Dr. Shannon Sarrasin, ND
There’s nothing like chicken soup to soothe the soul. Not only is it rich and comforting, it may help us heal as well. Bone broth is making a resurgence in holistic health communities. This would make my Grandpa happy as it is the food that he raised his seven children on. Real food. Slow food.
Broth is a traditional food that dates back before earthenware pots even existed 22,000 years ago. It is a culinary custom that spans almost every culture. It is considered a food to support convalescence as it is easily digestible and provides a good source of nutrients for healing.
Broth is made from a slow simmer of animal or fish bones with added vegetables and aromatic herbs. It is a great way to optimize nutrient intake from leftover bones, and clean out the fridge of limp, past their prime vegetables. The broth can be consumed on its own or used as a base for making soups, stews and sauces.
The broth is simmered over a long period of time, ranging from 4 to 48 hours to extract minerals and protein from bone, collagen, cartilage, marrow, muscle and skin. The nutritional composition of broth will vary based on the type of bones used. The feet and neck are rich in cartilage which help your broth to “gel” nicely; long bones are rich in fatty marrow; and fish heads offer a good source of iodine for thyroid function. It is ideal to use organic pasture raised animals.
What you end up with is a delicious cocktail of minerals, amino acids (glycine, proline and glutamine) and proteoglycans (glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate).
Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Broth advocates bone broth for the healing of health concerns such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, auto-immune conditions, psoriasis, eczema, cancer, colitis, digestive ailments, antiaging and sports injuries.
While studies on bone broth are largely lacking, we know about some of the health benefits of the individual components in broth.
Bone broth is rich in glutamine and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) that nourish the cells lining the digestive system. This is important for healing a “leaky gut” as well as inflammatory conditions such as colitis and Crohn’s. Bone broth is a large component of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride’s GAPS nutritional protocol where it is consumed daily to promote gut healing in the treatment of autism, ADHD and other health concerns.
Connective Tissue Healing
The gelatin formed in broth is rich in the amino acids proline and glycine which are building blocks for collagen, cartilage and connective tissue repair. Connective tissue makes up our joints, tendons, ligaments, muscle, bone, skin, organs and arteries. It’s the glue that keeps us together.
Bone broth is rich in the proteoglycans glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. These nutrients are prominent in joint cartilage where they have a natural ability to hold water and provide a cushion effect in the joint. Glucosamine sulfate has mixed reviews in studies and may help to reduce inflammation and promote cartilage repair.
Preparing Bone Broth
Purchasing Bones: look for organic pasture raised animals. You can use leftover bones from a roasted chicken or purchase bones from your local butcher. Bones can be raw or cooked, but roasting the bones in the oven first (30 min at 400 F) will provide a richer flavor. Adding chicken’s feet or a split pig’s foot to the pot will increase the gelatin content.
Vegetables and Herbs: classic vegetables to add include peeled carrots, onions (skin on) and celery. Other options include garlic, tomato, greens, leeks, celery root and parsley. I like to add greens to boost the bone building minerals in the broth. As for herbs: tie together a sprig of parsley, thyme with one or two bay leaves.
Fill a stockpot or slow cooker with bones, vegetables, herbs, and 2-4 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Add enough water to just cover the bones. Cover and cook on a low simmer for 4 to 12 hours.
When your broth is finished you can remove the bones and meat pieces, and pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. If using fatty marrow rich bones, you may want to cool the broth and skim the fat off the top. Broth can be consumed as nourishing beverage or used as a base to make soup. Enjoy!