“Good broth will resurrect the dead.”
Bone broth is an incredibly healing traditional food with myriad health benefits, and it’s so soothing and calming. It’s frequently recommended in certain healing plans like the GAPS diet, leaky gut, autoimmune conditions, and nearly any GI issue. I always recommend broth to weight loss clients and to those with digestive concerns.
Broth made with chicken bones blocks the migration of inflammatory white cells, making chicken broth an invaluable tool to boost immunity during cold and flu season. If you feel run down, make a batch of broth before you really start to feel crappy, and drink 8 ounces 2-3 times daily for recovery. Broth can improve digestion and metabolism too. I drink mine with plenty of sea salt and curry (for the trace minerals and anti-inflammatory turmeric), or I use it as a base for soups and stews.
Following the below recipe is important, because when I’m discussing broth, I am most certainly NOT talking about the stuff you buy in cans or in a box from the grocery store. Not only has it not been properly prepared, many brands contain additives and MSG (look for key words like ‘natural flavor’ or ‘autolyzed yeast extract’ in the list of ingredients. MSG hides under those terms).
If you don’t have time to make your own, it’s now possible to order organic, top quality bone broth made without additives or junk (and yes, it does gel!). I highly recommend Kettle & Fire broths. Check them out here!
First, the benefits. Bone broth, when properly prepared, is very rich in the minerals we are so sorely lacking in our diets. Even if you’re eating a diet full of all kinds of veggies (half your plate should be veggies of all kinds!), modern farming practices have left the soil that even the best organic crops grow in depleted of the key minerals we need. Minerals are critical for good cardio function, stress response, and enzymatic reactions in the body.
Broth is calcium-rich, and many folks (especially those of us who avoid dairy, which isn’t even the greatest source of calcium. Get calcium from your leafy greens!) are concerned with not getting enough calcium. Broth is also rich in magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, potassium sulfate, flouride, collagen, glucosamine, chondroiton, and other trace minerals.
Broth contains both collagen and gelatin, two super healing components. Collagen nourishes joints, tendons, ligaments, skin and bone, and it improves skin elasticity–drinking broth makes skin smooth and supple and may reduce cellulite. Collagen also contains arginine and glycine, two important amino acids. Arginine is said to improve metabolism, making it useful for weight loss, and glycine helps muscle recovery. Glycine may also improve digestion by increasing gastric acid secretion. Broth can be a useful tool for healing leaky gut syndrome (it also contains a bit of glutamine, which is an essential component the body uses for leaky gut repair). Read more about leaky gut here. Gelatin is quite a superfood as well. It improves skin and hair, nails, also improves joints, helps reduce cravings, making it useful for weight loss, and improves digestion and muscle tissue.
Broth can be a valuable weight loss tool–the high mineral content can help combat sugar cravings. Try sipping it in the afternoons when the 3pm sugar cravings hit. Broth is also incredibly nourishing for the digestive tract, making it invaluable for reducing intestinal inflammation from foods like gluten, sugar, and dairy, and for leaky gut healing, as mentioned earlier. I often use it with my vegetarian clients who are just starting to re-explore the world of meat. They often have fatty acid or amino acid deficiencies, so broth works well for them.
How to Make Traditional Bone Broth
So, how do you make it? Here is the easiest method I use. I make it on the stovetop and let it simmer 24 hours, but you could also use a crock pot. The longer and lower you simmer your broth, the better, as more minerals will be extracted, and the flavor is richer.
Bone Broth: Easy crock pot method
- 2-4 lb bones of pastured animals. I don’t recommend mixing different types of bones, meaning use only chicken or only beef, for example. I use beef or raw beef marrow bones, or for a chicken broth, chicken bones/back/neck/carcass from a roasted chicken. Every Thanksgiving I’ll use the turkey carcass for a broth. Always get organic/grass fed bones. I’ll save them in a container in the freezer until I have about a pound or more. You can also save egg shells and use some of those in the broth. Buy chicken backs, necks, heads and feet, which are usually cheap and yield a collagen and gelatin-rich broth.
- 2 organic celery stalks (optional)
- 1 organic onion, chopped (optional)
- 6 cloves organic garlic
- filtered water
- Sprigs of thyme/rosemary/sage as desired
- Add sea veggies for more trace minerals–kombu and kelp are great for this
- Sea salt and pepper to taste (I often add before drinking)
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar (important for the extraction of minerals)
Put all ingredients in slow cooker, then pour enough filtered water just to cover everything. Set to low and let it cook for 24 hours. You can add any veggies you have that need to be used, like carrot, onion, leeks, celery, but note that green veggies like celery and leek will make the broth bitter, so I add those after about 16 hours. Don’t use greens like kale or chard.
Strain broth and store in glass containers (preferably). In the fridge, you’ll notice a layer of fat form–don’t skim this. It seals the broth and keeps it fresh. Skim the fat just before you drink, and drink it between meals, in the afternoons when sugar cravings hit, or in the evenings after dinner if you’re a night eater. Use it as a base for soups and stews. It should be super gelatinous, like meat jello. If it’s not, use more bones.
If you don’t want to use the crockpot, just put everything in a large dutch oven on the stove and let it simmer up to 24 hours. Same method. Read more about broth and digestive healing here.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.