Homemade bone broth has a long history in folk medicine across many cultures. From the Jewish tradition of chicken soup for a cold to the iconic Asian stock pot, the art of making broth crosses cultural lines and transcends time. Archeologists have discovered evidence that our ancestors were putting pots in open fires at least 20,000 years ago. Quite literally, the nutritious art of making broth may be older than history. An old South American proverb claims a good broth will resurrect the dead. While this may be overstated, homemade broth does contain an impressive nutritional profile, while Florence Nightingale advised, “Beef tea may be chosen as an illustration of great nutrient power in sickness.”
Broth and collagen
Stock, bone broth, and broth are somewhat interchangeable terms. Stock usually refers to a preparation with bones and meat. Bone broth is usually just bones. Broth can refer to either preparation. Stock, which includes meat, generally has a fuller, richer flavor. However, using meatless, discarded bones is considerably less expensive and yields similar nutrition.
What it is about homemade bone broth that has given it such a longstanding legacy of healing?
Bone broth is rich in collagen peptides. These three-stranded proteins are essential to good health. Collagen is the main protein in bones, joints, skin, hair, and nails in animals and humans, alike. More than 25 percent of the protein in the human body is composed of collagen peptides. Joints are cartilage and tendons, which are both made from collagen molecules.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. Human carnivores are familiar with collagen from the white opaque tissue attached to bones. But the modern diet doesn’t generally include collagen. We tend to prefer cartilage-, skin- and fat-free cuts of poultry and beef. When compared to ancient diets, our modern menu is severely collagen-deficient.
Like all proteins, the primary components of collagen are amino acids. There are 19 different amino acids wound together in collagen peptides. Proline and glycine are the most prevalent. Each collagen peptide is more than 30 percent glycine.
Proline and glycine are called nonessential (conditional) amino acids. Some believe it’s not necessary to consume these amino acids because they can be manufactured by the body. A number of studies, however, show incredible benefits when these “nonessential” amino acids are increased in the diet. Perhaps these amino acids should be labeled “conditionally essential.”
Add a little bone broth
Supplementing collagen can do wonders for people suffering from a variety of conditions. Arthritis is a good example.
Human joints are made from collagen. Drinking collagen-rich bone broth fortifies failing arthritic joints. Both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis respond to increased dietary collagen. In one study, patients reported less pain and greater ability to move, stand and support their weight.
Skin is also primarily collagen. Consuming supplemental or food based collagen speeds skin-cell repair. Countless studies confirm that wrinkles, fine lines and cellulite decrease with more collagen intake.
The collagen in bone broth can be especially helpful for digestive and immune disorders. Because a majority of our immune cells reside in the intestines, gut health and overall immune health are inherently linked. The amino acids in collagen help build and repair intestinal cells. As the intestinal cells heal, leaky gut, food sensitivities, and other serious gut disorders may resolve.
In Powdered Form
Unflavored collagen protein powders are different from many commercial protein powders. Most protein powders create a chalky, thick texture. Typical commercial protein powders often contain sweeteners, preservatives, and additives to prevent clumping. Unflavored collagen powder does not change beverage consistency or texture. Collagen protein powder may be added to any beverage, hot or cold, without changing the flavor.
Whey protein is a common supplement, but collagen protein has been shown to be superior. When compared with whey, collagen offers more satiety and faster absorption.
When shopping for a collagen protein powder, consult the label for details. Look for collagen peptide protein powder sourced from grass-fed and antibiotic-free cows, poultry, or fish. Most of the high-quality bovine collagen peptide protein powders come from Argentinian or Brazilian cows. Don’t be shy about calling the manufacturer directly to ask where they source their collagen peptide protein powders.
You can also make your own. Gather and freeze vegetable scraps, as well as bones. Trimmings that would be wasted can be stored in the freezer and added to the pot with bones.
The true test of any broth is the gel. Once the broth has cooled in the refrigerator, it will thicken, acquiring the same consistency as Jell-O. If your homemade broth does not gel, there are two culprits: heat or water. If you have boiled your broth at a high temperature, you will have destroyed the delicate collagen molecules and gelling will not occur. If you have added too much water, the collagen molecules will be there, but too diluted to gel.
After broth is prepared it can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 week or the freezer for up to 3 months. Once the broth has cooled completely, pour it into silicone or stainless-steel ice-cube molds and freeze. Extra-large ice-cube trays allow for ½ cup of broth per cube. Do not pour hot broth into plastic containers, because this can cause the plastics to taint the broth with BPA (bisphenol A). Drinking 6 to 8 ounces of warm bone broth is an excellent morning ritual. Salt, turmeric, or other spices enhance the flavor. Bone broth can also be used as a base for soups and sauces or to simmer vegetables or rice.