Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Magic of Bone Broth (1/3): Health Benefits

I've mentioned bone broth several times now, and I thought maybe it was time to actually dig into this rather lengthy topic. I'm just going to cover the surface of the topic, and I'll leave links below to further posts if you have any interest in digging deeper.  I'm always game to learn more, but I've also found that too much info can be overwhelming to start with, and you really don't need a lot to get started; you just need enough to convince you that it's worth getting started.  :-D

I've divided this post into three parts, dealing with health benefits, cost effectiveness, and a how-to for making broth.  If you're new to the world of traditional whole foods, this is a great place to start, both because of the myriad health benefits, and because of how simple it is.  It's a great starter skill for the traditional kitchen-- I can't swear to it, but I think it was my first one too.  :-)

Note: I use the words broth/stock/bone broth interchangeably in this post except where noted. Technically, broth is the light flavored cooking water from cooking meat and maybe some bones. Stock is made with mostly bones and small amounts of meat.  Bone broth is actually more like stock in how it's made, but generally cooks the longest of the three.

There's a lot of reasons for adding bone broth to your kitchen repertoire.  It saves money, first off, and that's of interest to pretty much anyone, and- big surprise- it's super good for you.  Bone broth is basically chicken (or beef or fish) stock, but is often referred to as "bone" because it's made entirely differently. Store-bought chicken broth is just chicken flavored broth and has none of the benefits of the real stuff, and often contains MSG.  Has anybody ever heard of chicken broth being the Jewish penicillin?  That only applies to bone broth.  Chicken flavored top ramen will not get you over your cold.  :-)  (By the way, this series refers to both chicken and beef broth, but I tend to refer to chicken more often since I use it the most.)

What can you use broth in?  I don't know what you folks use it in, but here is a short list of things I use chicken broth in:

-cook rice in it (adds lots of flavor!)
-soups (check out the soup section on our recipe page!)
-homemade condensed cream of chicken soup
-homemade enchilada sauce
-hot drink during sickness or as a preventative
-cook meat in it...I use it for crockpotting roasts
-make gravies with it when you don't have drippings available
-cook veggies in it...this is a great way to introduce babies to veggies, just cook until mushy, sprinkle on some sea salt, and get that much more nutrients into their little systems.

Why should you not just use bouillon or other name brand concentrates?  Well, they're not quite as clean as they like you to believe.  Here's what in a basic bouillon cube: "salt, sugar, partially hydrogenated palm oil, monosodium glutamate, cornstarch, and less than 2% onion powder, chicken fat and meat, garlic powder, turmeric, disodium inosinate, spices, TBHQ (preservative)".  Emphasis is mine-- isn't it fabulous that a chicken bouillon product is less than 2% chicken? Ingredients are listed in order of how much of them is used, so the bulk of this product is-- well, wow.

If I understand right, there's a "better than" brand out there that is purported to be a better, healthier option than typical bouillon, because (among other reasons, I assume) they don't include MSG in their mix.  Well-- that's wrong.  Here's the ingredients on one of their organic jars: "Chicken Meat and Natural Juices, Salt, Cane Sugar, Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Dried Onion, Potato Starch, Dried Garlic, Turmeric and Spice Extractives"  According to this article and this one, yeast extract and maltodextrin are two more names for MSG-- out of at least 40.  MSG also hides under the phrase "Natural Flavors", which are found in loads of other wise innocent looking products.  I've gotten to the point where I instinctively put something back on the shelf if I see a variation of MSG on the label- but if that's not you yet, here are some videos and an article on the topic to ponder.

Moving on from the negative reasons to not use bouillons-- let's talk about the positives of making your own broth!  I'll get into the nitty gritty of money saved the next installment, but first I want to give you a brief description of bone broth benefits:
  • remember gelatin?  Bone broth is full of it, so all the benefits of gelatin apply to bone broth.
  • it contains loads of minerals, including trace minerals, that are extremely bio-available (easy for your body to absorb).  Amongst other things, this specifically helps with dental and bone health.  (Did you know you can literally repair minor cavities and stop deeper ones from getting worse, with the proper nutrients? True story, I've done it.  Bone broth is one of the components of that project.)
  • while not a complete protein, it acts as a protein sparer, nutritionally stretching the meat in the dish further (great for saving money when necessary)
  • glycine (one of the amino acids in bone broth) supports body detoxification as well as digestion
  • if you're dairy sensitive and worried about calcium, bone broth is a fabulous way to make up the difference. (You're leeching bones of their minerals, after all!)

    In addition to this, grassfed animals produce K2 that will leech into the broth as well. Vitamin K2 is a crucial nutrient to have in your diet because it directs calcium into the bones and teeth.  What happens if you don't have vitamin K2?  The calcium deposits your arteries, leading to "calcified arteries".  To read more on the K2 topic, visit this post, this series of posts, or check out this book.  Grain fed animals do not produce K2, because K1, which foragers convert to K2, is found in grasses.
Ready for part two?  Check out how making your own broth saves money on the second part of this series!

Further Reading
-Broth Is Beautiful
-Gut and Psychology Syndrome: Natural Treatment For Autism, ADD, ADHD, Depression, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, Schizophrenia-  this book is expensive ($32.50) but unfortunately used options on Amazon and ebay run the same or even higher. If you're lucky, your library might have it.

This post contains affiliate links and is a part of the Fat Tuesday blog hop.


  1. I always knew real broth is excellent for you, but the info about the Vit K2 is what convinced me I need to incorporate it into our diets more. I confess I use the Better than Bouillon brand primarily, simply because it's quick and easy and I don't have to plan ahead, and to me it seems slightly better than the cubes or the granules. Lesser of two evils? Looking forward to your next two posts on this topic.

    1. Aw, thanks for commenting! As the first commenter on FB or the blog for this post, you have the honor of being the one who made me feel the hours of writing this series was worthwhile after all. :-) I think it would be accurate to say that your bouillon type/brand is better than others, but I don't know how MUCH better, is the thing. :-) Hopefully the next posts will be helpful!

  2. I've been reading/hearing so much about bone broth lately. It's so interesting how I keep hearing about this from all over - I need to make more broth I guess!