Healthy Eating Tips

Why We Should Be Sipping Dashi Broth for Bone Health and Hydration

Photo: Stocksy/ Martí Sans
Few things are more satisfying than gobbling up the noodles in a big bowl of ramen. Slurping is, after all, a sign of praise in Japanese culture—and there’s something so special about the dashi-rich warm broth that serves as the foundation for a bowl of ramen. (It soothes your soul like a big ol’ bear hug, no?)

So, what is dashi exactly? Dashi is an umami-rich, flavor-enhancing broth that acts as the base of so many delicious dishes, like miso soup, soba noodle soup, and of course, ramen. Similar to bone broth, however, dashi broth also has a number of unique health-promoting properties that make it a nutrient-rich and bone-healthy ingredient we may as well refer to as liquid gold. To understand why dashi broth is so good—and good for you—we spoke with a registered dietitian to learn more.

What is dashi, and how does it boost bone health (and health overall)?

Dashi is a Japanese stock made from a few simple ingredients that are steeped in liquid to infuse their flavor (and nutrients) into a broth. Unlike a traditional chicken or beef broth that’s usually made with things like beef, bay leaves, onions, and carrots and can take several hours to make, dashi recipes typically call for only one or two ingredients and a quick 20 minutes or so to simmer. Most commonly, you’ll find dashi is made with a mixture of kombu (seaweed) and katsuobushi (dried bonito fish flakes). And depending on the ingredients you use to make the broth (like seaweed, soybeans, mushrooms, and dried fish), the nutritional content will vary.

According to Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a Miami-based registered dietitian nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, dashi is filled with tons of health benefits and is a great source of hydration. “[Dashi] provides a source of hydration for those who struggle to meet their water needs per day," Ehsani says. "It can also serve as a source of electrolytes from the sodium and potassium and other trace minerals it contains as well.”

Although you can switch up the ingredients to make dashi, most variations of the stock will typically include kombu, which Ehsani says is packed with nutrients. “Like other forms of seaweed, kombu is super nutrient-dense. It's an excellent source of iodine, which is important for thyroid health and bone development. Kombu also contains folate, vitamin K—which is also great for boosting bone health—plus zinc, copper, manganese, magnesium, iron, and calcium, and small amounts of vitamin C," she says. Plus, Ehsani explains that kombu is a carotenoid, aka a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce disease and inflammation in the body.

Know that if you’re looking for a milder-flavored and vegan alternative to dashi, you can make it using a combination of kombu and mushrooms like shiitake to add plant-based umami flavor—or, better yet, double up and use both mushrooms and dried bonito flakes in your dashi recipe. Ehsani says that shiitake mushrooms are an excellent source of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, selenium, thiamin, potassium, folate, B6, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. "Plus, shiitake mushrooms pack 70 percent of your daily recommended amount of copper, which is also very important for bone health. Low serum copper levels are associated with decreased bone mineral density, and too high levels can cause a bone fracture,” Ehsani says. And aside from copper, she explains that shiitake mushrooms contain vitamin D, another key bone-boosting vitamin needed to absorb calcium that many are deficient in. All in all, dashi is RD-approved and deserves two thumbs up and a slow clap for its bone-benefiting and majorly delicious (and don't forget comforting) capabilities.

Since hydration is the name of the game, check out this herbalist's immunity broth recipe:

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