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Bone Appetit

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Photo by Bluebird Provisions on Unsplash

The first rainy days of the year always seem like a good excuse for soup, and a good soup starts with a good homemade stock. Bone broth is a remarkably easy and healthy way to warm up the house, clean out the fridge, get a good soup or roast started, and supplement your nutrition without breaking the bank.

As I’ve talked about elsewhere, cooking was a huge leap forward in human evolution, and many of the reasons we benefit from bone broth today are the same as they were thousands of years ago. Before metallurgy became widespread, soups were made in baskets lined with clay and heated with stones from a fire (hence the term “stone soup”). Sometimes these soups were even prepared inside the butchered carcass of an animal. Cooked meat was easier to chew and digest, and just like today, cooking down bones and vegetables into soup, stock, or broth provided additional sustenance and nutrients. The rapid growth of human brains almost 2 million years ago coincides neatly with our best estimates as to when we started cooking.

Nutrients in bone broth

The more your broth resembles Noah’s Ark in a pot, the better it will be for your health.

Bone broth is typically derived from beef, pork, and chicken bones. Marrow bones, knuckle bones, oxtail, and feet are particularly good, although really, any kind of animal bones or connective tissues are viable for broth, including turkey, fish, venison, and lamb. All bones contain calcium and phosphorus. Broth made exclusively from chicken bones and stock lacks a lot of the collagen provided by beef and pork bones, but chicken does provide magnesium and potassium. All kinds of marrow provide vitamins A and K2 as well as omega-3s and iron. Fish bones contain iodine. Tendons and other connective tissues are a great source of glucosamine. Basically, the more your broth resembles Noah’s Ark in a pot, the better it will be for your health.

While many of the nutrients available in bone broth are essential parts of our daily nutrition, those of us suffering from health issues can benefit especially from the anti-inflammatory properties of good broth, which are provided by the amino acids glycine and arginine. Collagen extracted from animal bones can be repurposed for our own bones, tendons, and ligaments by cooking it down into the glycine and proline rich gelatin form it takes in broth. Glucosamine can help reduce joint pain and pain from arthritis. Bone broth is also an excellent choice for those of us keeping an eye on our weight. Despite being low in calories, broth is very high in protein and nutrients and can help with everything from building muscle mass to increasing satiation. It can also help normalize sleep patterns thanks to the amino acid glycine, which encourages deeper and less interrupted sleep.

Cook your own

There are plenty of recipes for bone broth to try online, but the general idea is to add a gallon of water and a splash of apple cider vinegar to a big pile of bones, turn on the heat, and walk away. After 12-24 hours of simmering, strain out the solids, let the broth cool, and enjoy. Personally, I use an Instant Pot (3 hours instead of 12+) and cook up a second batch with the same solids for my dogs. You can throw in vegetable stems, herbs, onions, garlic, spices, and almost anything else you’d like to boost the flavor and nutrient value. Broth doesn’t keep very well unless you freeze it: be sure to drink your broth within five days.

Galen Lastko, submitted on behalf of the SoHum Health’s Outreach department.

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