One food that has exploded in popularity in the past few years is bone broth. It’s on TV, in magazines, and all over the internet. It makes you wonder, is bone broth overrated? Nope!
Bone broth is technically stock, since stock requires bones; however, true bone broth is essentially a more concentrated stock, requiring at least 12 hours and sometimes upwards of 24 hours of cooking time. The long cooking time causes the bones, connective tissues, and marrow to break down and impart minerals and nutrients into the broth. The result is a nutrient-rich, gelatinous--like Jell-O--stock that can be made into soup or sauce, but I prefer to drink it like coffee.
An abbreviated list of bone broth benefits includes gelatin, minerals, amino acids, chondroitin sulfates, glucosamine, and hyaluronic acid, all of which I’ll explain. Many people swear by bone broth for relieving chronic digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut, Crohn’s disease, food sensitivities, and inflammation. If you don’t suffer from any of these, you might enjoy bone broth’s ability to strengthen your joints, keep your weight in check, boost your immune system and give your skin a youthful glow. In addition to being good for your health, bone broth is economical, flavorful, and a fantastic way to make use of less popular parts of the animal.
Let’s look at a few of the key components of bone broth:
Gelatin, which you may recognize from the ingredients lists in Jell-O and gummy candies, is simply cooked collagen. But gelatin is the opposite of the junk food you’ll most often find it in. For one, collagen (gelatin in its original form) happens to be the most abundant protein in our bodies. Consuming it regenerates tissues in our digestive tract, skin, bones, joints, tendons, and so on. You might notice disappearing wrinkles and cellulite, and that you digest your food better. (1)
Bone broth is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, sulphur, and other trace minerals, many of which support the immune system. Electrolytes, like magnesium and potassium, support healthy circulation, heart and digestive health, bone density, and nerve signaling functions. (2)
Bone broth contains 19 essential (meaning your body cannot produce on its own) and non-essential amino acids.(2) Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, which makes up approximately 20% of our bodies and plays a role in nearly every biological process. (9) Just a few amino acids you can find in bone broth include:
Arginine, which boosts the immune system and assists in healing wounds, regeneration of damaged liver cells, sperm production (in men of course), and production and release of growth hormones (read more about HGH here)(3)
Glycine, which regulates the production of bile acids (metabolic regulators), helps with sleep and memory, and is itself used for treatment of hyperactivity, epilepsy, and schizophrenia. (4)
Proline, which speeds healing, strengthens artery walls, gives skin elasticity and thickness, and increases collagen production (5).
Glutamine, which is a natural detoxifying agent, supporting the immune system, protecting the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, and supporting healthy brain function (6).
Chondroitin sulfate is itself used by doctors to treat osteoarthritis, overactive bladders, eye disorders, pain and inflammation, and coronary artery disease (7)
Glucosamine reduces collagen degradation and symptoms of osteoarthritis. Glucosamine is a very common supplement used for joint pain and injury rehabilitation. (8)
Hyaluronic acid contributes to healthy cell production, hydrates skin, lubricates joints, reduces wrinkles, and helps reduce dry eyes. (2)
That’s quite a mouthful of benefits, don’t you think? Now let’s talk about how to make it at home. You can buy commercial bone broth in stores, but these products are most often watered down and cannot compare to homemade bone broth. You can make bone broth with any bones – beef, pork, chicken, turkey, venison, and even fish. Local, humanely raised bones are best because nutritional value is maximized, and it’s also easier to acquire things like beef knuckle or chicken feet from a local farm. It is a good idea to use bones from different animals to achieve a different combination of minerals and amino acids found within each animal, but you may also want to stick to one species if you’re trying to achieve a predictable flavor. The basic recipe is the same, regardless of which type of bones you select.
Bones. The cheapest thing to do is save all the bones when you cook a chicken and make chicken bone broth. You can also purchase bones directly from a farm. You want to include marrow bones for flavor and nutrients, meaty bones (like rib bones) for flavor and color, as well as ones from the animals joints (like knuckles or feet), as they have a lot of connective tissues and will produce a rich, gelatinous stock.
Vegetables. Carrots, onions, celery, leeks, parsley, preferably organic. Think of vegetables you would normally add to soup. If using fresh herbs, like parsley, wait until the last hour to add them as to not over-extract the herbs, which would lend a bitter flavor to the broth. And use the whole vegetable: carrot tops, onion skins, parsley stems, celery leaves and celery base.
Vinegar. Two tablespoons will help leech minerals from the bones. We prefer raw apple cider vinegar
Water. You need just enough to cover the bones and vegetables, no more. Filtered water or spring water is best.
This specific recipe is for chicken bone broth. If you are using bones from another animal, the recipe will be the same except for the cooking time. For chicken or turkey broth, I would suggest 12-24 hours. For pork, beef, lamb I would suggest 24 – 48 hours. The longer isn’t necessarily the better. After a certain amount of time, the collagen breaks down so much that the final broth will not solidify when it cools, which isn’t ideal. But don’t be intimidated by the time constraints: this is such an easy process, there is no excuse not to do it
The Recipe: Basic Chicken Bone Broth
Bones and feet from 3 chickens
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 leeks, or one large onion
2 celery sticks and celery base
1 bunch parsley
Enough water to cover: 1 gallon should be enough
Roast the bones on a sheet tray in a 350ºF oven for 10-15 minutes. This part is technically optional, but it will make your broth more flavorful.
Cut the vegetables roughly. You want the pieces small enough that they'll fit in the pot, but not so small that you can't remove them with tongs when the broth is done. And keep the parts you might normally toss out: onion skins, celery tops.
Add bones and vegetables (skins and all) to a stock pot or slow cooker. Don’t add the parsley yet. Since cooking time is so long, a slow cooker is best because you don’t need to worry about leaving the gas on while you sleep or go out.
Fill water to just above the bones and vegetables. Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. Let rest for an hour. During this time, the vinegar will start extracting minerals to give you a head start on the health benefits.
Bring to a boil on high, then lower heat to a simmer.
Let simmer at least 12 hours and up to 24 hours (no longer than this for chicken bone broth). You may want to keep an eye on the heat level for the first few hours.
15 minutes before turning off the heat, add parsley.
Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, put it in the refrigerator. Most bone broth will gel when cold which makes it easier for storage. Scrape off any fat, which you can dispose of or save for later cooking.
Freeze what you cannot use within a week. You can freeze it in a freezer-safe container. But if the broth is gelled, you can drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet, put in the freezer just until frozen (to minimize freezer burn), then put the frozen pieces into a freezer bag to keep in the freezer. This method will allow you to thaw small amounts at a time, which is especially good if you plan to drink it by itself.