Just awoke from a 2 hour nap. Staying up until 3 a.m. the night before a fasting day in not a good plan…. but I couldn't just stop in the middle of writing last night!
Anyways. I'm still a touch drowsy, but after a bite of Bubbie's Horseradish I'm not in danger of climbing back into bed. Seriously. Horseradish--more effective than coffee. But horseradish aside, what I really want to focus on is the first thing I had when I got up this morning:
I make a SUPER concentrated batch of it about once a month, and then freeze it in small containers or ice cube trays. The filled cup is pretty self-explanatory (that's my cup of hot broth!) ...and the stuff next to it is supposed to be an example of my bag of frozen broth cubes. Not awkward looking at all.
So… what is it? Basically, I jam-pack my crockpot full of bones, cover it all with water, add a bunch of salt, vinegar, smashed garlic cloves, and quartered onions and let it simmer.
For at least 2 days.
It has a pretty cool history. Bone broth--or some variation of it--has been an element of almost every traditional society, and with good reason. Dr. Auer writes:
Almost every culture throughout history has used bone broth for its nutritional significance, versatility and overall deliciousness. Chinese medicine practitioners use bone broth to strengthen the kidney, support digestive systems and build blood. The term “Jewish penicillin” is used for chicken soup, known to inhibit cell inflammation and mitigate cold symptoms. And the English sip beef tea, or beef broth, used since the Victorian era.
There's a South American proverb that states:
Good broth will resurrect the dead.
Bone broth is awesome, and how it works is super interesting. I’m not sure if anyone has done this, but apparently if you soak a chicken bone in vinegar for a day or so, it becomes rubbery and bendable. If Youtube is to be trusted, this is true:
So… what does a bendy chicken bone have to do with your health?
More than you would think. The acidity of the vinegar breaks down elements in the bone that keep it strong: calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, etc. But these nutrients can’t just disappear—they’ve gone from the bone into the vinegar. This is the basic principal that bone broth functions on—a transfer of nutrients from the solid bones to the liquid they’re simmering in. Vinegar (I use Bragg’s apple cider vinegar) is an essential ingredient to make this transfer as effective as possible.
So that’s how all that nutrition gets into the broth. What’s REALLY cool though, is that it’s a nearly perfect package of complementary nutrients that allow the wonderful health building elements to actually be absorbed and used by your body. This is important because in spite of America’s incessant need to supplement (according to consumerreports.com Americans spent $26.7 billion on dietary supplements in 2009, with over half of the adult population taking some form of supplementation) people are not well. The 2012 National Healthcare Expenditure (NHE) was nearly $3 trillion.
Our society may be health conscious… but our health doesn't show it.
Take calcium, for example:
A number of studies have come out showing that weak bones aren’t necessarily from a lack of dietary intake of calcium. The following study concludes that bone mass density (BMD) is not affected by dietary intake of calcium, and that calcium supplementation do not decrease hip fracture rates in older women. http://press.endocrine.org/doi/abs/10.1210/jc.2012-1407 So why are so many people encouraged to supplement?
We know bones are solid because of calcium and other minerals in them. In theory, eating more calcium should promote higher bone mass density. What is often missed, is that it’s not about how much you consume, but how much your body can actually use.
It's absorption, not consumption that counts.
That’s why bone broth is effective. Your body knows how to use it. That being said, let’s look at some of the nutrients in bone broth—it goes way beyond calcium. Phosporus, magnesium, and Vitamin D are just a few of the minerals found in bone broth.
Glycine and Proline
Bone broth also contains the amino acids Glycine and Proline, which The Paleo Mom (scientist turned stay-at-home mom) gives an amazing overview of:
"Glycine and proline are two key components of connective tissue, the biological “glue” that holds our bodies together. There are many types of connective tissue and these two amino acids feature prominently in most of them, from the cartilage that forms our joints to the extracellular matrix that acts as a scaffold for the cells in our individual organs, muscles, arteries etc. Without these two amino acids, we would literally fall apart. So, it is no surprise that we need these two amino acids to heal, not only gaping wounds, but also the microscopic damage done to blood vessels and other tissues in our body caused by inflammation and infection. In fact, glycine is known to inhibit the immune system and reduce activation of inflammatory cells in your body. Whether you are trying to heal from an infection, address an auto-immune disease, or reduce inflammation caused by neolithic foods or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth, high levels of dietary glycine are critical. In addition, glycine is required for synthesis of DNA, RNA and many proteins in the body. As such, it plays extensive roles in digestive health, proper functioning of the nervous system and in wound healing. Glycine aids digestion by helping to regulate the synthesis and of bile salts and secretion of gastric acid. It is involved in detoxification and is required for production of glutathione, an important antioxidant. Glycine helps regulate blood sugar levels by controlling gluconeogenesis (the manufacture of glucose from proteins in the liver). Glycine also enhances muscle repair/growth by increasing levels of creatine and regulating Human Growth Hormone secretion from the pituitary gland. This wonderful amino acid is also critical for healthy functioning of the central nervous system. In the brain, it inhibits excitatory neurotransmitters, thus producing a calming effect. Glycine is also converted into the neurotransmitter serine, which promotes mental alertness, improves memory, boosts mood, and reduces stress."
And if you're not thoroughly convinced yet, here's another incredible nutrient in bone broth:
Collagen (or Gelatin)
Collagens are a large family of biomolecules responsible for keeping your joints healthy… and a ton of other things. When it’s extracted for food it’s called gelatin. This is what makes jello gel, and what makes everything congeal at the bottom of the container when you put left-over chicken it in the fridge. It's also a heavy hitter in the beauty market as an ingredient in facial and lip products. People will do crazy things for beauty, as this article proves: Beauty Products from the Skin of Executed Chinese Prisoners
Collagen is an essential part of us. It comes from the Greek, “Kola” (meaning glue) and is the most common protein in the body (%25.) It's in charge of keeping things together and in place. I mentioned joints above, but ligaments, tendons, skin, nails, hair, cartilage, the gut lining, mucous membranes, blood vessels, intervertebral discs, and even the cornea of the eye owe much of their existence to collagen, and depend on it for proper function and health.
Food for Thought: Glucosamine as a Supplement
When I was having knee problems from running, I started taking a supplement form of glucosamine. A lot of people know it as a joint health supplement, but glucosamine is just one of the biomolecules that makes up the family of collagens present in bone broth. So is glucosamine in bone broth? Absolutely, but with such a broad spectrum of collagens in bone broth, focusing on the glucosamine is like having someone drop a pile of change in your lap and only wanting the nickels. There’s so much more!
Who should drink it?
- People who are aging: Body tissues will break down if they’re not replenished by proper nutrition and bone broth will give them exactly what they need where they need them.
- Athletes: It’s a fantastic way to prevent joint pain and bone damage (like shin splints or stress fractures) and speed recovery for existing conditions.
- Individuals who suffer from arthritis: joints and bones become smooth as butter.
- People with gut/digestive Issues: The gelatin content in bone broth is incredibly beneficial in rebuilding a leaky gut, which is when your gut lining (responsible for letting nutrients pass from your digestive system into your body) has become too permeable and is letting things into your blood stream that aren’t supposed to be there.
- Cellulite? Drink bone broth! Collagen improves skin elasticity and rebuilds skin's structural integrity.
- Anyone who is a live human being.
Note: the list began with people who are aging, and ended with live human beings. Most of us fall into at least one of those categories. And seriously… I've barely scratched the surface of all there is to love about this stuff. If your curiosity is piqued, here are a few trusted sources with great articles for further study:
I'll be making a delicious batch of bone broth in the next week or two… and a how-to video will definitely be part of that process :)
Update!! Here's the promised video:
Works cited (other than those above):
- Medical Biochemistry at a Glance, J. G. Salway