If you have been anywhere near the realm of health foods, biohacking or optimum performance recently you may have heard of the small matter of bone broth. This seemingly simple recipe and concept is currently setting the world alight with its nutrient-dense content, brain-boosting properties, hearty taste and ridiculously easy preparation method. If this is your first time hearing about bone broth then fear not, as today I am going to answer questions like: what is bone broth? What are the benefits of bone broth? My own experience with it and a recipe to take away for yourself!
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is prepared by boiling animal bones and connective tissues in a pot for anywhere between 8 and 24+ hours. Bone broth can be prepared with the bones of any animal but the most common ones are cattle, chicken or fish. The origins of bone broth date back to around 2500 years ago when throwing out any part of the animal was a waste. So parts that you would typically not even think twice about using – the bones of the ribs, feet, wings – were actually essential to create an earthy, delicious stock or broth. This stock, of course, can be used as a base for other recipes such as soups or enjoyed on its own.
Benefits of Bone Broth
Improves Digestion – The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin, a key component in bone broth, is a hydrophilic colloid, it attracts and holds liquids and facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut. More specifically, consuming bone broth has been shown to help heal the lining of your digestive tract.
Great for bone and tooth health – bone broth contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorous that all contribute to the remineralisation of both your teeth and your bones.
Supports healthy joints, hair, skin and nails – this is due to the broth’s high collagen content. Collagen is a protein; the most abundant protein found in the human body. It’s found in human connective tissues and animal connective tissues. Scientific studies have shown collagen to improve skin conditions, strengthen joints as well as supporting other facets such as hair and nails.
Stops sickness or illness in its tracks – Bone broth contains the amino acids arginine (essential for immune system and liver function), glutamine (which helps with metabolism), and glycine (which aids in glutathione production and also quality of sleep). What’s more, according to BeatCancer.org, it is one of the best things that you can consume to try and prevent and cure the horrible disease.
Strengthens the connective tissue around joints, ligaments and organs – due to being high in the essential amino acids proline and glycine. Ben Greenfield highlights the importance of these two amino acids in his FAQ about bone broth:
Regular meat lacks significant amounts of not just glycine, but another amino acids called proline. Glycine and proline are crucial for a repairing and healing the lining of your gut and for supporting digestion, muscle repair, muscle growth, the nervous system, and the immune system. This chicken broth study at the University of Nebraska even showed that the glycine and proline produced from chicken stock can significantly reduce inflammation in your respiratory system and your digestive system.
Soothes the gut – The collagen found in bone broth can also help to soothe the gut. Leaky gut syndrome is caused by toxins creating small, permeable holes in your digestive tract. A permeable stomach lining allows partially digested food and toxins to penetrate the tissues beneath it and be released into the bloodstream to cause havoc. The properties of bone broth can strengthen the lining of your gut to stop this from occurring. Consider bone broth added to the list of essentials for maintaining good gut health.
My experience with bone broth
I’ll be the first to admit that I am still very new to preparing and consuming bone broth, having currently made only two batches of around 8 servings each. I also acknowledge that the evidence that I am personally providing is completely anecdotal. However, since consuming bone broth almost daily in that short time period, I have definitely felt an overall improvement especially in the areas of digestion and a boosted immune system. As a guy who has had a few issues with digestion and gut issues in the past, I have felt a notable change in my ‘stomach equilibrium’ so to speak as it has felt very settled over the last few weeks or so. With regards to the longer term benefits like healthy joints, sickness and tooth health, I would need a lot longer before being able to report reliably on how it is affecting me. Yet I know there is a lot of good science and a lot of good people behind the claims so for now, I am looking to stick with it.
Here is a batch of chicken broth that I prepared the other week in my lovely student kitchen with my expert photography skills – made from the leftover carcass of a cooked chicken that I ate. Boiled with onions, carrots, garlic, leek, apple cider vinegar and oregano for 27 hours. Waste not want not.
Bone broth recipe
There are plenty of bone broth recipes that you can find out there with a quick Google search or Pinterest scroll. People use different vegetables, different types of bones and different cooking lengths. It really does just depend on preference, convenience and a little bit of experimental cheffing to find out what works for you.
It is worth starting with this important point though: broth (often labelled as “stock”) from the grocery store is prepared using harsh, high temperatures and accelerated cooking techniques, resulting in a watery, non-nutrient-dense, non-gelatin-rich broth. Once you add in unnatural additives like MSG and other flavourings, it just turns into an unhealthy, chemical soup. You are always going to be better off making it at home.
One of the best resources for everything bone broth is the Weston A. Price Foundation and they have some excellent suggested recipes for chicken, beef and fish bone broths. Here is the chicken one that I followed loosely which you can take away with you to the kitchen:
1 whole free-range chicken or 2 to 3 pounds of bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings*
gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional)
4 quarts cold filtered water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley
*Note: Farm-raised, free-range chickens give the best results. Many battery-raised chickens will not produce stock that gels.
If you are using a whole chicken, cut off the wings and remove the neck, fat glands and the gizzards from the cavity. Cut chicken parts into several pieces. (If you are using a whole chicken, remove the neck and wings and cut them into several pieces.) Place chicken or chicken pieces in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 6 to 8 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. This will impart additional mineral ions to the broth.
Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. If you are using a whole chicken, let cool and remove chicken meat from the carcass. Reserve for other uses, such as chicken salads, enchiladas, sandwiches or curries. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your refrigerator or freezer.
The bone broth with last 3-4 days in a refrigerator or up to a year if frozen!