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Why Bone Broth is So Good for Us

Broths and stocks have been part of almost every culture’s culinary tradition for centuries; from Vietnamese pho to Italian brodo to American chicken noodle soup, a flavorful, meaty broth is at the base of some of the worlds’ most comforting dishes. But in the last couple of years, nutritionists and health food junkies have begun promoting broth not for its delicious warming properties but for its numerous health benefits. According to many, broth made primarily with animal bones and simmered for hours and hours (known as “bone broth”) is a magic superfood that can heal digestive issues, revive tired muscles, and make brittle hair and nails a thing of the past. We think it tastes great, but we wanted a little more info about what exactly qualifies as bone broth and how real the purported health benefits actually are, so we asked Anya Fernald, CEO of Belcampo Meat Co. (who happens to sell delicious bone broth by the cup or by the quart) and Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley (who have been preaching the benefits of bone broth long before it was trendy) to share their expertise.

Q

Why do you think there’s been so much recent interest in bone broth? After all, grandmas all over the world have been making the stuff for generations.

A

Fernald: I think Americans are becoming more aware of the wisdom in some of these old-fashioned food traditions. All the science isn’t there yet, but we’re learning that our grandparents’ generation’s approach to being thrifty—extracting every last bit from everything—have a role in health. Our grandmas knew that broth was a relatively cheap, easy, and low-calorie source of nutrients in an easy-to-digest form, and we’re just now realizing they were right. Another key part of the picture is that we started to have access to bone broth made with good clean meat in a slow, traditional way. The stuff many of us grew up with—the boxed broth or bouillon cubes—is definitely not a delicious thing to eat. Traditional bone broth not only tastes great, but it’s also really satisfying and seems to have an almost immediate healing impact when you drink or eat it.

Q

What’s the most pronounced difference between beef/chicken stock and bone broth? Is it mostly a question of cooking time?

A

Hemsley Sisters: Before the shop-bought kind came along, they were the same thing, but nowadays stock can mean stock cubes, bouillon powder, vegetable stock, and even ready-made “fresh” stocks sold in packets and cans in supermarkets. These types of stock are produced for flavor, not always made from good ingredients or actual bones, and can include a concoction of hydrolyzed protein and emulsifiers. Not only is it about the ingredients and the provenance of those ingredients but it’s also about the methodology. Even a traditional stock from classic cooking will only have been cooked for 3 hours as opposed to the 6-24 hours of simmering needed to extract the goodness that we are after.

Fernald: Traditionally, stocks are made from water simmered with vegetables, meat scraps, and bones as well as aromatics and are only cooked for a few hours. Our bone broth is different from our regular poultry or beef broth at Belcampo because we simmer roasted bones for 36-48 hours, and we use a mix—primarily beef but also poultry, pork, lamb, and goat bones—in our bone broth. This breaks down the bones and extracts its contents—such as collagen, amino acids, and minerals—and creates the broth’s deep color and rich thickness. When you’re making broth from leftover roast meat like a roast chicken carcass, you can pretty much achieve the full flavor you’re going to get after a few hours. If you boil a roasted cow femur or a pork shoulder bone for a few hours, that broth is just going to taste like water. I think the bigger bones need that long slow extraction to really contribute flavor and nutrients to the broth and that’s the primary differentiator.

Q

Any tips for making a great bone broth? Anything to avoid?

A

Hemsley Sisters: Whether you like to cook it in a slow cooker, a pot in the oven, or on the stove, for us the recipe is really simple: just bones, water and a really long simmer with the lid on. A few bay leaves if we have them and a squeeze of something acidic like lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to help further extract nutrients. Leave a good chicken broth to simmer at least 6 hours, or 12 hours if you’re using beef or lamb bones. A pressure cooker will get you a good broth after 3 hours. It’s very important to not add brassica vegetables like broccoli ends and cauliflower leaves to your broth—the long cooking time on these veggies will ruin the flavor of your broth. It’s also important to avoid using non-stick pans, plastic spoons, and some ceramic-lined slow cookers as they can leach out lead and other toxins during the long cooking process.

Fernald: Joint bones are especially great for bone broth because they are rich in cartilage and connective tissue that can render out in the super long cooking process. Meaty bones, such as ribs, or bones with marrow are also good for making bone broth. The most important thing about selecting bones is that they are from healthy, pastured animals.

Q

We keep hearing about lead poisoning in bones. Do you think this is something to be concerned about?

A

Fernald: Toxicity in animals accumulates in bones and organs. Which means that if an animal is exposed to bad stuff like heavy metals or toxic chemicals, it’s way more likely to end up in those two places than in the big muscles that we make into steaks and sausages. So, although it’s always important to eat clean meat from healthy animals, it’s especially important when it comes to bones.

On the lead issue specifically: people who are concerned about lead poisoning from bone broth often point to a 2013 study that has several flaws. The main issue is that the levels of lead found in the broth tested for this study were significantly lower than the EPA limit for lead in tap water (15 ug/L). Even if you had a cup or two of broth a day that contained the levels of lead revealed in this study, you would still be far below the EPA’s acceptable limit. So, that particular issue around lead I think is not a real problem. However, you need to be careful always around meat sourcing and particularly vigilant with the bones and offal so I recommend you always buy organic certified and pasture-finished beef and organic pork and poultry for your broths.

Q

Do you generally drink bone broth plain or use it in recipes? Both?

A

Hemsley Sisters: It’s a really nutritious alternative to a store-bought stock and you use it in exactly the same way—to make sauces, soups, stews, and quinoa risotto. But sometimes nothing beats a steaming mug of nicely seasoned bone broth on its own, especially during the colder months. It’s the ultimate delicious feel-good food.

Fernald: In the wintertime, I like to start my day with bone broth or drink it as a mid-morning pick-me-up. When I am fighting a cold or feeling run down, I drink and eat a lot of bone broth as it just makes me feel better. I love to boil bone broth with a chunk of fresh ginger if I am getting a cold—that makes me feel so much better, instantly.

I also use bone broth as an ingredient a lot—for the health benefits, but also because it makes things taste great. Last night I seared a bunch of whole bok choi and then added a cup or two of bone broth to finish them, which is a technique I use frequently with all kinds of vegetables (particularly great with fennel). I’ve also used bone broth to make curries, for braising, and in my Bolognese sauce. It’s sort of a superpower ingredient in cooking—it instantly increases mouthfeel of any sauce or braising liquid thanks to all the collagen and gelatin dissolved in it. Whereas regular broth mostly adds some nice flavor and umami, bone broth does more. It’s sort of an easy roux—it thickens and gels the way that flour or cornstarch does to liquid.

Q

We’ve noticed people are starting to add different flavorings to bone broths such as turmeric and chili flakes. Do you have any favorite seasonings?

A

Hemsley Sisters: Our mum is Filipino and we’re big fans of Asian flavours, so ginger, lemon, and miso are some of our favorites. We also like to throw some nutrient-dense dulse seaweed into our broth for an extra health kick. But the great thing is, anything goes, so feel free to throw in any of your favorite spices and herbs.

Fernald: One great thing about bone broth is that it’s an amazing base for some really healthy things like turmeric juice, garlic, lemon, fermented chili (the list goes on), which are much more palatable when dropped into a salty bowl of broth. I personally love the combo of ginger and lemon and any chili or hot sauce; I also really like to put a raw egg in a cup of bone broth, cooking the egg with the broiling broth and then topping with a squirt of Sriracha.

Q

How often do you think we should be drinking bone broth?

A

Fernald: We have lots of regulars who come to the shop every day for a cup of bone broth. People swear by daily consumption to help resist getting sick and to help with healing faster. I also think people like it because it’s really low in calories but also super satisfying—it can get you through a long stretch from lunch to dinner. I think with anything you should pay attention to the effect it has on your body and adjust accordingly.

Q

When it comes to detoxes and cleanses, is bone broth the new green juice?

A

Fernald: Bone broth is a relatively cheap, simple, and low-calorie way to add easily digestible nutrients into your diet. One of the protein components that is extracted during the process of preparing bone broth is glycine. In addition to many other important functions, glycine is incredibly useful in detoxification. This amino acid assists the liver in flushing out toxins and is also necessary for the synthesis or glutathione and uric acid—two important antioxidants.

In cleansing, part of the process is to adjust your body to a healthy calorie intake after a period of indulgence; bone broth helps there as it’s really filling and satisfying without the calorie load.

Hemsley Sisters: Just as green juice is the super concentrate of green vegetables, bone broth is the essence of goodness that only animal foods can offer. Potent, enriching, and overflowing with health benefits, it is a champion all rounder.

Q

According to some, the list of heath and beauty benefits associated with bone broths in pretty extensive. People report help with digestive problems such as leaky gut, stronger joints, and healthier hair, skin and nails, among other things. Have you experienced any of these (or any other benefits) personally? Or do you have friends/customers who have?

A

Hemsley Sisters: Absolutely! Bone broth nourishes the body and can help to soothe the gut wall, repairing damage and aiding digestion. In terms of beauty, we call it our elixir for glowing skin; it’s packed with protein, good fats, collagen, and keratin, all of which play a major role in strengthening hair and nails and giving you smooth, clear skin.

Fernald: We have customers who say it’s done everything from preventing wrinkles to helping in the healing process after a serious injury. We have people who got into it when recovering from a serious illness and are so enamored of it that they kept up the habit long after they’ve gotten better! For me personally, I know it helps my nails, hair, and skin. In general since I started to eat more healthy animal products, I no longer have flaky nails, split ends, or dry skin, at all. None of those were life-threatening issues, by any means; but I look at the fact that those little visible things changed and figure that all sorts of other less-visible things inside my body have probably changed (for the better) at the same time.

Q

Do you have a recipe you’d be willing to share with us?

A

  • Anya’s Bone Broth

    “The following recipe is from my upcoming cookbook Home Cooked: Essential Recipes for a New Way to Cook which will be available spring 2016 from Ten Speed Press. I shortened the cooking in this one as it’s not really feasible for a home cook to simmer stock for two days.”

  • Jasmine and Melissa’s Ginger Miso Bone Broth

    “This quick, ginger-infused broth is immune boosting, anti-inflammatory, and perfect as a warming pick me up any time of day. Make your own broth or order it online and always check the label of your miso paste to make sure it’s organic, non-GMO, and preferably unpasteurized.”

BONE BROTH DELIVERY:

Now that bone broth is gaining momentum, companies willing to ship delicious pre-made, ready-to-sip (or cook) broth straight to your door are popping up all over the internet—a lifesaver for anyone too slammed to put in the hours required to DIY. The ones below use only organic ingredients and adhere to the strictest responsible sourcing standards.

  • Au Bon Broth

    Au Bon Broth

    Au Bon Broth keeps its clients swimming in broth by offering them the option to order 30- to 60-day supplies in one shot—in addition to monthly broth subscriptions (that’s one gallon of your favorite broth, delivered right to your door, on the date of your choosing). And lest anyone forget about our furry friends, these guys make bone broths specifically for pets.

  • Pete’s Paleo

    Pete’s Paleo

    Pete’s Paleo gives detoxing the bone-broth treatment: The 30-day gut healing kit includes bone broth, flavored gelatin gummies, and dehydrated veggie packs (to make the broths into hearty soups), and is said to right leaky gut symptoms (digestive issues, chronic fatigue, and nutrient deficiencies). Needless to say, everything is paleo-friendly and free of dairy, gluten, soy, GMO, and additives.

  • Bare Bones Broth

    Bare Bones Broth

    This San Diego company has two types of bone broths on offer: classic and sipping. The former is meant for cooking purposes only while the latter is spiked with herbs and spices specifically for drinking. Flavor wise, choose from pasture-raised chicken, grass-fed beef, or pastured smoked pork for cooking, and tomato and clove beef, or rosemary and garlic chicken for sipping.

  • Bone Broths Co.

    Bone Broths Co.

    What’s special about this 100% organic, beef-only bone broth purveyor is that their USDA-approved recipe and unique packaging allows them to ship their broths fresh—not frozen— and gives them a longer shelf-life, without the use of preservatives. Monthly subscriptions are also available.

  • Osso Good

    Osso Good

    Osso Good sources the pasture-raised, hormone-free, and grass-fed ingredients for their sippable, herb-infused chicken and beef broths exclusively from small family farms. What’s more, 10% of every purchase is donated to the American Arthritis Foundation.

  • The Broth of Life

    The Broth of Life

    The mother/daughter team behind this Michigan-based operation boosts their broths with extra calcium and anti-inflammatory elements, making it particularly beneficial to anyone suffering from joint pain.

  • Soupure

    Soupure

    Soupure makes all kinds of delicious soups, but their chicken bone broth (made with miso) is one of our favorites. Each one day soup cleanse package (available nationwide) includes one 12-ounce bottle, but LA locals can cut to the chase and order a 6-pack for pick up or delivery. Keep an eye out—the full menu should be available for nationwide shipping soon.

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