Cate Shanahan, M.D. touts the importance of nose-to-tail eating in her book Deep Nutrition. This ancestral tradition of consuming all parts of an animal has long disappeared. By consuming more than muscle–everything including skin, cartilage, tendons, and organs–we get a balanced intake of all essential amino acids and many overlooked micronutrients.
What is in bone broth?
Broth made from animal bones is rich in amino acids, minerals, and proteins like collagen and gelatin. Collagen is a main component of connective tissues (cartilage, ligaments, tendons, bone, skin; even blood vessels and eyeballs!) in our bodies. The hydrolysis of collagen forms gelatin. Thus, the longer the broth is simmered the higher the ratio of gelatin to collagen. (Note that both are equally beneficial to our bodies). The most abundant amino acids found in bone broth are glycine, proline, and glutamine. Glycine acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Proline is an amino acid that should be obtained in the diet; it functions alongside glutamate and glycine in neurotransmission. Glutamine is particularly important for the gut lining and provides energy for active immune cells.
The mineral content extracted from bones is extraordinary! The mineral profile of bone broth includes: calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, phosphorous, potassium, sodium, and zinc. A warm cup of broth is nature’s multi-vitamin!
What are the benefits of bone broth?
-Skin Health : Collagen from bone broth can significantly improve skin’s elasticity and moisture content. Hyaluronic acid in bone broth can promote skin cell proliferation and increase retinoic acid. This improves cell turnover and repair.
-Metabolic and Cardiovascular Health : Glycine plays a role in blood sugar regulation, helping mitigate some effects of fructose consumption. Glycine brings an important balance to amino acid consumption. It balances out methionine (found in high amounts in muscle meat). Methionine can drive homocysteine, an inflammatory marker. Vitamins B6, B12, folate and choline can also help to balance high methionine/homocysteine levels and protect against heart disease and stroke.
-Muscles and Performance: Glycine increases creatinine which increases anaerobic capacity and stimulates muscle repair (through HGH). Proline enhances muscle protein synthesis through the mTOR pathway. Phosphorous and magnesium are needed for the formation of ATP, the chemical form of energy in the body.
-Bones and Joints: Bone broth provides many of the raw nutrients needed to build healthy bones! Particularly calcium, phosphorous, and amino acids. Glucosamine and chondroitin in bone broth provide joint lubrication and decrease joint pain.
-Gut Health: Gelatin and glycine are powerhouse nutrients for maintaining a healthy gut lining. The gelatin coats the surface and prevents microbes from compromising the barrier. Both gelatin and glycine decrease intestinal inflammation and protect against gastric ulcers. Glutamine promotes endothelial lining integrity and repair.
-Digestion: In addition to intestinal health, glycine aids digestion by increasing stomach acid secretion. Further, it promotes secretion of bile acid to help breakdown fat and maintain blood cholesterol levels. Gelatin improves motility and regularity of bowel movements.
-Detox, Liver, Kidney: The amino acids in bone broth improve antioxidant capacity by stimulating the production of glutathione. The amino acid proline scavenges free radicals and helps clear out cellular waste.
-Brain Health: The nerves of the brain are insulated with a fatty sheath that speeds transmission, called myelin. More than 60% of the brain is composed of fat! The animal fat in bone broth, especially from marrow bones, builds up this myelin sheath and reinforces the blood-brain barrier. The calcium in bone broth is also important for neurotransmission and conduction.
-Mood and Sleep : The glycine in bone broth is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. Inhibitory neurotransmitters have the opposite effect of excitatory neurotransmitters. Glycine has been shown to decrease anxiety and improve sleep.
-Immune function : Bone broth helps the immune system second-hand by improving the gut barrier integrity. The amino acids in bone broth also communicate with immune cells and can reduce inflammatory signaling. Glutamine provides fuel for active immune cells to fight infections, parasites, and bacteria.
How to make bone broth?
To make bone broth, you only need bones and water. Using vegetable scraps will add flavor and nutrients but isn’t necessary for a satisfying broth. An acid medium will accelerate breakdown of cartilage and connective tissue. Adding a splash of apple cider vinegar will pull more nutrients from the bone marrow- enriching the broth. The long, slow, cooking extracts maximum nutrients.
A good, heavy, stock pot is a great tool for simmering over a long time. It is possible to make bone broth in a slow cooker or pressure cooker– this can be a safer method if leaving the house, but temperature is more difficult to control.
Grass-fed beef bones and free-range organic chicken bones are commonly used to make broth. The health of the animal will affect how much collagen/gelatin is produced in a bone broth!
You may also use bones from other poultry like duck or turkey; lamb and venison bones will also produce a uniquely flavorful bone broth. Although mixing bones from different animals is possible, It is not a good idea to mix poultry and larger animal bones as the cooking times will vary. Include other animal scraps such as feet, heads, gizzards, wings, and necks.
Gather the ‘leftover’ bones and scraps from meals: including skin and meat. Keep them in a freezer bag until ready to use. This works particularly well for a roast chicken or turkey- maximizing the use from the animal.
- Add bones/carcass/trimmings and any vegetable scraps to a large stock pot.
- Cover the bones with filtered water. I use the Berkey water purification system.
- Add 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.
- Bring the water and bones to a boil, then reduce to low and allow to barely simmer for 6-72 hours*.
- After cooking, strain the bones and scraps, discard.
*Cooking times will vary greatly: 6-48 hours for chicken; 12-72 hours for beef
How to use bone broth?
Store broth in mason jars and keep in the refrigerator or freezer. Consume the broth plain, warmed, or as a base for soup. This makes for a delightful warming mug in the morning or to wind down the evening. Bone broth is a staple of any gut healing protocol, and generally well tolerated on the most restrictive diets.
BONE BROTH RECIPES
In order to make bone broth more palatable and exciting, I sometimes “dress it up.”
My go-to recipes are:
- coconut milk-turmeric-black pepper
- ginger-lime-chili pepper
- ghee-sea salt-garlic-rosemary
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