Good Broth Will Resurrect the Dead – how to get the most from drinking bone broth
What’s the difference between broth, stock, and bone broth?
Broth is light, thin, and rich in protein. It’s usually made with meat but not bones either with or without added vegetables and herbs. Broth is usually simmered for only one or two hours.
Stock is stouter in flavor, thicker, and a good source of protein and some gelatin. It’s made with bones and can contain a small amount of meat. It is best if the bones are roasted first – otherwise the stock can have a sharp flavor. It’s usually simmered for three to four hours.
“Indeed, stock is everything. Without it, nothing can be done,” explained Auguste Escoffier, renowned 19th century chef and father of modern French cuisine.
Bone broth is stout, thick, and rich in protein, gelatin, and minerals.
As with stock, bones are usually roasted, but the broth is simmered for a very long time, often in excess of twenty-four hours.
This process releases the maximum amount of gelatin protein from the collagenous cartilage and minerals from the bones, causing them to crumble.
- South American
- Middle Eastern
Traditionally, they contain any and all leftover parts of an animal – bones, knuckles, feet, necks, and sometimes offal and other organs.
Along with some vegetables, herbs, water, wine or vinegar may be added. The acidity helps to break down the bones to release the minerals within.
What makes good broth?
It is always best, of course, to make your broth from scratch – it’s much cheaper, though it is also a time-consuming luxury. Most people prefer to buy pre-made, packaged broth. Finding a good brand, however, can be difficult.
Many products sold as ‘bone broth’ are flavored with MSG and contain other additives.
Most aren’t even made with bones.
To find a good bone broth, you’re looking for one with visible, floating gelatin, a silky texture, and deep flavor. According to Natural Kitchen, the best broths have the fewest ingredients – usually just bones and water.
Really though, any good soup that’s made with bones will have the benefits of bone broth.
Common chicken soup recipes contain chicken bones as well as meat and vegetables, but they are cooked long enough for the breakdown of the bones to take place. As one of the most commonly consumed forms of bone broth in the western world, this may be the cause for chicken soup’s deserved reputation as a cure-all.
Not just an old wives’ tale.
Egyptian Jewish doctor and philosopher Moses Maimonides was the first to write about the medicinal uses of bone broth in the 12th century. He stated that “the chicken or pullet can be boiled, stewed, steamed, or boiled with fresh coriander or green fennel added to the soup.”
For summertime, he recommended the addition of lemon or citron juices. This basic, aromatic, chicken bone broth went on to become the basis of Jewish traditional cuisine – noodles, matzo balls, and the famous “chicken soup remedy” for all ills.
Folk wisdom lauds the powers of soup to mend the body and soul, and while modern studies focus on the individual components of gelatin, chondroitin sulfate or trace minerals, science agrees that the healing abilities of a hot bowl of broth is more than just placebic.
Treatment of intestinal ailments are a popular traditional use for broth. “It is said to be retained by the most sensitive stomach and will nourish when almost nothing else will be tolerated,” wrote Dr L. E. Hogan in 1909.
Bone broth and stock have also been used successfully to treat diabetes for over a century.
The 1936 Cyclopedia of Medicine mentions the use of gelatin solution to quickly control nosebleeds, excessive menstrual bleeding, ulcers, and hemorrhoids.
Chicken foot soup is a tradition in both Caribbean and Asian cultures, and it is prescribed for illnesses ranging from the common cold to dysentery and from migraines to pregnancy recuperation.
“Almost every culture has its own variation on chicken soup, and rightly so – it’s one of the most gratifying dishes on the face of the Earth.” -Yotam Ottolenghi, chef and restaurateur
Perhaps because of the increased interest in broth’s health benefits, a new study is being conducted by the Medical University of Warsaw to hopefully back up broth’s traditional use to treat gastroenteritis (stomach flu).
What’s the magic ingredient?
Collagen, a type of fibrous protein, makes up the main organic components of skin, bone, tendon, and cartilage. When cooked, it breaks down into gelatin, a translucent mixture of complete and partial proteins.
Illness stresses your body, causing inflammation and the release of the hormone cortisol. “This inflammation,” says Dr. Nicholas Perricone MD, dermatologist and expert in cosmeceuticals, “produces enzymes that break down collagen, resulting in wrinkles.”
Medications such as steroids can also affect collagen. The same process occurs in bones, tendons, and ligaments, which explains why you feel and look so awful when you’re sick.
While this process can cause damage, it also releases factors that promote wound healing, tissue regeneration, and tumor suppression. It may seem obvious, but consuming collagen in the form of gelatinous broth helps your body to make its own collagen, which can heal and improve your skin, joints, and bones!
A darling of the beauty industry, collagen creams and lotions are a multi-million dollar market. A Japanese study has found that consuming collagen is great for your skin, and you can get all the collagen you could possibly need from simple, delicious broth.
Gelatin is rich in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline – amino acids not found in significant amounts in meat. Hydroxyproline is essential for the stability of collagen in your body, and glycine and proline are also important for collagen synthesis.
- prevents tissue injury
- promotes tissue healing
- suppresses tumor growth
- reduces inflammation
- improves immunity
- and plays an important role in glucogenesis (the manufacture of glucose), affecting insulin levels and metabolic disorders.
While officially considered non-essential (able to be produced in the body), mammals make insufficient or barely sufficient amounts of glycine, so really, it is “conditionally” essential – and when you’re sick, your body needs all the glycine you can give it!
Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine – also byproducts of collagen breakdown – are sold as arthritis supplements. They reduce joint swelling and inflammation and have been shown long-term to be as effective as NSAID drugs like ibuprofen.
“Since… a generalized inflammatory state [is] involved in a great variety of diseases, especially in the degenerative diseases,” says Dr Ray Peat, PhD, professor, author and nutritional counselor, “it’s reasonable to consider using glycine/gelatin for almost any chronic problem.”
As broth is simmered for an extended period, the bones release minerals like calcium and magnesium in forms that your body can easily absorb.
Magnesium helps your immune system, minimizing inflammation while supporting an appropriate response to illness. Calcium also reduces risks for some cancers, prevents osteoporosis, and is necessary for proper nerve function and hormonal regulation. Magnesium has roles in insulin and blood pressure regulation.
The key to drinking bone broth
Bone broth is made to be sipped like tea, or it is used to make dishes like ramen. It can, of course, be used in place of stock as a base for stews and gravies or incorporated into paella or stir-fry.
Using broth is an extremely versatile way to deepen flavor and add smoothness to a dish, and doing so comes with a huge health kick. Supporting your immune system with soup isn’t just an old wives’ tale any more, and broth isn’t just for days when you’re feeling under the weather.
If you haven’t tried bone broth yet, you definitely should.
It’s a powerhouse of minerals and amino acids, whether homemade or store bought.
By teaching yourself to make this simple fix-all, however, you can one day become THAT grandma of legend who everyone talks about.
- A. Guerard, Ann Hygiene 36, 5, 1871; H. Brat, Deut. Med. Wochenschrift 28 (No. 2), 21, 1902
- 1936 Cyclopedia of Medicine (G.M. Piersol, editor, volume 6)