Written by Isabel Natrins
Bone broth has earned its time-honoured reputation for healing and modern nutritional science is showing us that granny was right-on-the-money!
The science behind bone broth is huge and emerging. In this article we’re going to condense what the science is showing us into five reasons why bone broth is … hot!
#1. Bone broth beats the sag!
As we age, we all check our looks for dry and wrinkly skin, dry, flaky nails, thin wispy hair and saggy muscles. We worry about stiff, achy joints and digestive issues like reflux, IBS, IBD … and more.
Did you know that after the age of 20 our production of collagen declines by around 1% annually? And that stress and autoimmune conditions further reduce our ability to produce collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and one of the most studied in science. As far as the beauty industry is concerned, ‘collagen is king’ – predicted to earn them a cool $4billon by 2020!
Bone broth breaks down (denatures) collagen into gelatin (a jelly-like substance) making it bio-available (easily digested and absorbed) to our body. Besides being good for hair, nails, skeletal and connective tissue, gelatin helps your digestion by lining the mucous membranes of your digestive tract, protecting and sealing them against damage from food or drinks. And if that wasn’t enough – it increases the nutritional value of other foods that you eat with it … indeed there’s an old wisdom that a small cup of broth should be consumed with every meal!
#2. Bone broth ‘pre-digests’ proteins and other nutrients – so you don’t have to.
– Proteins (Amino acids)
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein – they’re needed to make and repair every tissue and organ in our body. The amino acids that are key to collagen are glycine, proline and glutamine.
- Glycine is needed to fuel the liver’s detoxification processes – especially in Phase 2 – Conjugation. It’s used to make haemoglobin in the red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body and give blood its red colour). Glycine is also needed for the production of bile salts and in the secretion of gastric acid to aid digestion.
- Proline supports skin health – especially when paired with vitamin C.
- Glutamine provides food for your intestinal lining and can actually regenerate it! No kidding! And, when taken as a supplement, on an empty stomach can help diarrhoea. So move over Imodium!
When it comes to minerals, calcium tends to hog the limelight. But for sound bone and overall health we need a full range of minerals and magnesium, potassium, sulphur, selenium iron, phosphorus, zinc, copper … and more are plentiful and easily absorbable in bone broth.
– Glucosaminoglycans (GAGs)
Hylauronic acid is prized by the beauty industry and we pay dearly for products containing it! Why? Because it a glucos-amino-glycan and these provide lubrication and cushioning for skin, joints, muscles and eyes. Another well-known example of GAGs are: glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate (taken as (expensive) supplements for joint health).
How to get your GAGs? Just make sure your bone broth gels up nicely and you’ll be getting a great source for nothing!
– Healthy fats
Bone marrow, skin and fatty meats (from pasture-fed beef and poultry, or fish) are chock-full of satisfying, mood and brain health supporting healthy fats. Fats are crucial for carrying the ‘fat-soluble’ vitamins A, D, E, and K into your body and because fats are satisfying they help keep your weight down! You could do worse than to opt for a cup of bone broth over one of those fake, processed meal replacements.
#3. Bone broth is a seriously ‘intelligent’ food. Seriously?
Seriously! Our ancestors always knew it and now ‘modern’ nutritional science is showing us that when we eat a specific part of an animal it nourishes that same part of our body! Did you know that fish stock – made with intact fish heads as well as other bones – yields optimum nutrition for our eyes?
Why? Because the tissue in the back of the eyeball contains the highest source of available vitamin A – known to support, specifically, healthy eyesight. So forget carrots. If you have trouble with night vision make fish head broths – great in fish soups and seafood risottos.
Oh … and seriously, eat more liver!
– Smart nutrition for kidney and adrenal function
Age old wisdom from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tells us that bone broth nourishes our kidneys, supports our vital essence and builds blood. How so?
In TCM, bone (and teeth) tissue relates to the ‘kidney-adrenal system’ and therefore consuming bone broth will support kidney and adrenal function. Dr Catherine Shanahan (Deep Nutrition) suggests that bone broth may actually patch the holes in damaged kidney tissue which causes sub-optimal kidney function.
– Smart nutrition for bones and teeth
Did you know that bone broth contains the same minerals, in proper proportion, as do our teeth? Calcium and phosphorous (the two main tooth minerals) make up around 65% of bone broth.
So when you notice that the bones in your broth are soft and yielding (after hours, even days of cooking) you can be sure that it’s really rich in bone and tooth nourishing minerals.
And, provided your diet has sufficient minerals, your saliva can re-mineralise your teeth, heal tooth decay and gum (peridontal) disease! Gum disease is the #1 reason for adult tooth loss so this is really great news.
In fact, tooth decay and gum disease are related; both involve the deterioration of bone and connective tissue. If left untreated, gum disease breaks down the bone which acts as a foundation for teeth – and eventually the they simply fall out.
So you might be thinking, why didn’t my dentist tell me this!? Well, one reason (and … erm … you may be able to guess there may be others $$$) is that our ‘modern’ diets are so impoverished in optimal minerals that the concept of tooth re-mineralisation is largely absent and not well-understood in our culture.
#4. Bone broth is a natural, beautifying flavour enhancer!
No matter what it says on the label, any processed stock or bouillon will contain processing chemicals (often not on the label) preservatives and the like. Have you noticed that the flavour enhancer MSG (monosodium glutamate) is often found in stock cubes and a host of other processed foods. It’s NOT the same as the naturally occurring glutamine in bone broth – rather it’s an excito-toxin which messes with your body and particularly your brain.
Making your own natural flavour enhancer (bone broth) delivers not only clean flavour, but health and beauty too!!
#5. Bone broth is a purse, animal and planet friendly
The (completely illogical) preference that we’ve developed for expensive ‘choice’ cuts and lean meats has not only impoverished our health, it’s also emptied our purses and spawned the growth of inhumane intensive, factory farms with all the environmental damage they wreak!
Back in the day, when we ate ‘nose-to-tail’, not only were we healthier from eating all the parts of the animal (cheaper cuts, slow-cooked, on the bone are vastly superior) for all the reasons above, but a whole cow, for example, would feed a family for the year!
And if all else fails … reach for gelatin powder
You can get a food-based supplement in the form of gelatin powder. Not just for jelly; its a safe and effective supplement (one of the very few we recommend) which can lead to seriously good nail growth!
Nutritionally, there’s really no substitute for a properly made bone broth. However, when we don’t make enough of the real deal to drink our daily cup, there is help at hand. Powdered gelatin is non-inflammatory and can give you more of the amino acids that your body needs on a daily basis; providing a complementary type of protein to all the ‘muscle’ meat we easily consume as part of a western diet.
If your digestion is very weak, you’ll do better to avoid regular gelatin. Start with a slow cooked bone broth and gradually work up to a mixture of broth and collagen hydrolysate until you can better tolerate regular gelatin.
For the best digestion, eat gelatin with a source of fats and some carbohydrates (such as white rice) to stimulate strong digestive juices to properly use the protein.
Featured image credit: NY Post 2015
Souper Food: What Doctor’s Don’t Tell You (Magazine) February 2016
Jenny McGruther, Nourished Kitchen: Bone Broth, Broths and Stocks
OraWellness, Nourished Kitchen: How Bone Broths Support Your Adrenals, Bones and Teeth
Catherine Crew, Butter Nutrition: Have this strange drink every day …
Rami Nagel (2010): Cure Tooth Decay: Heal and Prevent Cavities with Nutrition
Sarah Pope, The Healthy Home Economist: Peridontal Problems? Bone Broth Key to Your Recovery
Sarah Pope, The Healthy Home Economist: Bone Broth and MSG: What You Need to Know
Dr Ray Peat, Reports on research into ageing, nutrition, and hormones: raypeat.com