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by Lauren Tomeu, NTP

There’s a reason why your grandmother made you chicken soup when you were ill.  The truth is traditionally-prepared soups really do boost your immune system and make you feel better.  When I say “traditionally prepared” I’m referring to a time before bouillon cubes existed; when bones were used to make the base of soups.

The benefits of both broth are extensive, with it’s high concentration of protein, collagen, glycine and — perhaps most importantly — minerals.  These nutrients aid in digestion, joint health, detoxification, and vital mineral intake. 

Digestion

Bone broth is very rich in glycine which is essential for the production of stomach and bile acids. When you don’t get enough of this amino acid you can develop acid reflux and GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease). This occurs when there’s not sufficient amounts of stomach acid to properly break down your food and it remains in your stomach for an extended period of time, causing it to ferment and produce gases that apply pressure on the LES (Lower Esophageal Sphincter) valve, pushing food back up, instead of down, the digestive tract.

Bile is used to properly breakdown fat which is crucial for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins which include vitamins A, D, E and K.  Another important amino acid found in bone broth is glutamine, a natural remedy for “leaky gut” which is when the barrier between your gut and rest of the body is compromised, allowing molecules that should stay inside the gut to cross over into the bloodstream and potentially set off a cascade of autoimmune reactions.  Glutamine helps maintain the function of the intestinal wall.

Joint Health

Joint health seems to be a growing concern with many people who are supplementing with glucosamine and gelatin, both of which are naturally found in healthy bone cartilage that melts into broth.  Let’s break it down.  Collagen is the protein matrix in bones, tendons, ligaments and other flexible tissues. 

When collagen is broken down in the cooking process it turns into gelatin which contains proline and glycine.  These proteins perform crucial functions like giving the body raw materials to rebuild connective tissue, especially tendons and ligaments.

Imagine ridding yourself of tendonitis, aching joints, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic autoimmune disease all while supporting the growth of healthy hair, nails and skin.  A quick note that you can supplement with glucosamine and/or chondroitin.  Yet studies have shown that collagen is way more effective than these.

Detoxification

It’s no surprise that detoxification is of major importance to a healthy body as we are in constant contact with harmful substances found in our food, air, water, cleaning supplies and hygiene products.  With so many detox trends, it’s important to note how crucial glycine is to the process of detoxification.  The liver being the body’s natural way of detoxifying, glycine lends a hand in removing anything dangerous from the body.  It’s also necessary for the synthesis of glutathione and uric acid which are the most important internally produced antioxidants.

Here’s a brief note on blood levels.  Muscle meats and eggs are high in methionine, an amino acid that raises homocysteine levels in the blood and increases our need for homocysteine-neutralizing nutrients like vitamins B6, B12, folate and choline.  Homocysteine presents a serious health factor for heart disease and stroke so it’s important to eat a more balanced diet including gelatin-rich foods over lean meats. Just another reason to eat the whole animal as the proteins in muscle meat and connective tissue balance each other out for optimal nutrition.

Minerals

It’s increasingly difficult to get enough minerals in our diet without supplementation.  This is mainly due to depleting nutrients in soils which has been documented from as early as 1936.

Mineral-depleting items are also a huge factor.  These include acid blockers, low stomach acid, cortisone, pharmaceutical drugs, birth control pills, alcohol, coffee, soda, sugar and stress.  A study done by the Senate (Document 264 74th Congress, 1936) states that 99% of the American population are deficient in minerals.

Bone broth is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and is readily available for easy absorption by the body.  Minerals are important as they act as co-factors for enzyme reactions, maintain the pH balance, contract and relax muscles, and regulate hormones.

Now that we know that bone broth is a true superfood, how do we make use of bones so we can reap the benefits of consuming it? 

The basics are simple.  All you really need is bone with marrow and cartilage intact.  These include beef knuckles, marrow bones, rib and neck bones etc.  The crucial ingredient for extracting the minerals is something acidic. 

I recommend apple cider vinegar, but feel free to use wine.  Cooking low and slow is also critical.

Marrow Bones

Bone marrow is considered an organ meat and essential part of the immune system which contains all kinds of cells necessary for immune function and bone growth.  Some benefits include building immunity, repairing wounds, helping with digestion and fighting cancer.  Almost every culture claims some form of bone-based concoction.

If you search the internet you’ll find recipes from Ireland, the Philippines, Korea, France while Mongolian and Native American cultures extracted the marrow raw.  In gourmet cooking, marrow is a garnish for beef tenderloin and beef stews.  There’s no end to what can be done with the nutritious marrow.

Have you heard the term “nose-to-tail”?  This refers to the use of the whole animal which is what pre-industrial societies across the globe did.  Letting food go to waste just wasn’t an option.  This trend is gaining momentum as you can now find restaurants serving up the whole animal in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and beyond.  It’s all about sustainability.

No doubt we’re all used to the same cuts of beef when we go to the grocery store to pick up dinner.  But what if the whole animal was available with recipes and recommendations for cooking?  Would you venture out of your comfort zone and become one of the many who are following this sustainability movement and reaping the benefits from eating the entire animal?  More on this later.

Now back to the bones.

Bone Marrow Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 center-cut beef marrow bones, 6 inches long
  • rosemary
  • sea salt
  • pepper

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put bones in a baking dish, cut side up and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper and place rosemary sprig on top. Cook about 15 minutes until marrow is soft and begins to separate from the bone.

Broth can be used in recipes which call for stock or broth. No need to stock up on canned or boxed broths anymore. These don’t contain all the nutritious benefits that bone broth does anyhow. I like to make soup from the broth or even have a mug with a pinch of salt in the morning instead of coffee. It’s delicious!

Beef Bone Broth Recipe

Ingredients:

  • beef marrow bones
  • knuckle bones
  • 4 quarts of cold filtered water
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 onions
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • thyme or rosemary
  • peppercorns
  • salt to taste

Instructions:

Place bones in large slow cooker with vinegar and cover with water for one hour. Place any meaty bones in a roasting pan to brown and add to the pot with remaining ingredients. Make certain bones are covered with water. Liquid will expand a little while cooking so make certain there’s enough room. Set the cooker to low temperature and let simmer for 12 to 48 hours. Once finished strain the liquid and let cool. Fat will rise to the top and you can skim off any congealed fat. Transfer to small containers and freeze or refrigerate. Broth should keep in refrigerator for 4-5 days.

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