Not Much Nourishment in Broths

glass of meat broth

Did you ever wonder whether broths are nourishing? Well, I found the answer in a hundred-year-old magazine. Here’s the question posed by a reader and the response:

Q: I should like to ask you about the advisability of giving canned broths to invalids and children. I am speaking particularly of a child fourteen months old that is taking broths every day. Are such broths as nutritious as if freshly made? Is there any nutritive value left in the used meat?

Mrs. A.K.H., Mass.

A: Broths are usually made from meats, sometimes with the addition of vegetables, and contain only those food materials which are soluble in hot water, or, like starch, diffusible in water. Sugars and meat bases, such as creatin, are soluble in water. A part of the mineral substances in the foods is also soluble. The nutritive value of broths is necessarily limited. It is the opinion of many physicians and physiologists that the food stuffs in broths, especially the nitrogenous bases, are not equal in value to the ordinary proteins which are not soluble in water. It is a common opinion that the food materials in broths are more easily assimilated and therefore are preferable in many diseased conditions to more nutritious foods, which the impaired digestive apparatus is unable to utilize. I should regard broths of any kind as a poor substitute for milk for a child of fourteen months. Canned broths, when they are first made, are perhaps as desirable as home-made broths. They are likely to dissolve some of the tin from the container, and soluble tin salts are not particularly useful in the stomach of a child. It is not possible, in my opinion, to nourish a child on broths of kinds. It should be milk.

Good Housekeeping ( June, 1919)

13 thoughts on “Not Much Nourishment in Broths

  1. This sentence intrigues me: “It is not possible, in my opinion, to nourish a child on broths of kinds.” One way to read that is to assume it refers to different kinds of broth: chicken, beef, and so on. But I seem to remember that “kinds” is a now-obsolete word for cattle. I couldn’t find any easy answer, but I’m going to keep looking. It would be interesting if the word did once have that meaning, and still was surviving a hundred years ago.

  2. You do find the most interesting things from 100 years ago. Seems like the trend now for great health is bone broth. I keep getting ads and testimonials. My Dad used to always add bones to soups and stews and as kids a favorite treat was “marrow bread.” We were a healthy lot too.

  3. I’ve always hated broths, but then I really dislike soup as well. Now I can justify my dislike of them on the basis that it’s long been known they have no nutritional value, as opposed to my prior justification that I just don’t like them.

  4. It should be milk! A very definitive answer. I didn’t know that canned broth has been available for as long as it has. The things I learn here.

  5. Not sure why they would of have a 14 month old baby on a broth diet, unless it was a special needs case as a normal toddler at that age can eat food that is easy to chew and swallow, I agree children need milk products.Never used canned broth, so never questioned its nutritional value, hot homemade chicken broth sure tastes good when one has a bad cold!😀

  6. I do have to wonder if the child was lactose intolerant or if being given the broths as a vitamin type tonic. Anyway I think it is interesting that Good Housekeeping was so forthright in their opinion. Today they would have carefully worded their response so as not to offend anyone!

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