The Benefits of Bone Broth: it's more than a fad
Today I’m sharing my 5th and last post in my food for the gut series. Today’s post is about bone broth.
It’s a bit of an old fashioned food but is making a come-back - and for good reason. Bone broth is a beautifully nourishing food, easy to digest, simple & inexpensive to make. It has been used by many traditional cultures for its nourishing and healing properties, but modern studies have also confirmed many of these properties.
While the focus of this post series is the gut, I’ll be highlighting a number of other health benefits of bone broth.
So first of all, let me clarify the differences between stock, broth and bone broth. The terms are often used interchangeably but there are subtle differences between them. Broth is typically made by simmering meat (and may contain a small amount of bone) for up to 2 hours. Stock is made with bones (and may contain some meat attached to the bones) and is typically simmered for 3-4 hours. Bone broth – like stock – uses bones (which may contain a little meat), but is simmered for a much longer period of time (often more than 24 hours). This extra cooking time extracts the maximum nutrients from the bones and is considered a very health promoting food.
Although bones contain an abundance of minerals and amino acids, the nutrient profile of bone broth varies depending on the bones used (using a variety of different bones is beneficial) and cooking time. That being said, there are a number of nutrients that can be consistently found in most bone broths. These include collagen, gelatin, glycine, glutamine, proline, arginine, glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), bone marrow and trace amounts of minerals (calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc). And when vegetables are also used, other vitamins and minerals from the vegetables may also add nutrients to the broth.
Not only does bone broth have a beautiful nutrient profile, but these nutrients are in a form that is easy to digest.
So as this series is on the gut let me start by writing about the healing benefits of bone broth for the gut. The lining of our intestine is composed of a single layer of tightly linked cells and a thick protective mucous layer. There are many factors which can compromise the integrity of our intestinal lining and cause a “leaky gut”, allowing microbes and proteins into the bloodstream and stimulating an inflammatory immune response. Gelatin, glycine and glutamine found in bone broth are both soothing and healing to our gut mucosa and reduce inflammation in the gut. As such a high percentage of our immune system resides in our gut, these gut healing and anti-inflammatory properties in bone broth have also been found to boost the immune system.
Additionally glycine stimulates the production of stomach acid which is essential for proper digestion and is a component of bile which is necessary for the digestion of fats.
Collagen makes up about 30% of the protein in our body and is the main component of connective tissues like bone, skin, tendons, ligaments and cartilage. It’s also found in blood vessels, the cornea and lens of the eye. GAGs can attach to proteins to form proteoglycans which are also integral parts of connective tissue as well as synovial fluid (the lubricant surrounding our joints). Each of these nutrients supports hair, skin, nail and joint health and studies have shown that gelatin supplementation increases the amount of collagen in the tissues.
The nutrient profile of bone broth may also help support bone health (this shouldn’t be a surprise as it is made from bones).
The amino acids glycine and proline between them make up about half of our collagen, but also have a role in neurotransmission. Additionally glycine is necessary for DNA & RNA synthesis, plays a role in blood sugar regulation, the synthesis of hemoglobin and myoglobin (which transport oxygen throughout the blood and muscle tissue), stimulates the production of glutathione (our bodies master antioxidant), has been shown to protect and support the liver and supports cardiovascular health by helping to balance homocysteine levels.
As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, glycine can increase calmness, decrease both anxiety and depression, and support sleep. Studies have even found that glycine is an effective therapeutic option to improve sleep.
Arginine is an anti-inflammatory amino acid and is helpful for proper kidney function and wound healing. It may also be helpful in supporting cardiovascular health by keeping the arteries supple and supporting the heart.
You can often buy bone broth concentrates from a good health food store, but the cheapest, easiest and most nutritious way is to make it yourself. I have tried both and personally think the home-made bone broth has a nicer, richer flavour as well.
To make bone broth:
You can make bone broth with any bones (chicken, beef, lamb, fish) – and using a mix of different types of bones (shoulder, rib, leg, marrow, knuckle and feet) will increase the nutrient profile. I highly recommend sourcing organic and grass fed bones if possible as some toxins and heavy metals are stored in bones.
Put your bones in a pot (In winter I simmer bones in a large stock pot over my fire; in summer I use my slow cooker), cover with water and a little acid (I splash in some apple cider vinegar). I also add in onion, carrot & celery for extra nutritional benefit and flavour. You can add in any veggies and herbs you like.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 24 -72 hours (I usually simmer my chicken bones for 24 hours but my larger bones for 48 hours).
Strain the broth.
That’s it… it’s ready to use.
You can drink it straight or add seasoning, herbs or spices (try turmeric tea spices for a variation on a turmeric tea); use it as a base for gravy, sauces or soups, add it to stews or risottos; or make a beautiful broth bowl.
Bone broth is simply a beautiful way to use food as medicine, especially as we are back into the colder months where those warm comforting foods like soups and slow cooked casseroles are so lovely.
Johnson, J. 2020. What are the benefits of bone broth. Medical News Today. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323903
Kresser, C. 2019. The bountiful benefits of bone broth: a comprehensive guide. Retrieved from: https://chriskresser.com/the-bountiful-benefits-of-bone-broth-a-comprehensive-guide/
Mercola, J. 2013. Bone broth – one of our most healing diet staples. Retrieved from https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/12/16/bone-broth-benefits.aspx
Wells, K. 2020. Bone broth benefits for health. Retrieved from: https://wellnessmama.com/23777/bone-broth-benefits/?fbclid=IwAR3eL_CNnxZ-sGxd3EX9Pt0oFktsODimLp5UpuBxitLE3O4-ROBMR9_lIh4