Bone broth has been a staple food throughout human history and is believed to provide many health benefits including healthy aging, digestion, and joints. You can even make bone broth in your own kitchen with ingredients that are easy to find. Unlike “flavored” bouillon cubes and mixes, using actual bone contains vitamins, minerals, and real animal flavors that taste great and may be great for you!
It may surprise you to learn that there’s more to bones than meets the eye. The vertebral skeleton of animals is made up of potentially hundreds of individual pieces connected together by tissue. Each piece, or bone, is actually a complex organ comprised of several layers of soft and mineralized tissue, including marrow, connective tissue, and cartilage.
When you boil bone, the nutrients found within the bone tissue and cells are drawn out into the surrounding water. The resulting bone broth carries those nutrients and their many benefits. You can also safely store the liquid for about a week, drink it cold or warm, or use it in just about any recipe. You are free to add any other ingredients like your favorite vegetables when making bone broth; however, these should be strained along with the bone to ensure the broth doesn’t spoil.
Prior to making your own bone broth, you will want to select the right bones. You can use any animal that has bones, understanding that what the animal eats may affect the quantity of potentially beneficial vitamins and minerals. Game animals tend to rely on a diet of primarily green plants, bugs, or other natural food sources, making them an ideal source of bone. Use Local Harvest to find local sources of good quality bone. Or, for convenience and cost, just go to the local butcher shop and select chicken or cow bone. Look for bones that still have fat or connective tissue attached as these contain nutrients that will make the bone broth even better.
The Many Bone Broth Benefits
The complex, dynamic properties of bone require vitamins and minerals to grow, form, and retain both shape and structure. Bones store many of these nutrients for later use, which is why bone broth is becoming so popular. These nutrients can be drawn out of the bone in boiling water without having to grind the bone into a powder or eat the marrow.
Supports healthy bones and protein synthesis: Bone is comprised primarily of a calcium and phosphorus mixture deposited around a protein matrix that aids the strength and flexibility of the entire skeleton. Calcium is vital to several bodily functions, including muscle contraction and relaxation, dilation of blood vessels, nerve transmission and hormonal secretion. Phosphorus supports the function of calcium, including protein synthesis and energy storage.
Supports healthy-looking skin, hair, and nails: Collagen makes up 90% of the organic matrix of bone. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and serves as a “glue” to hold different cells together. It also contains amino acids like arginine, glutamine, glycine and proline that support cellular development, protein synthesis, and energy storage. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats may support cholesterol levels already in the normal range.
Helps maintain joint mobility: Gelatin is derived from cooking collagen and has many of the same benefits, though it may be easier to digest. Glucosamine sulfate is a chemical compound found in the fluid around joints and is used by the body to build tendons, ligaments, cartilage.
Easily digestible: Liquids are easier to digest than solid foods, especially during times of stress when the digestive system is not functioning normally. Liquids move through the digestive system and are absorbed more quickly when compared to solid foods that need to be broken down. Eating solid foods as part of a healthy diet and exercise are important, however, a liquid diet may help support weight management, maintain blood sugar levels already in the normal range, and support the gastrointestinal tract.
Source of bone marrow adiponectin: According to research at the University of Michigan Health System, bone marrow contains a hormone called adiponectin that, when higher levels are found in the body, may benefit several aspects of human health. The study that included people with anorexia, patients undergoing chemotherapy, rabbits and mice suggests that low levels of adiponectin in the body may correlate to negative health conditions, and high levels with positive health conditions. As noted in the research:
Researchers have long studied the function of our fat, or ‘adipose’ tissue, in hopes of better understanding the link between obesity and ill health. One possible link is adiponectin, a hormone produced by adipose tissue that helps preserve insulin action. High levels of adiponectin are linked to decreased risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. People with obesity have the lowest levels of adiponectin – potentially increasing their risk for developing such diseases while the leaner someone gets, the more adiponectin they have.
Support for healthy aging: Bone broth contains compounds, vitamins, and minerals that seek to support healthy joints and maintain mobility. Bone broth is part of the larger healthy-aging puzzle. Combine bone broth with supplements, healthy exercise, and understanding of how overall nutrition affects cellular development.
Start Using Bone Broth in Your Recipes
Fast food or good food fast? Bone broth can be used in slow-cooker recipes, soups, and more, no matter your flair for cuisine from Mexico to the Middle East. Try some of the recipes we covered in a previous bone broth blog.
Want a simple and nutritious chicken bone broth recipe? You’ll need any mixture of bones, and 1 tablespoon vinegar (apple cider or white).
- Place the bones into a large crockpot.
- Fill with water to completely cover all the bones.
- Add your vinegar.
- Set crockpot to low for at least 6 hours; up to 24 hours for chicken and 48 hours for beef.
- When the crockpot is cool enough to handle, pour the broth through a sieve into a storage container or use tongs to pick the bones out.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Be sure to use your homemade broth within 5 to 7 days or freeze it for later.