Many cultures around the world have a nourishing broth as a staple of their traditional diet, from French consommé to Vietnamese pho, and as the weather cools down and the sniffles begin to appear people take solace in these comforting and nourishing meals. Their healing properties are far from old wives’ tales however, as the humble bowl of soup has a myriad of nutritional and healing properties.
Most broths or soups are based around a stock that has been made from simmering animal bones with a combination of vegetables and herbs. The process of slowly simmering the bones over a number of hours allows for the goodness from the bones to be extracted and released into the broth, such as the minerals magnesium and calcium, and the nutrients gelatin and glucosamine.
When many people think of gelatin they immediately think of cow hooves, but in truth this nutrient is a protein that comes from collagen from the connective tissue, skin and bones of animals. Although that sounds a bit gruesome, traditional diets were very high in gelatin as then it was commonplace to cook an entire joint of meat in a stew or braise, versus nowadays when it is more common to consume only muscle meats such as beef steak or a chicken breast.
Gelatin has many health benefits including improving skin and joint health through its role in the formation of collagen, and because of its glycine component it can act as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant in the body, whilst also helping to heal and soothe damaged intestinal linings and increase calcium absorption and the digestion of other proteins. Bone broth is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to include more gelatin in the diet, and it’s quite simple to make.
Ask your butcher for some grass-fed beef bones (marrow bones are great, and organic grass-fed beef bones are even better!), put them in a pan and roast in a moderate oven until browned. Transfer these to a large stockpot, add vegetables and herbs with a dash of apple cider vinegar and enough filtered water to cover all the ingredients and simmer for 3-4 hours. This recipe is very forgiving – add different types of animal bones, vegetables, herbs and spices depending on your personal preference! Try chicken bones with onion, garlic, peppercorns and thyme; or beef bones with onion, celery, carrot, garlic and bay leaves; or lamb bones with a dash of red wine, rosemary, onion and garlic.
Once the broth has finished simmering season with a good quality salt, then strain the liquid into glass containers where it will keep covered in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for several months. You may find that the broth will gel overnight in the fridge, which shows that the gelatinous goodness has been extracted from the bones! You can sip on the broth as a nourishing hot drink, or use it as the basis for soups or stews – from hearty chicken and vegetable soup made from chicken bone broth, to a spiced lamb and prune tagine made from lamb broth, or osso bucco made from beef broth, the possibilities are endless!
Peat, R 2009, ‘Gelatin, stress, longevity’, Ray Peat, read more here at raypeat
Sgourakis, E 2012, ‘Get it in: gelatin’, The Nutrition Coach, visit thenutritioncoach to learn more
Skinner, K 2012, ‘Gelatin: A beauty superfood’, Nutrition by Nature, visit nutritionbynature to learn more