Bone broth is the buzzword of the moment in the wellness sphere. Forever-young celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Halle Berry, Elle MacPherson and Salma Hayek credit bone broth as their elixir of youth.
But whilst bone broth can help to keep our skin youthful and glowing as we age, that’s not the only benefit – it is also highly nutritious, healing for the digestive system, anti-inflammatory, and immune boosting.
Now, bone broth is not a “new thing” – bone broths have been around in various forms throughout the ages. It was used in Egypt, China, Greece, Japan and South America for its powerful medicinal qualities. Later, in the Victorian era, gelatin was extracted from the broth to make desserts, and broths were used in fine dining as a base for soups, stocks, and gravy.
Its fall from grace was complicated, due in part to the rise of “more convenient” stock cubes and the discovery and popularity of MSG – but with these new inventions, the medicinal and therapeutic qualities of traditional broth seemed lost.
It’s funny to me, and also beautiful, that in this crazy, fast paced, technology drenched world with a multi-billion dollar fitness industry, and a population who are sicker than ever, we’re starting to return back to our roots and find healing and sanctuary there.
The humble bone broth is part of that de-revolution. There’s something so irresistibly primal and grounding even in the process of making it, let alone sipping on it at the end of a long work day.
WHAT IS BONE BROTH?
Bone broth, as its name implies, is a broth made from boiling bones from healthy (grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free) animals along with vegetables, herbs, and spices.
As it’s cooking, the myriad nutrients stored in the bone marrow like gelatin, collagen, calcium, and other trace vitamins and minerals are released into the soup, together with the array of vitamins from the accompanying vegetables.
Bone broth can be made from the bones of any animal: beef, lamb, or chicken are popular choices. I personally use grass-fed beef bones or organic free range chicken carcass.
THE BENEFITS OF BONE BROTH
Collagen is responsible for making our skin elastic, our bones strong, our organs protected, our nails strong, our joints healthy, and our hair strong and shiny, as well as aiding in muscle growth and gut health.
Trouble is, our body’s natural collagen production slows down significantly as we age, from as early as our mid-20s. Production drastically nosedives after we hit 30, and collagen levels drop in our skin by as much 2% each year from there .
Bone broth is high in collagen and helps to replenish our stores, which is what gives it its incredible anti-aging qualities. Collagen also helps to heal stomach lining and keep our connective tissue, bones, and teeth, healthy and strong.
Aside from collagen, bone broth has two other nutrients that make it incredibly potent for healing the gut and promoting gut health: gelatin and the amino acid glutamine.
Studies have shown that glutamine helps to heal the intestinal wall, which can assist with digestive conditions like leaky gut and IBS.
Gelatin enhances gastric acid secretion and restores mucous lining to the gut. It also helps to keep you regular by absorbing water and keeping the digestive tract hydrated.
The long cooking time for bone broth releases chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, two anti-inflammatory compounds, from the cartilage and tendons. Glucosamine also keeps your joints healthy.
Aside from its anti-inflammatory properties, bone broth further promotes fast healing due to its solid hit of amino acids arginine, glutamine, (and cysteine in chicken broth), which help to bolster the immune system, aiding in sickness prevention and fast recovery. I had a doctor who would always prescribe lots of clear homemade chicken broth, no matter what was ailing me. Now I know why!
The other many benefits of bone broth are too numerous to write about here, for brevity’s sake, but my favourite ones include:
Arthritis and joint relief
Bleeding regulation (a Godsend if you suffer from heavy periods)
Shinier, stronger hair and nails
Improves muscle growth and recovery
Improves bone and tooth health
Prevents or cures the common cold and other viral infections
Speeds up recovery from gastro and other intestinal illnesses
May protect the heart and increase heart health
Promotes tissue regeneration
Boosts brain cognition
Helps to fight infection
Helps to lower stress levels
Restores exercise capacity
Suggested Further Resources: 51 Science Backed Bone Broth Benefits - Happy Mammoth
HOW TO DRINK BONE BROTH
This batch will last you a long time – I kept it in the pot for a week and drank it every day, and now I still have the leftovers frozen in batches that will last me weeks.
My favourite tips:
I like to drink a cup in the evening before my main meal to help to soothe my nervous system and prepare me for a good night’s sleep. The glycine in bone broth aids with stress relief and helps with proper sleep function. A cup in the evening also fills my belly, so I don’t overeat at dinner. There’s nothing more detrimental to sleep than going to bed with an overfull stomach.
I drink a cup daily in winter to keep my immune system robust and strong. For any breakthrough illness, it’s a great way to get vitamins, minerals and electrolytes in when a virus has robbed me of my appetite. The best part is, because of its high nutrient content, I recover from illnesses much faster.
Instead of going out and buying commercial stock, which is filled with MSG and a bunch of ingredients I don’t recognise, I use my bone broth as a homemade stock base in recipes. Bonus domestic goddess points when you whip out your homemade stock like you’re freaking Nigella.
My secret guilty pleasure is two-minute noodles/ramen, but these are a bomb of trans fats and MSG, among other things, so I’ve been trying to phase them out. Recently, I’ve started boiling thin rice noodles up in bone broth instead of using the wheat based noodles with those MSG-laden flavour packets. It’s just as easy as the packet variety, and doubly as delicious, especially with some added leftover cooked chicken breast or prawns, a cheeky dash of ketjap manis or tamari, sesame oil, and whatever vegetables I have to hand. So good!
I DON’T HAVE MUCH TIME. CAN I JUST BUY BONE BROTH READY MADE?
Yes, absolutely. BUT I prefer to invest the time and make it at home, and here's why:
When I make it at home, I know exactly what’s in it. This way I can steer clear of added “natural” flavours and colourings (MSG in disguise), non-stable vegetable oils, GMOs, unfiltered water, gluten, thickeners, grain fed animal products, and other harmful ingredients that would negate the benefits of the broth.
It’s way cheaper to make it at home yourself. Like, dirt cheap. Like, it’s kind of highway robbery when you consider how much they are charging for ready made organic bone broth versus how much you can make it for.
If you think you don’t have the time or culinary skill set, guess again. You do. It’s so incredibly simple and hands off to make. Even if you’re time crunched, or like me you have as much passion and flare for the culinary arts as a garden spade, you will be able to pull this off effortlessly. Done right, there’s very little washing up, mess, and prep that needs to go into it.
If you just really can't fit it into your meal prep or you don’t have access to a grass fed butcher, the next best thing is the Nutra Organics Bone Broth range (Australia) or the Kettle and Fire Bone Broth range (USA), which use grass fed beef, and are GMO and gluten free.
THE BONE BROTH RECIPE
And now without further ado, we arrive at the recipe for making your own delicious, warming, nourishing, immune boosting, gut healing, anti aging bone broth. I based this recipe off the amazing one at Wellness Mama, but tweaked it and drew from various resources, family wisdom, and the input of my husband, who is an incredible cook.
Incidentals you will need
A slow cooker.
A grass fed butcher. A good one. The bones absolutely must be grass fed, and hormone, free range and antibiotic free if you’re using chicken carcasses/feet (here’s why). Your butcher will know what to do when you go in there and say in a lost sort of voice “I need some bones for a bone broth...”.
A water filter. A Brita water pitcher will do fine, just don’t use unfiltered town water.
Save your veggie scraps (potato, pumpkin, onion and carrot skins, carrot and zucchini tops, et cetera). Make sure they have been very well washed in filtered water (preferably pre-soaked in vinegar and water solution) prior to using in the broth. I keep my scraps frozen so that they stay fresh and nutrient dense.
1 – 1.5 kg grass fed soup bones/chicken carcass 2 free range hormone-free chicken feet (bleurgh, I know, but trust me) 4 L filtered water 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar 1 tbsp salt 1 tsp peppercorns 2 cloves garlic a nub of ginger (as much as you please, depending on how much you like ginger) 1 onion 2 carrots 2 stalks celery 2-3 bay leaves 2-3 cloves 2 stems of rosemary 1 tsp turmeric 1 tsp cardamom pods whatever veggie scraps you have to hand
How to Make It
Pre-roast the bones for 30 minutes at 180 C. This helps to improve the flavour – if you don't, the broth can have a funny "raw meat" taste which can be off putting. It's fine to eat if you skip this step though.
Place the bones in the slow cooker pot, pour over the filtered water and add the vinegar. Allow them to sit in the pot like this while you prepare the veggies. This bit is important. The acid in the vinegar helps to extract the nutrients from the bone marrow.
The veggies require very little prep. I mainly pre-soak them in vinegar and wash them well, cut them in half or roughly chop them a bit, and toss them right in, skin and all. I peel the garlic bulb and toss the cloves in whole.
Add all the added herbs and spices as well as the salt and pepper. There’s space here to play with what you add, depending on your individual tastes and whatever you have in your spice rack.
Turn the slow cooker on “LOW”.
After about 20 minutes, a light frothy layer will bubble to the surface of the broth. Scrape this off the top with a soup ladle. These are the impurities from the bones. If you use grass fed bones, there won’t be much froth/foam at all. Check back periodically and scrape the fizzy bits over the next two hours.
Allow this to simmer on low for up to 48 hours, but a bare minimum of 36 hours, in order to get maximum nutrient and flavour from the broth. Give it a stir when you remember.
Turn off the heat and allow the broth to cool just slightly before straining.
When cool, pour into a large glass jar. It will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days and leftovers can be frozen.
You will notice when it cools that a layer of fat hardens on top. It is totally up to you whether or not you choose to keep it. Once cool it is easy to remove the fat, which can then be used as a nutritious and flavoursome cooking oil.
Store leftover broth in ice cubes so that you can easily thaw it in portions. One ice cube should hold about 1/3 cup of broth.
THE EDIT//shop the story
Kettle & Fire Grass Fed Bone Broth CrockPot 8-Quart Slow Cooker Brita Large 10 Cup Water Filter Pitcher The Bone Broth Secret by Louise Hay and Heather Dane