Did you know that you can easily and inexpensively whip up your very own digestive health tonic?
Homemade bone broth, prepared by simmering the bones of healthy animals, packs a powerful punch of easily assimilated nutrients that not only support healthy digestion, but also boasts a number of other health benefits – which I’ll get to in a second!
Meat and fish broth (also called stock) is still revered in traditional cultures all over the world not only for its nutritive and healing properties, but also for the rich flavour it imparts to many classic cuisines. Making homemade broths and stocks from the leftover parts of the animal not commonly eaten, such as the bones, marrow, cartilage, ligaments and tendons, was a way for our ancestors to make use of the whole animal in what is now commonly referred to as “nose to tail eating”. As these parts are simmered, they slowly start to release a number of healing compounds including easy to assimilate minerals and amino acids, as well as collagen, glucosamine and chondroitin sulphates – some of which are now sold as expensive health supplements.
Unfortunately in North America, the consumption of bone broth has dwindled over the years since the advent of our modern meat processing methods, and likely (one can assume) as more women left the home and kitchen to enter the workforce.
Commercially prepared, store-bought broths (and stocks) don’t contain the same nutritive properties as homemade bone broths and usually contain a host of other unhealthy additives such as MSG (monosodium glutamate), a known neurotoxin. For these reasons store-bought broths pale in comparison to homemade ones, since they don’t come even close to offering the same range of health benefits.
Speaking of health benefits, here are a few!
Health Benefits of Bone Broth
1. Improves Digestion
Bone broths provide gelatin (produced by the breakdown of collagen) which helps to soothe and heal the mucosal lining of the gut, thereby preventing (and improving) autoimmune conditions that happen as a result of a “leaky gut”.
Francis Pottenger, famous for his cat studies and research on the health benefits of gelatin, pointed out that gelatin unlike other cooked food, contains hydrophilic colloids that attract liquids (including digestive juices) to the surface of cooked food particles, thereby supporting digestion. And if you’re familiar with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride and her Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPs) Diet, you’ll know that bone broths are a key component to her gut healing protocol.
2. Supports Healthy Joints and Builds Strong Bones
Bone broth contains compounds called glycosaminoglycans (from boiled down cartilage) such as glucosamine, chondroitin sulphates and hyaluronic acid that help to repair damaged joints and improve mobility and function. It’s also abundant in easily assimilated minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and other trace minerals important for healthy bone formation.
3. Supports Healthy Skin, Hair and Nails
Collagen is the structural protein found in the connective tissue of vertebrate mammals, and it’s plentiful in bone, marrow, cartilage, tendons and ligaments. It supports the growth of hair, strong nails, and smooth skin.
4. Improves Immune Function
It turns out there’s a reason your grandmother recommended chicken soup when you were sick with a cold! This study showed that eating chicken soup during an upper respiratory infection can mitigate some of the effects of infection. Bone broth is also rich in the anti-inflammatory amino acids glycine, arginine, and proline.
Preparing your own bone broth is pretty simple; you just need a large stockpot or crock-pot, and some leftover (high quality) bones from healthy animals – meaning naturally-raised, pasture-fed, organic, etc.
The easiest method is using a crock-pot (my preferred choice), since you can safely leave it simmering away as you work, sleep and run errands, and not worry about leaving it unattended.
If you don’t have leftover bones from your own cooking, you can buy high quality bones very inexpensively from a butcher or at some healthy grocers. This is a great option, especially if you don’t eat or prepare a lot of meat at home yourself.
You can find a number of different bone broth recipes easily on the internet, or another great resource is the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. Depending on what types of bones you are using, the cooking time will vary. Most resources I’ve come across suggest simmering your bones for a minimum of 6-8 hours, but chicken broth can be simmered up to 24 hours, and beef broth up to 48-72 hours.
Here I’ll share my easy recipe for easy homemade chicken broth.
Easy Crock-Pot Chicken Broth
1. Place bones and leftover chicken parts in a crock-pot.
2. Add in 1-2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar (this will help draw minerals from the bones).
3. Fill your crock-pot with cold filtered water, leaving enough room at the top so it doesn’t boil over.
4. Add vegetables of your choice (optional). I’ll often use 1 onion cut in half, along with 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks, both chopped roughly.
5. Cook on low heat for 8 to 24 hours. I usually let it go for the full 24hrs. Once it comes to a boil, skim off any “scum” that has risen to the top and continue simmering.
6. Let stand and cool a bit before straining the broth through a strainer or mesh sieve.
7. Once cool, transfer to glass mason jars and store in the fridge for up to 5-7 days, or place in the freezer for longer storage. Before using discard any fat that has accumulated at the top, and be sure to do this before placing in the freezer.
*Note: I prefer to add sea salt to taste at the end of cooking
After the broth has cooled in your refrigerator, you’ll notice that it looks jiggly like jello. Don’t worry; it will turn to liquid again once it’s reheated on the stove.
A jiggly broth is a sign that your broth is gelatin-rich – a good thing! If it’s not it may be a sign that you didn’t use enough of the right kind of bones, or you didn’t simmer them long enough. Either way, you can still enjoy the broth for its many other benefits besides gelatin.
Use your broth wherever a recipe calls for it, such as a base for soups and sauces, or drink it straight from a cup – this is what I like to do in the cool winter months!
Are you a fan of homemade bone broths? Share your tips, tricks and recipes in the comments below
Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig
Broth is Beautiful article by Sally Fallon