The Benefits of Bone Broth
Bone broth is so good for you I can’t believe you’re not eating it right now.
When I was working in restaurants as a sous chef, one of the most important jobs in the kitchen was the making of bone broth; in the restaurant setting referred to as stock.
It was my job to pile the bones into a large roasting pan, brown them in the oven and then transfer them to a large stock pot, cover them in cold water, add the browned vegetables and wine and keep on a low simmer overnight. In the morning, the stock would be strained and the whole process would be done again with the existing stock used as the water base to make a double stock.
At the time, the whole process seemed important, tied as it was to a long cooking tradition, and great emphasis was put on doing it the “right way”. What I didn’t realize at the time, and didn’t find out until studying nutrition years later, was that the whole process was there to create a truly nourishing and healthful component in the kitchen – one of the few traditions that have actually survived unaltered since our ancestors were using it to achieve vibrant health despite hardships.
Bone broth is just what it sounds like – a rich broth made by boiling the bones of meat animals. Beef, fish, turkey and chicken are the most common, but broth can be made from everything from lamb and pork bones to more exotic fare like duck or venison. The simmering of the bones, in a slightly acidic environment from the addition of wine, lemon or apple cider vinegar, helps to release all the latent nutrition housed in the bones. With the current trend in health steering more and more towards a “plant-based diet”, many of these traditional, and truly healthful, animal-based dishes are being left in the dust, along with their amazing nutrient packed healing potential.
What’s so great about bone broth?
Well, for starters, it comes from the bones, which are a repository for nutrients and healthful compounds that our bodies crave. The bones themselves are loaded with minerals, all the same minerals we need in our own bones, as well as being used in thousands of biochemical reactions throughout the body, needed to make our complicated machines run properly.
But minerals are really only the beginning. Because the centre of the bones house the bone marrow, whose nutrition is released and incorporated into the broth via simmering, raw materials for blood cells and immune development are an inherent part of a properly made bone broth.
With bone and joint issues at epidemic proportions in our current culture, it’s truly astonishing that this healing broth isn’t a staple in every household, especially considering how easy it is to make. This should be recommended by doctors! Almost all the substances you see encapsulated and sold as bone and joint health supplements on the shelf of every vitamin store are a natural component of bone broth! Collagen, gelatin, hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, glycosamino glycans, proline, glycine, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and potassium – bone broth is quite simply the best thing you could consume for the health of your bones and joints. And the best part is that it is a natural whole food – we probably only know half of the compounds in bone broth that are benefiting our health and well-being. And even better, vitamin supplements are expensive. Bone broth is cheap.
The number of people coming into the Big Carrot Wholistic Dispensary looking for supplements that will help their skin and hair is much higher than I ever would have anticipated before starting there. Skin, nails and hair, while they seem simply peripheral, actually reflect our overall state of health. Could we say beauty problems are also epidemic? But guess what – bone broth is fantastic for you skin, hair and nails too! Many of the components just mentioned, like collagen, gelatin and hyalauronic acid, as well as minerals like silica and sulfur, are vitally necessary for the underlying structure of skin and hair. People who get on a bone broth regimen generally start to notice improvements in their appearance after a few months.
Bone broth is also great for connective tissue, a vitally important tissue in the body that supports, connects and separates body organs. It’s basically what holds everything together. To make connective tissue we need the amino acids glycine and proline, and it just so happens that these two amino acids happen to be bountiful in bone broth. As a result, bone broth helps to heal microscopic wounds in the body and is extremely beneficial in healing leaky gut.
But aside from all this amazing nutrition, you can intuitively tell how amazingly good for you bone broth is simply by eating it. Having a bowl of bone broth in the morning alkalizes the whole system, gives a quick hit of fat and water soluble nutrients, and this is something you can feel. It is nourishing right to the core, giving an overall feeling of warmth and well-being. You can literally feel your energy rising and your mood improving.
Alright, I’m Sold. How Do I Make It?
Making a bone broth is quite easy. At its easiest, all that’s really needed is a slow cooker and some bones. Place bones in the slow cooker, cover with water, add a splash of apple cider vinegar, put on low for 8 to12 hours, strain and enjoy.
But by putting in a little more effort and care, you can get a broth that is more nutrient dense and more flavourful. What follows below is the recipe I used to use in the restaurant I worked in for years, making stocks that would become the base for rich sauces, glazes and soups. The addition of vegetables, particularly celery, garlic and onion, improve not only flavour but increase the number of healthful sulfur compounds in the final product.
Beautiful Bone Broth
5lbs beef bones (try to include marrow bones, knuckles and joints)
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 head of garlic, cut in half horizontally (don’t worry about peeling it)
3 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
3 good sized carrots, roughly chopped
1/2 cup of red wine OR 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar OR juice of half a lemon
Filtered water to cover
- Brown bones in a roasting pan in the oven at 375° F. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!
- In the base of a large stock pot, brown the onions, celery, carrot and garlic in your fat of choice (ghee or lard work best).
- Add your water. It should be enough to just cover the bones.
- Add in your wine, vinegar or lemon.
- Cover and bring to a boil. Don’t leave it unattended because you don’t want it to boil hard!
- As soon as it starts to boil, turn it down to a simmer. There should just be a small amount of movement on the surface; not a lot of activity.
- Let simmer for 8 to 12 hours. Longer isn’t necessarily better, as some of the important compounds begin to break down with really long simmering. You know this happens if your broth doesn’t “gel” once it’s cooled in the fridge (this can also be because too much acid, like lemon or vinegar, was added).
- Strain broth into a large container or several small mason jars. Allow to cool to room temperature before putting in the fridge.
- Consume daily.
A couple of notes about the recipe above. First, you don’t necessarily need the veggies. Whether or not you use them might depend on what you’re going to use the broth for. You can find recipes online for sweet applications like desserts or blended chocolate drinks using broth and in those situations, you’d definitely not want a broth tasting like garlic and onion! Broth made with only bones still tastes quite delicious on its own. I pretty much always use just bones in my broth making to keep the possible uses open.
Also note that commercial broths sold in grocery stores are NOT BONE BROTHS. In most cases these are meat broths, there to add flavour but have little of the important nutritional value. You can tell whether or not you’ve got a genuine bone broth by seeing how it behaves when cooled – if it gels, it’s bone broth. If it stays watery, it’s something else. The only way to be sure is to make your own.
This article has really only scratched the surface of the benefits of bone broth. I haven’t even touched on the benefits of bone broth fasts, the broth’s benefits for digestive health or how it can calm down an overactive immune system (or boost an underactive one). It really is something everyone should be eating on a daily basis, whether it be a hot mug full in the morning or incorporated into a soup with your lunch or dinner, it is simply too valuable to be skipped.
Doug DiPasquale, Holistic Nutritionist
For more information on the astounding health benefits of bone broth, see: