Chances are, if you've ever heard of potassium broth, you've wondered about its health benefits. Though the detox solution on everyone’s lips in recent years has been green juice, it turns out that the megawatt stars of Old Hollywood, like Greta Garbo and Lucille Ball, got their slim-quick fix from potassium broth — and their skinny secret is making a comeback in a big way with stars like Laura Dern, Martha Stewart, and Candice Bergen reportedly spooning up the savory elixir.
What is potassium broth?
The thin earthy brew (which is sometimes called “leftover broth” or “scrap broth”) is made by slowly simmering vegetable scraps to release their essential vitamins and minerals. This infuses the liquid with a wealth of nutrients including thyroid-revving selenium, detoxifying vitamin K and hunger-dampening amino acids.
But the real slimming superstar of the broth is potassium. Concentrated mostly in the skins and other discarded portions of many vegetables, this mineral is an electrolyte and natural diuretic — properties that prompt waterlogged cells throughout the body to release trapped fluids. And science shows this effect leads to struggle-free weight loss: Harvard researchers found that sipping a daily mug of potassium-rich broth can help women shed 4 pounds in 3 weeks without diet or exercise.
Potassium Broth Benefits
Proponents of potassium broth note that it also has an alkalinizing pH that helps neutralize the acidic by-products of digestion and metabolism that can lead to muscle wasting.This alkalinizing effect is said to protect the body’s stores of calorie torching lean muscle tissue. In one Tufts University study, researchers found that adults over 55 who consumed the most potassium had 16 percent more lean muscle mass than those who got less potassium in their diet. Potassium broth fans say this boost is powerful enough to keep their metabolism humming and ward off middle-aged spread.
Sipping potassium broth is also said to help eliminate brain fog, improve memory, and ward off mood swings. That’s because potassium plays an essential role in the communication between nerve cells in the brain. Additional research published in The Journal of Pain suggests that the mineral’s electrolyte properties help dial down the activity of pain nerves throughout the body, reducing muscle and joint pain by 33 percent or more within just 4 weeks. And maintaining adequate potassium nutrition levels has also been linked to faster wound healing, diminished stress levels, lower blood pressure and a reduction in age-related bone loss.
Is potassium broth safe?
Though proponents say healthy women who regularly sip potassium broth are not at risk for any negative side effects, nutrition experts do caution against relying on the broth as a meal replacement because it lacks many of the essential nutrients that are necessary for a well-rounded diet and optimal health. Experts also advise consulting a health-care provider before making potassium broth part of a daily diet — this is especially key for anyone who is on a daily NSAID regimen (which can raise potassium levels), has had kidney concerns (because the organ filters potassium) or who is taking medications that are known to raise potassium levels (including diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers or blood-thinning agents).
How to Make Potassium Broth
To make a big batch of scrap broth: Roughly chop the peels from 2 potatoes, 2 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 whole onion and 1 bunch of parsley (with stems). Place the veggies in a large pot. Add a handful of dried mushrooms and 8 cups of water. Let simmer for at least an hour (or 6 hours in a slow cooker), stirring occasionally. Strain the liquid before serving. Store for 4 days in the refrigerator or up to a year in the freezer in an airtight container.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.