Updated: May 4
My previous blog post focused on wellness tips for winter. In this post, I want to elaborate more on the health benefits of bone broth, how to make homemade bone broth from scratch, and how to incorporate it into your diet.
What is bone broth?
Bone broth is an ancient healing therapy that slow cooks animal bones in water to extract the essence and nutrients of the animal. The finished product is easily digested and absorbed due to the long cooking time. You can use bones from any animal you choose; however, I recommend not combining them because each animal broth has its beneficial properties. For example, beef bone broth strengthens your constitution and has a grounding quality, while chicken broth stimulates your immune response and has a more warming quality. You can also use turkey, pork, duck, or fish bones (don't cook the fish bones as long because the bones are softer).
What is in bone broth?
Bone broth has many substantial health benefits. Let's start with what nutrients are in the broth.
Collagen is the most common type of protein found in the connective tissues of animals. Connective tissue makes up bones, ligaments, cartilage, and blood cells in the human body. It is essential to use bones from animal joints when making bone broth because they have more connective tissue. The more connective tissue the bone has, the more collagen breaks down from the bone to leach into the broth. Collagen is beneficial for joint, muscle, skin, and gut health.
Gelatin is the breakdown product of collagen. The long cooking process of the bones allows the collagen to break down into its peptides, giving the finished product a gelatinous texture. Gelatin aids in protecting and sealing the mucosal lining of the GI tract. This allows for better absorption of your nutrients and helps keep particles from leaching out into the bloodstream, as seen in leaky gut/malabsorption disorders.
Glycine is an amino acid found in bone broth. It prevents the breakdown of protein tissue like muscle. It is used to make bile salts and glutathione, a phase II liver detoxification agent. It helps detoxify the body of chemicals and acts as an antioxidant. It is also a neurotransmitter that improves sleep, memory, and performance.
Glutamine is another amino acid found in bone broth. It protects the gut lining. It also provides fuel for cells in the small intestine for better absorption of nutrients. It can improve metabolism and muscle building.
Minerals and Electrolytes - that the bones provide are sodium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. These help to rehydrate and replenish the body post-workout.
Health benefits of bone broth
Promotes muscle & joint health
Bone broth is an excellent source of absorbable collagen, the protein found in your bones, skin, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bone marrow. Our collagen production naturally declines due to overuse, and we become less flexible as we age. The collagen and gelatin-rich bone broth helps lubricate the joints to glide without friction. They also increase the strength of our bones. The amino acids in bone broth help form muscle tissue by converting glucose into usable energy. They also slow cartilage, tissue, and muscle loss associated with overuse and aging by improving the body's use of antioxidants. Finally, the amino acids help improve circulation and send blood and nutrients to the cells throughout the body. Bone broth is an excellent source of protein, so use it as a healthy treat post-workout to nourish your muscles.
The long cooking process of bone broth makes it easy to digest and highly absorbable. If you suffer from malabsorption issues or leaky gut, incorporating bone broth into your diet could be beneficial for you to get the nutrients that you are missing. In addition, the bone broth's gelatin restores the gut lining's strength and combats food sensitivities. It also supports healthy inflammation levels in the digestive tract.
Supports immune function
The gut-supportive properties of bone broth will help support healthy immune system function. A leaky gut occurs when undigested food particles seep through the weakened intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream. Your immune system detects them as foreign and becomes hyperactive. This creates inflammation and leads to food sensitivities. The collagen and gelatin you get from bone broth help seal the openings in the gut linings and, therefore, will help reduce leaky gut symptoms.
Get that healthy glow
Collagen helps form elastin and other compounds within the skin that are responsible for maintaining the skin's youthful tone, texture, and appearance. Collagen helps to reduce the visible signs of wrinkles and decreases puffiness in the skin.
We are overloaded with environmental toxins in our food, air, cleaning products, and skincare products. The human body has its way of detoxing the body of these toxins, but the increased amount can be overwhelming to the body. It can lead to all sorts of autoimmune and endocrine-disrupting disorders. Bone broth is a powerful detoxification agent since it helps the digestive system expel waste and promotes the liver's ability to remove toxins.
Who should use bone broth?
Bone broth does not discriminate and can be used by just about everyone. Specifically, you can use it for:
Leaky gut and malabsorption issues
Fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum
Chronic pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia
Who should not use bone broth?
Bone broth is safe, but some people may experience side effects such as increased heart rate, brain fog, dizziness, headaches, insomnia, or skin reactions. This is due to the high histamine content of the bone broth from the long cooking time. Everyone has histamine, but it can become problematic if your body releases too much histamine or can't break down histamine fast enough, resulting in too much histamine. If you don't know if you have a histamine intolerance, bone broth is safe to try, and if you experience any of the above symptoms, then discontinue its use. If you know you have a histamine intolerance, avoid bone broth or only cook the broth for 2-3 hours.
Bone Broth Recipe
This recipe is adapted from my friend Erin who graciously shared her recipe while I was in acupuncture school. I have been making my broth this way with some minor adjustments, and it's very delicious to sip on its own or for cooking. This is a base recipe but feel free to make it your own by adding other herbs, aromatics, or spices.
About the ingredients
Bones - use any animal bone you choose (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, duck, fish), but I recommend not combining different types of animal bones because each animal has its unique therapeutic property, which I mentioned at the beginning of this post. I recommend getting organic, pasture-raised animal bones for clean broth. You can ask your butcher for bones if they don't have them in the store.
I would use knuckles, neck bones, shanks, oxtails, marrow bones, or a combination of all of them for beef bones.
I would use the feet, the whole carcass, and wing tips for chicken and turkey bones.
I would use ham hocks, neck bones, or trotters for pork.
Kombu - is dried edible sea kelp, a type of seaweed that brings excellent umami flavor to broths. It also has a salty property which has an affinity for your Kidneys. The saltiness provides a centering and sinking quality for your energy. You can read more about this in my previous blog post.
Vinegar - I would suggest white vinegar or apple cider vinegar here. The acidity of the vinegar helps to break down the bone. If you don't like vinegar, feel free to substitute it with white wine or lemon juice.
Goji berry - is a medicinal food that helps to build blood. Using goji berries in your broth increases blood-nourishing properties, which can help with muscle recovery, fertility, and women's health issues.
Ginger - another medicinal food with a warming quality that helps with digestion and boosts immunity.
3-5 lbs of bones of your choice (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, fish)
1 large carrot cut in half (wash and keep the skin on for added nutrients)
2 pieces of ginger (1 inch in size)
1 onion peeled and halved
2 celery stalks
8 whole shiitake mushrooms
2 pieces of kombu
5 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup of goji berries
1 tsp of whole peppercorns
1 tbs of coarse salt
1/4 cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Blanch bones in boiling water for 10 minutes. This helps to remove any scum from the bones and helps to avoid a cloudy broth.
Strain bones from water. Place bones, carrot, ginger, and onion on a roasting tray and drizzle with olive oil; broil on high for 5 minutes. Roasting the bones caramelizes them and releases some fat, adding a robust flavor to your broth. (If you don't have a broiler, roast at 400 F for 30 minutes turning halfway through, until the bones and veggies are browned).
After 5 minutes, flip everything and broil for another five minutes. You want to see some browning on the bones and charred marks on your veggies. Add more time if needed depending on your broiler.
Once the bones and veggies are nice and caramelized, place everything into a large stock pot, including any remaining juices from the roasting tray. Add the remaining ingredients (celery, shiitake mushrooms, garlic, kombu, salt, vinegar, peppercorns, goji berries) into the stock pot.
Add 10 cups of water just to cover the bones. Adjust depending on what type and how many bones you use. You don't want to use too much water because you will not achieve a gelatinous finished product.
Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Once simmering, let it cook for 8-24 hours
Strain the liquid into a large bowl and let it cool down. If you want this to happen faster, put it in the fridge to cool down.
Once cooled, you will see the fat has risen to the surface and has coagulated. Lift off the fat with a spoon to avoid a greasy broth.
Strain the degreased liquid into jars and refrigerate. After refrigerating overnight, the broth will thicken into gelatinous goodness (see photo below).
Use by warming up some in a pot for a drink or freeze within 1 week. Enjoy, and tag me @gabriellasahyoun if you make it!
How to use bone broth?
Sip on its own - warm a cup of broth to drink daily for a protein-rich snack. Feel free to add a pinch of salt to taste.
Use it as a base for your soups and stews - homemade broth adds much better flavor than store-bought.
Use it to cook grains or beans - for a boost of flavor and protein.