The Healing Benefits of Bone Broth
Bone broth is one of my favourite healing foods. Bone broth benefits are plentiful. Packed with amino acids, fats and minerals, it serves as one of the best natural gut healing resources we have at our disposal. As naturopathic doctors, we often include bone broth in our digestive protocols.
What makes it so healing?
Bone broth contains multiple beneficial nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin or glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), and minerals like phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. More importantly, what seems to be its main beneficial ingredient is gelatin. Gelatin is that jelly-like substance that we often associate to jello (natural forms don't come in green and blue). Gelatin and other non-muscle meats (eg organ meats, skin, marrow) are necessary to balance the methionine levels found in muscle meats. Methionine is an essential amino acid that, when in excess, will readily metabolize to a harmful substrate called homocysteine.
High homocysteine levels have been associated with heart disease and stroke by contributing to plaque formation in arterial walls. It's also been associated with increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. Methionine is the precursor to another amino acid called cysteine, both of which are required for protein synthesis. Methionine is also required in the synthesis of carnitine and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e), which both serve multiple biochemical functions, most notably detoxification. The trouble begins when methionine is metabolized in part to homocysteine, which contributes to adverse health effects. To balance the effects of homocysteine, we require another amino acid called glycine. The main source of glycine is animal skin and bones, or the gelatinous parts of the animal--this is where bone broth benefits enter the picture.
Ancient healing knowledge
Back in the day, our ancestors would have more commonly consumed bone broth and other non-muscle meats. This was likely because animal proteins were not as readily accessible and people ate what was available. Going further back, hunter-gatherer populations would have eaten whole animals and not just the muscle meats. We still see this in today’s few remaining hunter-gatherer populations. In fact, many carnivorous animals will eat organ meat prior to eating the muscle meat.
This all to say that until recently, we humans did not have access to the abundance of muscle meat that we do today. The simple solution is to balance this abundance with consumption of non-muscle meat, starting with bone broth.
Make it an every-day health staple
In our home, we tend to have a batch of bone broth brewing most days. The added benefit to this is that the house always smells great. At the beginning of the week, I take two bones out of the freezer, throw them in the slow cooker, add water and ingredients, and turn it on low. You can easily do this with a pot on the stove and just bring it to a low simmer. After 8-12 hours, it’s ready. With every cup we drink, we add some water and a pinch of salt (for taste) back into the pot so we don’t finish the batch too quickly. That batch will yield goodness for at least 2-3 days. When we’ve drained the pot, we discard the bones and start again. Typically, we don’t exceed 1-2 cups each per day.
Here’s a simple recipe so you can give it a try!
- Place two 1" x 1" bone pieces in a pot or slow cooker
- Fill pot with 2L of water
- Add 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or liberal to taste)
- Add ¼ - ½ TBSP of salt (or liberal to taste)
- Add herbs for flavour (bay leaves, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, garlic, onions)
- Bring to boil
- Reduce to simmer for 8+ hours
*Originally published February 25, 2016