. From here, you can use your cooked bone marrow on meat, egg and vegetable dishes. Many people also eat it by spreading it on toast, but toast is off-limits on a low-carb diet unless you use a low-carb bread!
You can also use your bone marrow to make bone broth. To make bone broth, you’ll need to simmer your bone marrow in water for 24 to 48 hours. Once it’s cooked, you can add other ingredients to enhance the flavor, such as herbs, spices, onions, garlic and apple cider vinegar.
Is Bone Marrow Keto-Friendly?
Yes! Bone marrow is very keto-friendly! It contains a good source of fat and is very low in carbs which is great for anyone who follows the ketogenic way of eating.
We recommend using bone marrow to make your own bone broth. As we mentioned above, you can also roast it and use it in place of butter.
Animal bone marrow isn’t something that most Americans eat, but it’s growing in popularity due to its amazing health benefits. Remember that eating bone marrow may not provide these exact results, but fresh bone marrow may contain nutrients that help boost your health.
Edible bone marrow from animals happens to be the perfect ketogenic food because it’s high in fat and low in carbs.
Bone marrow is also a good source of protein, collagen and amino acids to improve skin health and help build lean muscle mass.
Bone marrow can be hard to find, but we recommend checking your butcher for grass-fed marrow. You can roast it and use it as butter or turn it into bone broth for the perfect low-carb, high fat food.
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