Bone broths have been sweeping the nation! In fact, it’s hard to talk to health-minded foodies without it creeping into the conversation. Bone broths are replacing morning coffees, post-workout shakes, and have even found their way into baby bottles. But they’re nothing new. In fact, all bone broths (beef, chicken, fish, lamb and more) have been staples in the traditional diets of almost every culture for thousands of years. Why? Because they are nutrient-dense, easy to digest, rich in flavour, and boost healing. For example, multiple studies of chicken stock have shown that it can reduce inflammation in the respiratory system, improve digestion, aid immune system function, and heal disorders like allergies, asthma and arthritis. Chicken soup for the soul? More like chicken soup for the body, mind, and soul!
So how does it all work? Well, quality bone broths are made through a slow simmering process, often aided by a dissolving agent (I use apple cider vinegar). This causes the bones and ligaments to release super-powered healing compounds that are hard (if not impossible) to obtain from any other avenue, and are best absorbed and processed by ingesting them this way. Bone broths are a great resource for macrominerals needed for proper health and body functioning – sodium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sulphur to name a few. And, like all animal products, bone broths contain key bodybuilding elements such as vitamins B6, B12, A and D, which are all very difficult to obtain and absorb from other food sources. However, it’s important to keep in mind that a bone broth is only as good as its parts, so you if you want all the benefits listed below, you’ll want ingest bone broths made from pasture-raised and hormone/antibiotic-free animals (which is how I source all of my animal products).
The Collagen Cure
Collagen is the protein found in connective tissue of vertebrate animals and is abundant in bone, marrow, cartilage, tendons, and ligaments (the main ingredients in an awesome broth). In fact, gelatin (the breakdown of collagen) was one of the first functional foods, used as a medical treatment in ancient China. Furthermore, Dr. Francis Pottenger and other world-class researches discovered that gelatin and collagen help people with food allergies and sensitivities tolerate those foods including cows milk and gluten, protect and soothe the lining of the digestive tract, and can aid in healing IBS, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and acid reflux, as well as promote probiotic balance.
Amino Acids to the Rescue
Gelatin in bone broths contains conditional amino acids arginine, glycine, glutamine and proline. The reason they’re called “conditional” is that you don’t produce them very well if you’re ill or stressed, and are therefore under some conditions “essential” (meaning your body doesn’t manufacture them on its own, so you need it from an outside source to maintain healthy function). Such conditions are often further provoked by the common North American diet high in processed carbohydrates, low in quality grass-fed animal products, and devoid of homemade soups and broths. These amino acids contribute largely to a bone broth’s healing properties. Arginine is necessary for immune system function and wound healing. Proline helps repair leaky gut (which many people have, whether they know it or not). Glutamine protects the gut lining, and improves metabolism and muscle building. And glycine prevents the breakdown of protein tissue like muscle, is used to make bile salts, helps detoxify the body of chemicals, and acts as an antioxidant. It’s also a neurotransmitter that improves sleep, memory and performance. Wowza!
The Elixir of Youth
Not convinced yet? There’s one major element of bone broths that might have you converted. Bone broths can turn back time! Sipping on some BB each day can reduce signs of premature aging through the magic of collagen. Gelatin provides bone-building minerals in easily absorbable ways, preventing bone loss and reducing join pain. Arginine is needed for the production and release of growth hormones and helps regenerate damaged liver cells. And proline helps regenerate cartilage, heals joints, reduce cellulite and improves skin elasticity. Talk about beautifying from the inside out!
So if you’d like to see what all the fuss is about (and maybe get healthier, happier and more youthful along the way), pull out that slow cooker and make yourself some bone broth. It really is as easy as everyone says it is!
Slow-Cooker Bone Broth
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 18-24 hours
- 1 lb of bones (preferably fresh, but you can also use the leftover bones from your roast chicken, lamb ribs, etc. Some of the best, and cheapest fresh bone options include knuckle bones, as well as chicken necks and backs)
- 1 quart of filtered water (or enough to just cover the bones)
- 1 tblsp (or a glug) of apple cider vinegar (you can also use a tblsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 medium carrots, roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
- 1 bulb of fennel, roughly chopped
- A bay leaf
- 3-5 black peppercorns
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Mix it up! Try adding spices like turmeric or cumin for an additional anti-inflammatory effect, or fresh herbs like lemongrass and thyme for a flavour boost!
- Place all the ingredients in a large slow-cooker.
- Set to low, and cook for 18-24 hours.
- If incorporating garlic, only add for final 2 hours.
- Once cooked, remove as much of the solid bits as you can with a large perforated spoon.
- Place a strainer over top of a large pot and ladle or poor the broth into the pot so that the smaller bits are strained out.
- Let cool fully and then skim the white fatty layer off the top.
- Store in the fridge or freeze for later.