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Soup for the Soul or the Benefits of Bone Broth

For years I have been relying on home-made bone broth as a staple in my kitchen. Not only does it provide a comforting bowl of chicken soup during those days when one feels under the weather, but it is also a beautiful base for any soup, sauce, curry and makes for a delicious addition to things like quinoa when used for cooking instead of water.

If you already eat quality sources of meat (e.g. grass-fed beef, free range chickens etc), broth is a dish you can make at little extra cost. So many people throw away the bones after roasting chicken or making bone-in roast! There is so much flavor and goodness in those bones and they can stretch your one piece of meat into at least another meal as well as an incredible flavor addition to many dishes that come out of your kitchen!

Furthermore, there is a lot more to bone broth than flavor and convenience it provides. You’ve undoubtedly heard the old saying that chicken soup will help cure a cold, and there’s scientific support for such a statement.

Remember – bone is a living tissue. They have their own blood vessels and are made of living cells – which help them to grow and to repair themselves – as well, proteins, minerals and vitamin. Two main materials that construct the bone are collagen – a protein that provides elasticity – and calcium – a mineral that adds strength and hardness. If it weren’t for the collagen, bones would simply be hard with no give, and thus brittle. Bones act as a reserve of minerals important for the body, mostly calcium and phosphorus, as well as sodium, magnesium, and other trace minerals.

It should be no surprise then that making your own bone broth results in a product that is nutrient dense and full of minerals in a form the body can absorb easily. And it’s not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and trace minerals; as well as chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine from connective tissue on the bones. Another important component that bone broth gets from the connective tissue is collagen. The breakdown of collagen in bone broths is what produces gelatin – one of the first functional foods used as a medical treatment in ancient China. The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophilic colloid – it attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion. Gelatin has even has been found to help people with food allergies and sensitivities tolerate those foods including cows milk and gluten.

In addition to minerals and collagen, bone broth contains two important amino acids – proline and glycine – both known for their anti-inflammatory effects and contributing to stock’s healing properties. Glycine supports detoxification and helps the body synthesize collagen, aids in wound healing and supports the release of growth hormones.It also a neurotransmitter that may help improve sleep, memory and performance. Proline tightens and builds cell structures, thus improving the strength of skin and vein walls. Another amino acid that is present in broth is glutamine – which protects gut lining, acts as metabolic fuel for cells in small intestine and improves metabolism and muscle building. The combination of these amino acids is important for healthy gut and digestion, muscle repair and growth, a balanced nervous system, and strong immune system. Talk about some incredible health benefits!

Furthermore, if you make chicken broth you will also find a natural amino acid called cysteine, which can thin the mucus in your lungs and make it less sticky so you can expel it more easily. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that the amino acids that were produced when making chicken stock reduced inflammation in the respiratory system and improved digestion. Which may explain why we crave chicken broth when feeling unwell!

Keep in mind though that you’ll want to use good quality organic sources of meat because you’ll be drawing out and concentrating the nutrients from these.

There are lots of different ways to make bone broth, and there really isn’t a wrong way. Start with a combination of bones from organic meat (I use the left over bones from roast chicken, T-bone steak and so on). Then add a basic flavor mix of vegetables  – white onion, celery and carrots. Do not spend much time chopping them or removing their skins. Just cut in half add them to your broth. Add anything else you have lying around – such as parsley stems or any other vegetable cut offs you may have. The exceptions are broccoli, turnip peels, cabbage family, green peppers, collard greens, and mustard greens – they will make your broth bitter.

I would recommend an addition of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to make your broth more nutritious. I tend to add 3-4 tablespoons per chicken carcass. Adding this mild-flavored acid will help you to draw out minerals from the bones – which works great with the goal to extract as many minerals as possible out of the bones into the broth water.

Your broth may be improved further through addition of some spices. Apart from salt, I personally like to add pink & black peppercorns, star anise, cinnamon bark and cloves. You can also add a bay leaf, thyme or any other herbs you have in your kitchen. Ginger and garlic are also nice warming additions to the broth.

bone broth

Once you put your base together, you are ready to add water, bring the pot to boil, lower the heat and start simmering. Ideally you should simmer for more than 12 hours, however you will get a good result even with 4 hours. This simmering causes the bones and ligaments to release healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine, glutamine and make the broth more nutritious. You will notice if you simmer for 24 hours or longer (this depends on the type of meat you are using, with chicken bones disintegrating the fastest) that the bones will get really soft and brittle and start disintegrate. Up until that point, you can in theory even re-use the bones to make another batch of broth.

The result – one of the most nutritious and healing foods you can find. Inexpensive and easy, broth can be used for soups, stews, sauces or you can drink it straight. The broth can also be frozen for future use – either in ice cubes to add to sauces or separate into several portions and freeze in sealable zip bags or containers.

 

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