Wait. You’re telling me the “butter of the gods” can be healthy?
Well, like most things, that depends.
Bone marrow, like a lot of other offal, has gone from being widely enjoyed for thousands of years, to falling out of style in America during the late-20th century due to the middle class wanting to eat “high on the hog” and the anti-fat scare, to regaining its rightful place alongside other organ meats as an incredibly delicious dish.
And in a strange 180°, outside of the smarter cuisines that avoided all this nonsense, these days offal and bone marrow are often associated with prestige and culinary art, perhaps because mainstream America only trusts chefs to handle organs for us? Which is silly, but here we are.
But here’s what matters — organs, including the tissues in bone, are really where the taste and nutrients are at, folks. I swear to you.
And today, we’re going to briefly cover what bone marrow is before diving into all the nutritional details hidden inside those bones.
What is bone marrow?
Bone marrow is the tissue found in the center of bones. The stem cells found in bone marrow are responsible for creating both white and red cells, and it is spongy, fatty, delicious, and filling[*].
Bone marrow exists in all animals, but we mainly eat beef, lamb, and bison bone marrow since larger bones make for easier and more economical extraction.
Bone marrow is usually roasted and spread on bread or used to make rich bone broths that thicken up soups like pho, ramen, and chili. And in recent years, bone broth and collagen-based supplements have also risen in popularity due to evidence that collagen can improve skin and joint health.
What does bone marrow taste like?
Like the richest, fattiest spread you can imagine. It’s so good. If you’ve never had bone marrow spread on fresh sourdough with a little parsley and lemon juice on top, you have no idea what you’re missing.
I can tell you it’s rich. I can tell you it’s a little sweet. I can tell you it’s meaty in all the best ways, but words can’t really do it justice. So go find some for yourself at a local restaurant, or make your own. It’s surprisingly easy to make great roasted bone marrow if you get good ingredients.
Bone marrow’s nutritional breakdown
In a sentence, bone marrow is mostly fat, is high in calories, may offer some interesting skin and immunity benefits, and contains tiny amounts of proteins, vitamins, and minerals[*].
A 1 oz serving of bone marrow includes[*].
- Calories: 231
- Protein: 25g
- Carbs: 0g
- Fat: 25g
- Cholesterol: 30mg
- Potassium: 12mg
And here’s a closer look at the health benefits of bone marrow.
What is healthy about bone marrow?
While there are basic facts we understand about bone marrow, it’s worth noting that a lot of the positive effects people talk about with regard to bone broth and bone marrow are references to studies that tested impacts of concentrated compounds/collagen found in marrow.
Meaning it isn’t realistic to get that much of a particular nutrient or compound from eating bone marrow in a normal diet.
So, there is still a lot to be learned, but like most things, if you eat bone marrow in moderation and buy meat from clean sources, it can be a good addition to your diet.
And now for some specifics:
May lower risk of weight-related diseases
Bone marrow has adiponectin, which is a hormone that helps break down fats. There is some early evidence that this hormone may be linked to lower risks of diabetes and obesity-associated cancers[*].
Bone marrow, just like any other meat, has virtually no carbs — so no fibers, starches, or pesky sugars! If you’re eating a keto or carnivore diet, you’re in the clear[*].
Supports a healthy brain via vitamin B12
Bone marrow contains some amounts of B vitamins including B1, B5, B7, and more. These are important for your metabolism and assist in breaking down macronutrients and converting them into energy for your body[*].
Has lots of collagen
Collagen is a word that often comes hand-in-hand with bone marrow. Collagen is the most prominent protein in your body, and it is a main ingredient of the connective tissues that build our tendons and ligaments[*].
We get collagen from eating gelatin, which is what collagen breaks down into when we cook it[*]. When we eat gelatin and/or take collagen supplements, it may be good for skin health, prevent bone loss, and boost muscle mass[*].
A 24-week study also showed that athletes given a collagen supplement experienced less joint pain[*], and a separate study demonstrated that collagen peptides are potentially useful supplements for the management of osteoarthritis and maintenance of joint health[*].
But again, a lot of these studies are done with concentrations instead of simply adding in bone marrow or broth to a diet.
There are also a lot of anecdotal stories around collagen, but they haven’t been properly studied yet. These stories talk about how good collagen is for hair nails, gut health (particularly with leaky gut syndrome), help anxiety, and promote faster metabolism[*].
And when the science isn’t around, the best thing to do is keep track of what you eat and record how you feel when introducing changes to your diets, or better yet, do that with the help of a nutritional professional.
The nutritional downsides of bone marrow
Beef marrow can be healthy in moderation and has some interesting potential benefits, but there are some disadvantages, like many foods.
High fat content
Fat isn’t bad, but you should know that you will get a significant amount of your daily fat from a small portion of bone marrow since it is mostly fat. Just keep this in mind if you’re considering eating it on a consistent basis, and try to balance it with healthy greens and fruits.
Very little protein
Because bone marrow is mostly fat, you won’t be hitting your protein macros munching on bone marrow as you would from other meat sources. A one-ounce serving of protein only has 1g of protein, for context. Compare that to 38g of protein in a single cup of chicken.
Generally low amounts of vitamins and minerals
While there is Vitamin B and other minerals in scarce amounts, it’s not what we’d call a nutritional powerhouse like the liver. Then again, can anything compete with the nutritional awesomeness of liver?
In short, while it can be a useful and unbelievably delicious addition to your diet, don’t look to bone marrow as your main source of nutrition.
How to add bone marrow to your diet
Now that you know a bit more about bone marrow and its nutritional properties, what’s the best way to eat it?
The main ways are by roasting bone marrow, which is really simple, or making soups that use bone broth. Bones are generally cheap, and taking the time to coax out the marrow is a delicious and rewarding process.
Bone marrow is a lot easier to find at restaurants these days, too. So next time you see it on the menu, go for it!
The bottom line on bone marrow nutrition
Bone marrow, like a lot of other offal, is high in calories and dense with fats. It isn’t as much of a knockout as liver or kidneys, but there is some early evidence that the collagen and some compounds found within bone marrow are good for you.
But more importantly (at least to me), bone marrow is so dang tasty. You just have to try it! It’s so easy to roast up. Trust me.
And like all meat, you should order grass-fed and grass-finished to avoid the antibiotics and toxins packed into industrial meat and eat it alongside fresh vegetables / within a balanced diet.
The most nutritious beef bone marrow comes from grass-fed cows
The healthiest and tastiest beef bone marrow can only come from 100% grass-fed, grass-finished cattle. That means no antibiotics, no-GMOs, no dark warehouses — it’s just beef, raised the way it should be raised.
And that starts from the moment the cow is born until the moment it dies. There are no grains or industrialized additives added at any point. Because we know that if you’re doing the right things, you don’t need to pump your cows full of medicine.
And those decisions make a huge impact on both taste and nutrition. So if you want to give beef bone marrow a shot, don’t settle for something that’s bad for your body and taste buds, get the real thing instead.
See what 100% grass-fed and grass-finished bone marrow tastes like.
Nathan Phelps is a writer, ethical foodie, and outdoors-aficionado hailing from Nashville, TN. He splits his time between helping sustainable businesses find new customers and managing his ever-increasing list of hobbies, which include playing guitar, baking bread, and creating board games.