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Ancient Wisdom and Modern Science Confirm Health Benefits of Bone Broths

Chicken bone broth in a glass jar, with fresh vegetables in the background

Chicken bone broth in a glass jar, with fresh vegetables in the background

From Ancient Wisdom to Hot Health Trend:  Bone Broth Wins the Day for Nutrient Density

by Crystal Lauer
Health Impact News

In South America, it has been supposed that “Good broth can resurrect the dead.” In Greece, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, recommended steaming bowls of broth for his digestion-impaired patients, approximately 2,400 years ago.  Maimonides extolled the ‘Excellence’ of broth as both a food and a medicine, causing the golden broth so commonly prepared by Jewish mothers to become colloquially known as “Jewish Penicillin.”

From ancient times, when bones were simmered over fires in turtle shells, to modern, fast paced cities, where it is sold by the cup out of high-end specialized restaurants, bone broth has been touted and accepted as both a medicine and a food by layman and physician alike.

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As a staple of the popular Paleo Diet and the Keto Diet, its proponents swear by its super healing abilities. Its virtues can be seen splashed across magazines, books and trendy websites. Suddenly the world has discovered this golden elixir, that has been around for thousands of years and ironically is a real food tradition at the base of almost every culture worldwide.

The question is, does it really deserve such lofty acclaim?

Bone broth may simply be the simmering of bones in water with the possible addition of vegetables, herbs and spices, to extract their minerals and nutrients, but the results are anything but ordinary. 

Many store-bought broths and soups rely on lab-produced flavors and a particularly ugly secret in the form of Monosodium glutamate, a known neurotoxin, to enhance their taste.  Home cooked broths made from real food, are superior in both nutrients and taste and for a fraction of the cost of their store-bought cousins. This makes simmering your own broth both economical and healthy.

So, what’s the real story with bone broth?  

What makes this elixir such an important addition to your daily health regimen? 

Bone broth is packed with bio-available and easily absorbable minerals and nutrients, as well as amino acids that are used to build and repair muscle tissue and contribute to healthy bone density.

Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and others, are in plentiful supply in bone broth, as well as transformative properties such as collagen/gelatin, proline, glycine and glutamine.

As a matter of fact, bone broth contains chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, which are both proven to reduce inflammation, arthritis and joint pain. 

Chicken broth’s history of being used to support the immune system during sickness was challenged, in an attempt to separate fact from folk lore, in a Study out of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2000 [2]. 

The study sought to determine what, if any, effect chicken soup had on upper respiratory tract infections. It was determined that the chicken soup “significantly inhibited neutrophil migration.” 

In other words, it exhibited an anti-inflammatory mechanism which reduced symptoms of the illness, affirming that chicken soup is good for more than just the soul.

Another of bone broth’s super powers is its ability to restore integrity to the digestive system. Because bone broth is easily digested, it can be consumed by even those who would otherwise have difficulty with digestion of food.  

Natasha Campbell McBride uses bone broth as the foundation of her famous Gaps protocol, due to its ability to help heal the gut lining and to reduce harmful microbe overgrowth.

A permeable gut lining or ‘Leaky gut’ allows partially digested food and toxins to migrate through the lining of the gut and enter the blood stream, leading to increased allergies, chronic illness and digestive issues.

A diet rich in bone broth or a bone broth fast can go a long way to healing the gut and reversing many health issues.

Collagen is also found in abundance in bone broth

In a 24-week study, done by the Department of Nutrition and Sports Nutrition for Athletics at Penn State University [3], participants used collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement, with the results showing a vast improvement in joint discomfort and factors which would negatively impact the athlete’s performance. 

For those seeking to build or repair muscle, collagen contains all 9 essential amino acids – the ones that cannot be made by your body – as well as proline glycine, glutamine and arginine.  These amino acids reduce inflammation and promote healing.  

Collagen is also touted for its ability to strengthen hair, nails and skin and reduce the appearance of cellulite.  This occurs through its ability to form elastin and other compounds in the skin and help maintain a healthy texture and skin tone.

In a double blind, placebo-controlled study [2] which utilized specific collagen peptides, older participants of the study showed significantly higher skin elasticity, giving them a more youthful look. So, whether you are looking to improve your athletic abilities, roll back the clock on your appearance or just feel better in your body, collagen is your friend. 

Believe it or not, bone broth is a powerful detoxifier, with its plentiful potassium and glycine, both of which support cellular and liver detoxification. It also contains glutathione, a phase two detoxifying agent, which lowers oxidative stress, eliminates fat soluble compounds (such as heavy metals like mercury and lead), and allows you to absorb more nutrients with its liver cleaning capabilities.

It’s little wonder that the humble pot of bones simmering over the fire has been so revered throughout centuries and over almost every culture across the globe.

Today the ancient wisdom is finding new roots in scientific confirmation, demonstrating what our ancestors had long known, that there are few traditions more nourishing or more fondly embraced as a bowl of good soup. And it just so happens that a really good soup always begins with a rich, wholesome and delicious broth or stock.

Home-made Bone Broth

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In our home, bone broth is a staple, used in everything from soups and stews to a cooking liquid for soaked beans and grains, it’s even the base for our enchilada and pasta sauces. 

The ideal broth has an incredibly rich flavor and smooth texture that are just as inviting and warming sipped, as it is used in your culinary creations. 

Because bone broth freezes so well, we often make large quantities of broth at a time and due to the size of our family and the number of friends who end up at our table, the pot is almost constantly simmering. 

To keep up with demand, we use an on-the-counter 22-quart roaster to prepare the broth. Before I owned the roasting oven, we used two slow cookers. The important thing is not what you use, but that you use it.

The French, who have elevated cooking to an art form, suggest that “for a good soup, the pot must only simmer or ‘smile.'” Who can argue with centuries of culinary success?  Therefore, bone broth should be cooked slowly, and never at a boil, over a period of 12- 24 hours, in order to break down the collagen and extract the optimal amount of nutrients and flavor, without overcooking and developing an ‘off’ flavor. 

The bones you choose should contain joints, such as legs, wings, thighs, feet, spines and necks, as well as marrow bones. You can feel free to mix various beef, chicken and pork bones and even fish bones, if you are so inclined. It is always preferable to use the bones derived from grass-fed and pastured animals when making a broth.

When we prepare broth, we often buy whole chickens but if we buy packages of thighs or leg quarters, we prefer to cut the meat off of the bone and freeze the meat for easy meal preparation later. In the case of beef bones, it is important to always roast them first to avoid the strong sour metallic taste that comes from raw beef bones. Roasted bones will add a deep, rich umami to the final product.

I prefer the taste of a broth made from bones that have some meat still on them, as I think it makes for a fuller tasting stock. 

When you prepare your vegetables, it is not necessary to peel them, just clean them well and roughly chop them before throwing them in the pot. 

The addition of an acid is helpful for breaking down the collagen in your broth. I prefer the flavor of broths made with wine, but because I am very sensitive to wine, I use a strongly fermented kombucha. 

I cook many dishes with plain kombucha in the same way a chef would use wine, and I find that it gives a very similar flavor without the consequences that I would normal incur from a wine. Apple cider vinegar is also an acceptable and widely used alternative.

The key to getting a good gel, which denotes an excellent level of gelatin and proteins in your broth, is to use an appropriate acid, simmer but never boil, do not overcook and use the appropriate ratio of water to ingredients. 

Too much water will dilute the broth and not allow for a good gel, however the broth will still be perfectly fine for use.

I’m also a huge fan of adding nutrients that can support my family’s health, without them even knowing it’s there.  Mind you, I have told them, but not everyone cares why I think they should eat turmeric root or Cordyceps and still others’ eyes glaze over the moment I launch into an informative monologue concerning the importance of kombu, nettles or gelatin.

Needless to say, sometimes it’s just easier to quietly pack the pot with nutrients and wait till someone asks.

So, I quietly add turmeric root, black pepper, cayenne, reishi, cordyceps, kombu, etc.…treating the broth as a superfood extraction and a delicious vehicle for delivering nutrients and healing compounds that I might find difficult to convince anyone in my home to willingly eat otherwise.

In whatever way you manage it, feel free to experiment with your broth until you LOVE the results.

The most important thing is for you to enjoy the process and the result of your endeavor, and that you are encouraged to make it part of your home’s traditional menu regularly.

Super Charged Chicken and Turkey Bone Broth Recipe

Directions

  1. Prepare chicken and vegetables and place in the on-the-counter roaster or divide between two crock pots. (Of course, you can half the recipe to meet your own needs.)
  2. Add your water and set the temperature to 250-275 degrees.
  3. Cover and let cook for 12-24 hours. (I’ve cooked mine for as long as 36 hours and it has been wonderful.)
  4. The broth should reduce by half and when you taste it should be rich and delicious.
  5. Once your bone broth is finished, strain liquid and store in quart mason jars (filled to the top and before capping) or portion out into freezer bags or containers and lay flat on a cookie tray in the freezer. Once they are frozen, they will easily stand upright in a container or lay flat on a shelf. Remember to mark the quantity in each bag. For instance, for our family we measure in both 2-cup and 1-quart quantities in order to easily use them in meal preparation or just for sipping.

References

  1. Penn State University study on Collagen Hydrolysate for Athletes [3]
  1. University of Nebraska Medical Center Study on Chicken Soup Health Benefits for Upper Respiratory Illness [2]
  1. Double Blind Study on Benefit of Specific Collagen Peptides on Human skin Physiology [2]