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Bone Broth - Traditional and Trendy

Bone broth is hot! It's the new comfort food "to go" - the hot cuppa replacing expresso and chai in coffee houses, or on tap while you wait at butcher shops to get bones, knuckles, necks, chicken feet, and other cartilaginous parts to make your own home brew.

A healthy trend, but nothing really new. Bone broths have been staples in virtually every corner of the culinary world since prehistoric times when food was scarce and the credo was waste not/use all. In other words, throw everything you've got in the pot! It wasn't long before our ancestors realized these concoctions had strong medicinal benefits. In traditional Chinese medicine, broths were used to support the digestive system, build blood, strengthen kidneys and nourish "jing" or life force. In the 12th the century, Egyptian physician Moses Maimonides prescribed chicken soup, later known as "Jewish penicillin," to ease symptoms of colds, asthma. In the Caribbean cow foot soup, rich in collagen, was taken for breakfast to strengthen the whole body and heal all sorts of ailments. And the list goes on and on.

The best broth is made from bones of pastured chickens and turkey, grass-fed cows, lamb, bison, venison, wild caught fish - all rich in electrolyte minerals, amino acids, bone marrow, gelatin and collagen. Components of bone broth play vital roles in gut health, immune system support, blood-sugar balance, muscle building, healthy bones and joints, smooth skin and overall healing. It's also been found to enhance mental health. And, by the way, the stuff tastes really good!

What's wrong with store bought broths?

The processed and canned broths you'll find in the supermarket typically contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), beef or chicken flavoring, yeast extracts and other additives. They are typicallly made from factory farmed animals fed an unnatural diet which produces weak, nutrient deficient bones. Even if labeled "organic," they are generally produced by flash-heat, not the slow cooking that brings out gelatin and other nutrients. These are a poor substitute for bone broths from sustainably-raised, grass-fed animals.

Health benefits of homemade bone broth

Helps heal and seal your gut and promotes healthy digestion.
The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid which attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices and, thus, supports proper digestion.

Reduces joint pain and inflammation. This is because bone broth contains chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine and other compounds extracted from the slow cooking of cartilage in bone broth.

Promotes strong, healthy bones. Bone broths contain minerals in highly absorbable  form, including substantial amounts of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, trace minerals and other nutrients that play an important role in healthy bone formation. Collagen and gelatin extracted from slow-cooked bones build bone structure and are, in effect, the glue that keeps our bones together.

Fights inflammation. Broths are rich in amino acids such as glycine, proline, arginine, all of which have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine has been found to be especially helpful for treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation). Glycine has calming effects, which can help promote quality sleep.

Inhibits infection. Studies show that chicken soup has medicinal properties, particularly effective in reducing inflammation and, thus, mitigating symptoms of cold or flu.  Also, the steam from the soup may open up congested noses and throats. Soup also provides fluid, which is important for fighting infection.

Promotes healthy hair and nail growth. This is due to the gelatin in the broth which heals hair follicles and improves shine.

Promotes liver health. The availability of the amino acid glycine in bone broth helps detoxify and tone the liver.

Improves sense of well being. This is probably attributed to the rich supply of minerals and micronutrients in a form the body can easily absorb. The overall experience of bone broth is invigorating, balancing, restorative, soothing.

What's the difference in stock vs. broth?

These two words are often used interchangeably, but for healing purposes, there is a distinction. Technically speaking, stock contains pieces of meat with a joint, such as turkey legs or thighs, whole chicken cut up, beef or lamb shank, fish, cooked for a relatively short time: 1 1/2-3 hours for poultry, no more than 6 hours for beef, bison, lamb, for fish 1 1/2 hours. Proponents of the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) Diet suggest that meat stock is a good way to begin a healing program because it is milder than bone broth, rich in gelatin and free amino acids which are very healing and strengthening to the gut.

Bone broth contains bones with less meat than stock and requires longer cooking: up to 24 - 72 hours. This produces a higher concentration of collagen, amino acids, minerals which are rich in health benefits. The long cooking also draws out more glumaic acid.  Those with gut issues may be more sensitive to these free glutamates. This would apply in particular to children who are autistic or suffering from seizures or tics which is why stock is recommended to start with.

Tips for making your own bone broth

There is no absolutely "right" way to make bone broths - so many varieties of animal bones and cartilaginous parts, flavors (vegetables, herbs), cooking methods, etc. Every culture and every cook has there own tried and true method, so don't be afraid to experiment. Here are some general concepts to get you started:

  • Buy bones that come from grass-fed, pastured animals or wild caught fish. Knuckle or marrow bones are good.
  • Put bones in a large stockpot (or crockpot) with pure water (preferably distilled) - about 1:4 ratio bones:water. Add a few tablespoons raw organic apple cider vinegar.
  • Let soak in water and vinegar for about an hour or just bring to a boil. You can remove any scum that rises to the top if you want a clear broth, but it's not necessary. Opt.: add vegetables like chopped onion, carrot, garlic, tomato paste, etc.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Cooking time varies, as mentioned: for a meatier stock usually no more than 4-6 hours. For bone broth, simmer 24-72 hours.
  • A nice touch: about 10 minutes before finishing, add a bunch of fresh parsley for extra minerals and taste.
  • Let cool. Remove bones and strain the rest to make sure all bone fragments are out. You can keep broth in glass jars in refrig or freezer. A thin layer of fat or "skin" will rise to the top. This contains valuable nutrients like sulfur and healthful fats, so just stir it into the broth or use for cooking as you would butter or coconut oil.

Soul food

Drink the broth as you would a comforting hot cup of tea or warm milk at any time of day. Try adding grated ginger or other herbs. Or, use the broth as a base for soups or stews. Either way, you'll be treating yourself to one of the most nutritious, healing foods on the planet!

Resources:
Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel
The Heal Your Gut Cookbook - Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet by Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett
"Bone Broth Benefits for Health" - Wellness Mama
"Stock or Broth: Are You Confused?" - The Healthy Home Economist
"Bone Broth - One of Your Most Healing Diet Staples" - Dr. Mercola

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