If someone had told me a decade ago that bone broth would become so trendy that across North America we'd be buying it in to-go cups from restaurants and street vendors, I would've been simultaneously amused and fascinated by this utopian future. (I would also have suggested we bring our own reusable cups if we're getting broth for takeaway). Now that bone broth is firmly entrenched in our food culture, and for great health reasons, perhaps some of my other dreams (like unicorns!) aren't far behind? Let's dive in to the health benefits of bone broth and my recipe for a simple immune powered bone broth is down below.
Grandmothers have known for centuries that bone broth is good for us. They may not have known exactly why, but there was some kind of innate wisdom that urged them to simmer broth when we're sick and incorporate it in a wide variety of cooked dishes.
The Health Benefits of Bone Broth
Bone broth is an incredibly nutritious superfood with a wide range of health benefits. Bone broth is:
- Rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. This makes it a great food for bone health, supporting the nervous system and our hair and nails.
- A good source of chondroitin sulphates, glucosamine and collagen, nutrients that are wonderful for our joints, bones, cartilage and skin.
- High in gelatin, a protein with amino acids that help to support digestion, bone and joint health, skin health, cardiovascular health, tissue healing and repair, and help to facilitate a good night's sleep.
- Easy for our bodies to digest and absorb.
- Anti-inflammatory and research shows it can act as a remedy for the common cold.
- This study of dashi (fish bone broth) concluded that daily broth can help reduce blood pressure and improve mood.
Only Quality Bones for Bone Broth
What we eat becomes what we're made of - our food is literally the building blocks of our physical body, from our cells to our bones and joints to our skin to our brains. With animals, it's the same thing. So when you eat any animal product, you're eating what that animal eats. That means it's equally important to use bones from organic, pasture-raised animals wherever possible to glean the powerful nutrition benefits from bone broth.
You can get your bones in a few ways:
- Visit your local butcher, grocery store or farmer's market and ask them for organic bones or the bones from pastured animals. It's often wise to call your butcher ahead and ask them to set bones aside. They are a hot commodity these days.
- If you have roasted a chicken or turkey, save the carcass and use it to make bone broth. You can also save the bones if you've only eaten chicken thighs or legs.
Bones That Make The Best Soups
The Jewish grandmothers and great aunts in my family swear by the tried and trusted chicken bone broth, often opting for the necks and feet as these are the cheapest, but also typically create the richest, most gelatinous soups. That being said, my mom has recently began creating her soups with a mix of chicken and beef bones, as the beef gives it that much more of a gelatin kick.
Generally, the most common types of bones used for broths include:
- Wild game (venison, etc)
Each has its own distinct taste. Chicken and turkey are typically the mildest tasting and so these are a great place to start if you're new to the broth game.
How Powerful Is Your Soup? The Gel Tells The Story
In the simmering process of your soup, where you can simmer it on low for anywhere from 2 hours to 24 hours, the objective is to simmer it long enough to start pulling the nutrient power out from within the bones. Often the taste will tell you when that healing richness has been achieved. The truest sign of mighty broth is once it's been cooked and strained and poured into your mason jars, chill it. Put it in the fridge and once cool, it should have a thick, gelatinous consistency (like loose jello!). This will liquefy once heated.
Vegan Broth Options
I recognize that not everyone is down with brewing broth from bones. Though bones hold unique properties that can easily be replicated with non-vegan sources, a quick google search for vegan bone-building broth will land you on some awesome recipe options that typically include high amounts of sea vegetables. In the case of vegan broths, you won't be getting the collagen and gelatin that build the bones, but you will be getting high doses of complementary minerals that lend to bone and connective tissue healing and that also carry similar anti-inflammatory properties.
The Immune Power Broth in The UnDiet Cookbook offers both a vegan and non-vegan broth option.
My Immune-Powered Bone Broth Recipe
Bone broth is great for you with only bones and water for sure, but you can also amp up the nutritional properties of bone broth by adding in more nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, herbs and superfoods.
Some of the amazing things you can use to round out your bone broth are:
- Onions. These guys are rich in immune-boosting Vitamin C, are anti-inflammatory and high in chromium, which is great for balancing blood sugar. And they make a kick-butt dairy-free French onion soup.
- Garlic. It has anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Garlic is fantastic for the immune system and for improving heart health.
- Shiitake mushrooms. The beta-glucans in shiitakes help to modulate the immune system - ramping it up or dialling it back as needed.
- Turmeric. This highly anti-inflammatory spice can be used in so many ways (19 of them and counting, in fact). Aside from turmeric tea, bone broth is one of my favourite ways to incorporate more turmeric into my diet.
- Ginger. Another anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting root.
- Goji berries. These little red gems are rich in amino acids and antioxidants, and help to boost the immune system and energy levels.
- Maca. This is an adaptogen that helps us cope with stress. Maca also supports hormone balance, libido and energy.
- Apple cider vinegar. This fermented food helps to pull the nutrients from the bones.
- Parsley. This herb is high in the immune-boosting anti-oxidant Vitamins C and A. It is also great for detoxifying heavy metals.
Of course, any vegetables that you have lying around are great to use in bone broth! It's handy to save the vegetable trimmings from your regular meal prep and stash them in a bag in the freezer. When the bag is full, it's time for bone broth! (This is also a fantastic way to cut down on food waste.)
This soup is based on the chicken soup I grew up eating. My mom perfected this magical potion and inspired me to take it to the next nutritional level. You should always have a jar of this in your freezer, because it's pretty much the cure for everything.
Give this immune power bone broth recipe a try!
Yield: Serves 6
- 2 lbs chicken bones
- 12 shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and discarded
- 6 large carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces
- 4 celery stalks, sliced in 1-inch pieces
- 3 leeks, sliced
- 2 parsnips, peeled and sliced
- 1 white onion, quartered
- 1 zucchini, sliced
- 1 whole garlic bulb, cloves separated and peeled
- 2 Tbsp coconut oil
- 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
- 1 bunch fresh dill
- 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp goji berries
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 8 cups water
- Simmer the bones in a pot of water until scum starts to float to the top, about 10 minutes. Dump the water and clean out the pot. Put the bones back in the pot.
- Add all the ingredients, except the water, to a large soup pot or slow cooker. Add enough water to fill the pot (expect to use about 8 cups).
- Cover and bring to a slow and low simmer for 2-6 hours (up to 24 hours in a slow cooker on low). The soup will get richer and more flavourful the longer you let it simmer.
- Once cooked, strain the broth from the bones and veggies.
- Add salt to taste and enjoy.
Note: This recipe cooks up amazingly well in a slow cooker as well. Cook your bones first as outlined in the above recipe, and then add all ingredients to your slow cooker. Set it on low and let is simmer away for 24 hours.
Feature Image: iStock/alleko