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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Mmmm, Good… to the Bone

The health benefits of bone broth

here were two exceptions which kept my restorative “whole food, plant-based” diet from becoming all-out vegan—they were my inclusion of ghee (clarified butter) and bone broth.

As you may recall, the purpose of my avoiding animal proteins and fats was to lighten the load on my immune system, so that all of its energy could be directed towards the cancer cells in my body. In the case of ghee and bone broth, my research seemed to indicate that the overwhelming benefit of these two foods far outweighed any “animal drag” they might place on my immune system.

Ghee is rich in butyric acid, a short-chain fatty acid that nourishes the cells of the gut. Its effects on cancer cells—colon cancer in particular—have been noted in numerous studies for their impact on inhibiting cancer cell proliferation and inducing apoptosis. It is, however, the latter topic of bone broth which we will take up today.

The Health Benefits

Like ghee, the reason for my inclusion of bone broth was for its known effect on the gut. Bone broth has a long history of being served as a digestive aid. It is documented in traditional cultures as far back as 2,500 years. What science knows so far is that bone broth’s benefit to the gut stems mainly from the collagen it contains—and by the way, one cannot get collagen from plants.

When bones are boiled down even further, gelatin is formed. Both collagen and gelatin contain amino acids such as glutamine, which supports a healthy gut biome. Other elements in bone broths can include hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, chondroitin, calcium, and magnesium. The collagen and gelatin in bone broth also promote joint health and has even been touted by athletes for aiding in faster joint injury recovery.

Skin, hair, and nails are benefited from the inside out by the collagen in bone broth.

Different Types

Unless the water will be discarded (as in boiling pasta), I pretty much use bone broth to replace the water in all recipes that call for it. After dried beans are soaked, I use bone broth to cook the beans soft. I cook rice with bone broth instead of water. Again, as long as the “water” would be absorbed or retained in the food, I replace it with bone broth.

Bone broth is commercially available, but I’ve always made my own. It’s so easy! Typically you will find poultry and beef “flavors” available. Besides taste, each type offers unique benefits. Chicken bones (especially feet bones) add extra collagen to your broth. A University of Nebraska study found that the amino acids that were rendered when making chicken bone broth reduced inflammation in the respiratory system. This is perhaps of interest in these COVID-19 times.

Mammal bones (beef, lamb, etc.), when simmered over long cook times, release nutrients from the bone marrow. It’s said that the marrow contains more nutrients than the respective animal meat itself.

Bone broth is one place where I believe organic is extremely important and cannot be shrugged off. This is because of the potential that non-organic bones could concentrate on toxins and heavy metals. This is not a risk we should take. Also, for similar reasons, do not use pork bones (organic or otherwise) in any circumstance.

How to Make Bone Broth

Simply start with the best and cleanest bones you can find. For my chicken and turkey broth, I save the bones from when I serve the meat. Organic beef and lamb bones are a little harder to come by, so I must buy them from a clean rancher. Expect to pay as much for marrow bones as you would for the steaks from the same animal. It’s still worth it for the nutrition and for the many quarts of broth that they will yield. All bones freeze well and will last until you have enough for a batch.

With beef and lamb bones, I roast them in an oven until browned. This adds additional flavor and color. I place bones in a large stainless steel stockpot (do not use aluminum pots for this, you know why), along with my organic vegetable content. Traditionally this “vegetable content” has always meant carrots, celery, and onions.

While I do this for sure, I also add to those staples my veggie scraps that would otherwise go in the compost bin.

As I trim any fresh organic veggies, I toss the trimmings into a 1-gallon Ziploc bag, which then goes in the freezer until full. This includes potato peels, onion skins, tops and roots, bell pepper trimmings, garlic skins, and anything else that is not moldy or beginning to decay. This adds an amazing variety of nutrients that would not otherwise be in your broth, even if it does steal from your compost pile.

With the stockpot full of bones and veggies, I add a couple of gallons of spring or distilled water (it’s a big stockpot). To help draw nutrients from the alkaline bones, add a couple of ounces of acid… cider vinegar or lemon juice is fine. Then I bring it to a boil and reduce it to a simmer.

I usually simmer my bone broths for 48 hours, reducing the vegetable content to mush and allowing time for the bones to give up their magic minerals and nutrients. I then strain the broth through a sieve first, and after, that through paper towels.

The broth is now ready to go into canning jars, to be either set on the shelf if “canned,” or placed into the freezer if frozen.

If you are canning them, you can fill the jars to the recommended level, which is almost full. If you are freezing your jars, you need to leave room for expansion so the jars do not break as the broth freezes. If it’s a regular-mouth quart jar, I fill to 24 ounces; a wide-mouth will take a little more.

Mine never stays on the shelf or in the freezer that long, but they would keep a year if they did.

Whether you buy it in the store or make it from scraps, I encourage you to research and explore this wondrous, nutritious ingredient.

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