Is Bone Broth All It's Boiled Up to Be?

Bone broth seems to have taken last year's health food conversation by storm with bone broth take-out windows popping up to bone broth diets and celebrities marveling about its benefits. Hey, we all adore Salma Hayek but should we all be drinking bone broth to age and curve as gracefully as she does?

The big joke is that, people... it's your grandmother's soup stock! Ask any woman of a "certain age" and she will tell you that um, that is just soup how it used to be made. No, it doesn't come from a can or a cube, it comes from hours of boiling the bones and maybe other "bits" like the liver, heart and neck in pure, filtered water to make a super tasty, super nourishing beverage or soup base. To be sure, bone broth is usually boiled for much longer than a stock or regular broth (about 24 hours) to ensure all the collagen in the bones mineralizes into the broth. And I always make mine with non-sulfurous veggies, fresh herbs and a slice of kombu for added nutrients and taste. 

Indeed in our fast-food nation, we have lost touch with a lot of the slow-cooked foods that were so nourishing to our grandparents and ancestors and bone broth is one of those ways we can bring back an ancestral food that is tasty, nutrient-dense, and economical. And the the truth is that since we are no longer a "whole animal" society - meaning we like our chicken breasts boneless, thank you, and turn our noses at liver and blood puddings and such - we are missing out on essential vitamins and minerals on which our ancestors used to thrive. Bone broth is just one appetizing way to access at least some of those nutrients. 

How does it work? By slowly boiling the bones, tendons and cartilage (and enhancing it with a small amount of an acid like apple cider vinegar), they leach out very bio-available forms of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and other trace minerals. These minerals are complemented by the production of gelatin, the stuff that makes the broth jiggly when cold. Gelatin is an excellent source of protein which helps to fortify skin, hair and nails and reduce joint pain and stiffness. Bone broth also extracts the amino acids, proline and glycine, which have often been associated with healing illness and wounds.

Bone broth can offer our families numerous benefits - there are so many but these are just a few reasons my family has made bone broth a regular part of our diets:

1. Bone broth can boost immunity

Bone broth contains anti-inflammatory properties which give a jolt to the immune system and help accelerate healing. A 2000 study published in CHEST Journal has shown that chicken soup (cooked for only 45 minutes) reduces the upper respiratory inflammation associated with cold symptoms. It is also believed the amino acid cysteine in broth can thin the mucus caused by a cold which helps the body expel it more quickly. 

2. Bone broth can help heal digestive distress

The glutamine in bone broth can help the digestive lining which can not only relieve digestive issues but also reduce allergies and food sensitivities. Gelatin attracts digestive juices which can support better digestion.

3. Bone broth can reduce joint pain

Chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage are believed to relieve stiffness and pain caused by arthritis. In addition, connective tissue and cartilage disorders might benefit from the additional proline, glycine and other nutrients available in broth.

4. Bone broth can make you beautiful from the inside out

The collagen and gelatin in bone broth can strengthen your nails, add shininess and fullness to hair and brightness to skin. Creams and lotions can only add these elements from the outside where drinking them in can send these beautifying minerals directly to your cells.

5. Bone broth is full of missing nutrients

Since bone contains calcium and phosphorus, and to a lesser degree, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfate and fluoride which are all essential for proper nutrition, just adding this nutrient-dense food to your regular diet can help boost intake of important nutrients so essential for numerous body functions. 

And not for nothing... making bone broth out of a leftover chicken carcass or roast is economical and when stored in the freezer makes it darn convenient to make a quick soup on a rushed weeknight. Any time you are making something warm and satisfying in your own kitchen, you are more mindfully feeding yourself and your family.

Here are some of my favorite recipes for Chicken Bone Broth:

*For my vegetarian friends, I love you but there is no such thing as a vegetarian bone broth - you can check out Rebecca Katz' incredible Magic Mineral Broth which is rich and flavorful and chock full of magnesium, potassium and sodium.


References:

  • Barbara O. Rennard, BA; Ronald F. Ertl, BS; Gail L. Gossman, BS; Richard A. Robbins, MD, FCCP; Stephen I. Rennard, MD, FCCP, "Chicken Soup Inhibits Neutrophil Chemotaxis In Vitro," CHEST Journal, 118 (October 2000)
  • Dr. Mercola, "Bone Broth—One of Your Most Healing Diet Staples," accessed at http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/16/bone-broth-benefits.aspx
  • Psychology Today, "Taking Stock: Soup for Healing Body, Mind, Mood, and Soul", accessed at https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/naughty-nutrition/201202/taking-stock-soup-healing-body-mind-mood-and-soul
  • Siebecker, Allison, author of Traditional Bone Broth in Modern Health and Disease, as cited in http://www.townsendletter.com/FebMarch2005/broth0205.htm
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Amy Jackson Rind

Amy Rind works with busy women to reclaim their lives from the health burdens of stress, aging and fatigue. With practical, real food changes to your diet and lifestyle, you can truly begin to nourish your mind, body and spirit. Journey into healing by identifying your unique nutrition needs that will help you and your family feel better, think better and create the life you were meant to live.

Amy earned her 700-hour nutrition consultant certification with honors from Bauman College. She also holds a B.A. in Psychology from the College of the Holy Cross.