You’ve probably heard a lot about the benefits of consuming bone broth lately. It’s one of the hottest “superfoods” du jour! While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the whole “superfood” craze (just because a food is rich in a certain nutrient, that doesn’t make it a magical cure-all), I can’t deny that bone broth does offer some great health perks!
What is bone broth?
Most of you have probably made soup or cooked some other type of food with chicken, beef or vegetable broth. Bone broth is the same concept as the canned/boxed broths or stocks, except what we’re talking about here is homemade from the bones of animals or seafood - unprocessed and without any additives you’d find in the canned or boxed varieties. While there’s nothing wrong with buying the prepared broths in stores, when you make this at home you’ll get more of the nutrients that get processed out and less of the unnecessary additives included to sell these products on store shelves. (Side note: I could repeat that last sentence for just about any food you choose to make at home instead of buying in the store).
What are the health benefits of bone broth?
I’m sure you remember being offered chicken soup or other broth based soups when you have been sick. Granny/Mom knows best, right?! The healing properties of bone broth have been touted for many, many years. However, there is not enough reliable research showing clear evidence that bone broth offers any special healing properties. Instead, personal anecdotes attribute improvement or renewal of health to bone broth and it’s somewhat unique nutrients, which include:
Collagen - when collagen is heated, it is broken down into amino acids and used as building blocks in the body the same way other amino acids are. However, unheated collagen retains it’s structure and has been shown to improve skin health, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, and inflammation in the body. Note: the collagen in bone broth is heated, so this essential means you’re just getting amino acids - the same amino acids you would get from eating animal protein.
Gelatin - provides the building blocks of collagen, which helps maintain and repair your connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, etc.). In research, gelatin has been credited for improving digestion and overall gut health, skin, hair and nails.
Other Nutrients - at the risk of getting too sciencey, bone broth also contains glutamine, which helps keep your intestinal lining functional and healthy and glucosamine, which may help reduce joint pain. Thanks to all these wonderful amino acids, bone broth also provides a healthy dose of protein - great for lean muscle maintenance, recovery and a plethora of other processes in your body.
When and why should I eat/drink bone broth?
Again, while there is no hard & fast evidence that bone broth is responsible for the improvement of these conditions, many people have reported positive outcomes as a result of consuming bone broth in the following scenarios:
Several studies that show chicken bone broth can reduce inflammation and the length of a cold. Give it a try when you start to feel sick - let us know if you find it shortens your cold!
Elite athletes are using bone broth as a sports recovery drink - the liquid helps replace lost fluids, the amino acids help repair muscles, and the salt in the broth replaces electrolytes lost with sweating.
Individuals that suffer from gastrointestinal distress such as irritable bowel syndrome/disease, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, SIBO, etc. have seen symptom relief with bone broth as a result of decreased inflammation and the soothing and healing properties of gelatin.
It’s a flavorful, nutritious addition to many homemade dishes. Use it to cook grains instead of water, as the base of soups, sip on a warm cup with herbs like rosemary or thyme, or use it to braise any meats or vegetables.
How do I make bone broth?
It’s pretty simple! Here’s the recipe I use:
Bones - in this recipe I used 3 chicken carcasses from whole roasted chickens that I froze and saved for the sole purpose of making broth. You can also get bones (sometimes for free!) from your local butcher or fishmonger. Be sure to ask for bones from pastured animals or wild fish if possible.
Approximately 2 Tablespoons Apple cider vinegar
Place as many bones as you have available (and will fit) in a large crockpot. The more bones you have, the more concentrated nutrients you’ll get in your broth.
Fill crockpot to the top with water until all or most of the bones are submerged.
Add about 2 Tablespoons vinegar - apple cider or plain white vinegar work fine. The acid in the vinegar helps extract more of the nutrients, especially minerals, from the bones.
Cook on low for a minimum of 8 hours. The longer you can leave the broth cooking, the better. (I let this chicken broth cook for 24 hours.)
About 30 minutes to 1 hour before the end of your cooking time, season broth with salt, pepper and any onion, garlic or herbs you might like to add (rosemary, thyme and sage work really well). Careful not to over salt. For a large crock pot, I added about 1 Tablespoon of kosher salt. You can always add more to taste later if desired.
When the cooking time is up, remove the larger bones with tongs and dispose. Pour the broth through a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, or sieve into large mason jars or other glass storage containers. This will remove any larger pieces of meat or bone that are left.
Refrigerate broth. Once it is cool, you’ll probably see a thick layer of fat form on the top of the broth. Scoop this off with a spoon and save for cooking or dispose.
Use or freeze broth within 7 days.
If you don’t have a large crock pot, a big stock pot on the stove works just fine. For safety reasons, I just can’t endorse leaving the burner on for 24 hours if you’re not going to be home. :)
If you have any questions about bone broth and whether or not it’s right for you, don’t hesitate to reach out any time with questions or comments!