A good bone broth recipe gives you a near-miraculous double whammy. #1, it tastes great. #2, it improves your health by leaps and bounds. Yet buyer beware!
Your mother, grandmother, and/or great grandmother all learned the value of a good bone broth.
They got it handed down from their mothers (OK, fathers, too), going back more than 2,500 years.
Hippocrates (circa 460 BC to 370 BC), the Father of Medicine, must have had bone broth in mind when he coined his famous phrase:
Fast forward to the present and, despite its long history, bone broth has apparently fallen off the radar of modern medicine.
To wit: a search on PubMed for “bone broth” lists exactly 9 research articles on it. And the first one didn’t appear until 1980!
SIDENOTE: This research output is so pathetic that I was able to include all of those references at the end of this article. My mom could have provided a better background than that!
Modern ‘conventional wisdom’ almost completely ignores perhaps the best medical food in human history.
Now let’s find out what’s so good about it and how to choose a truly tasty and healthful one and what you should avoid. (Your doctor will probably never tell you any of this.)
When Bone Broth is Your Food AND Your Medicine
There may be nothing better under the sun for your health than a good bone broth.
Emphasis is on good – more on what that means later.
Assuming you have a good bone broth, here’s a short list of what it can do for you:
- Supports* joint health.
- Supports* gut health.
- Supports* your immune system.
- Supports* healthy skin.
*Supports is the namby-pamby term the FDA allows me to use when talking about health benefits from something that’s not a government-approved medical treatment. It’s the game they play to keep the cash flowing into the pockets of Big Pharma. Certainly not into the till of some silly soup maker!
Don’t let that subterfuge fool you.
The feds may control the conversation. However, they’re incapable of controlling your body.
That’s completely up to you.
And that’s exactly what you can do for your health by consuming a good bone broth recipe.
Bone Broth’s Healing Power
Let’s agree on something right before going into the details of what you can expect as the health benefits of bone broth.
It’s not your doctor, nutritionist, or any other kind of ‘health guru’.
It’s you and only you.
Ultimately, it’s your lifestyle choices that make a difference.
If you really want to harness your body’s healing power, your food will play a big part in your success.
That’s where a good bone broth recipe ramps up what your body can do for your health.
The key is making sure your broth provides all the best goodies for you.
Health Components of a Good Bone Broth Recipe
Health-boosting ingredients must be extracted for you to get all the possible benefits from them. That’s because they’re tightly bound in indigestible parts of the animal: i.e., bones and their marrow, skin, feet, tendons, and ligaments.
Even if you’ve had a whole-food delicacies such chicken feet, you simply won’t be able to digest the healthful ingredients in them.
(In addition, you may suffer a bit of culture shock, like I did when I first tasted chicken feet at a Chinese restaurant. They’re definitely an acquired taste!)
Besides, unless you’ve been to a trendy restaurant offering bone marrow on the menu, you won’t even have the option of ordering such impossible-to-digest whole foods in the first place.
Can you imagine a pile of tendons or a sheet of skin on your dinner plate? Didn’t think so.
Since that’s the case, here’s what you can actually get from a good bone broth.
The most abundant essential minerals found in bone broth include calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, phosphorus, and sodium. You will also get a smattering of ‘minor’ dietary minerals such as iron, selenium, and zinc.
However, these ingredients come more from the vegetables you cook with than the animal parts themselves.
So make sure any commercial product you buy or recipe you follow is made with a hefty dose of veggies.
More on that later.
Now, what about those animal-based ingredients?
Right at the top of the list are the following:
Bone broth is probably the best source of natural collagen you can ever get in your diet.
The proteins making up collagen become highly absorbable as they leach out of cooked bones, skin, tendons, and ligaments. Once absorbed, collagen is more efficiently incorporated into your own bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage.
As such, this highly absorbable collagen acts as one of the best anti-aging ingredients for your joints and skin.
Collagen in bone broth goes right into making stronger bones to make them less susceptible to joint degeneration (e.g., arthritis, osteoporosis).
And it contributes mightily to boosting skin elasticity, moisture, dryness, and roughness. The net result: stronger and more youthful skin.
Chondroitin and Glucosamine
These substances are widely available as (pricey) supplements. They help reduce inflammation, arthritis, and joint pain.
Bone broth is even a better source of these ingredients. Getting them in your diet is far better than taking expensive supplements.
Some of the proteins in bone broth will break down into their component amino acids.
It’s especially rich in the amino acids glycine, glutamine, proline, and arginine.
These amino acids are also widely available as supplements. And, as with chondroitin and glucosamine, the ‘whole food’ sources in bone broth are less expensive and more effective than in supplements.
Gelatin derives from a subset of partially broken down collagen. It’s main property gives it its name: it forms gels.
All true gelatins behave the same even though they have some biochemical differences in composition. (My earlier article goes into that topic here: What is Beef Gelatin vs. Pork Gelatin vs. Plant ‘Gelatin’?).
The most important health benefit of gelatin is probably gut health. Specifically, it helps restore a damaged and leaky gut lining.
A leaky gut is at the core of many disorders, so gelatin becomes more valuable as those disorders appear. See, e.g., Herbs To Heal Leaky Gut. Adding the right herbs to the bone broth pot makes it even more beneficial.
Note that good gut health drives a healthy immune system. About 70% of your immune cells originate in your small intestine. Keeping your gut healthy is therefore absolutely crucial for maintaining your resistance to infectious diseases of all kinds.
And consider this: most of your serotinin, the ‘feel good’ hormone, is made in your gut. So good gut health also boosts your mood!
Moreover, since your gut health influences basic metabolism, gelatin can directly help you with weight loss. How good is that!
Glutathione is one of the key anti-inflammatory substances produced by your own body.
It’s available in supplement form, although taking it orally is fundamentally ineffective. Supposedly taking NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) helps you make more glutathione. However, NAC is best used intravenously, such as in emergency treatment for drug overdoses.
Bone broth gets the right form of glutathione to the right places for overall anti-inflammatory benefits. These include detoxification from environmental toxins such as pesticides, other synthetic substances, and heavy metals.
Hyaluronic acid (HA) is one of the more interesting carbohydrates you’ll ever learn about. It occurs widely throughout your connective, neural, and epithelial tissues.
It’s a slippery, gooey substance for ‘lubricating’ joints, skin, and eyes.
It’s a major component of synovial fluid, the cushioning substance in joints.
HA is also retains water. A quarter teaspoon can hold about 1.5 gallons of water. Its ability to hang onto water is why it’s often used in eye drops and moisturizing cosmetics.
The main benefit in cosmetics is its ability to help skin stay flexible. This ability helps reduce skin wrinkling.
Your body’s demand for HA is huge. A 150 lb (70 kg) person maintains about 15 grams (ca. 3 tsp.) of it at all times. Up to a third of it is used up every day.
HA has been FDA-approved as an injectable drug in the knee for treating osteoarthritis.
It’s also widely available in supplements, although bone broth is once again a better source for absorbable HA than supplements.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Bone Broth
The foregoing is a VERY brief outline of the benefits of bone broth.
Now comes the challenge:
What kinds of bone broth are the best?
You have two main sources:
1) Commercial bone broths
2) Homemade bone broths
Commercial Bone Broths
An unfortunate fact is that most store-bought bone broths fall short in many ways. They’re simply not worth buying.
Sure, there are a few brands I’m familiar with and would recommend. My own experience is with a brand called Kettle & Fire. It’s definitely a top of the line brand, with two of my favorites: Beef Bone Broth Soup and Classic Chicken Bone Broth.
I’m sure several other brands would do just as well.
What’s important is to purchase a product with all organic ‘bone’ ingredients sourced from pasture-raised or free-range animals, with a good dose of organic herbs and veggies.
Absolutely do not consume commercial broths that aren’t labeled as Certified Organic
If you’re not careful, you’ll a snootful of MSG (bad news all the way around), food dyes, synthetic preservatives or other additives, and so-called ‘natural flavors’ that aren’t really natural. (You can thank the feds for that bit of truth-sidestepping.)
This is the kind of harmful crap you’ll get in bouillon and most canned soups.
Of course, getting a good commercial bone broth is most convenient if you’re pressed for time (who isn’t?).
The main drawback is paying for that convenience. Good bone broths aren’t cheap.
Homemade Bone Broths
The process of making your own bone broth can itself be therapeutic.
The bonus is having one of the best healing foods ever.
There are a few basics to know before you start.
The first is that the best recipes MUST combine animal products with veggies. That’s partly because the broth will taste much better. More importantly, unique ingredients from those two sources will work together – they’re synergistic.
Equally important is sourcing the animal parts you need. You won’t find them in the typical meat department of any supermarket.
You have to find a meat supplier committed to raising animals as naturally as possible. My favorite source in my neighborhood is the Meat Shop in downtown Phoenix, AZ. That’s the retail outlet for meats they get mostly from their own ranch west of town.
Other sources pop up when I search for “pasture-raised meats in Arizona.” So my area has several options. You’d have to do an equivalent search for your area. And, if nothing is close by, all the good shops offer online ordering and shipping.
Bone Broth Recipe Starter Kit
The following should give you all the ideas you need for making an outstanding bone broth.
You may also download my recipe recommendation in printable form here: Bone Broth Recipe Starter Kit.
A good bone broth recipe is a health superhero packed full of beneficial ingredients only available in a true broth.
Bones and sinew (including skin, cartilage, and other scraps when possible)
You can make bone broth from many kinds of bones. The easiest to source are beef, chicken, turkey, and fish bones. Additional, less common sources include game (deer, elk, javelina, wild boar), domestic bison, duck, and goose.
In all cases, use bones only from Certified Organic, pasture-raised, free-range, or wild-caught animals.
Beef – 3-4 lbs; include large bones with marrow and smaller bones from knuckle, rib, or tail); roast raw bones first, at 425°F for 30 minutes, turning bones over after about 15 minutes.
Chicken – 2-3 lbs
Turkey – 2-3 lbs
Fish – 2 -3 lbs of carcasses and heads from non-oily fish such as cod, halibut, sole, rockfish, turbot, or tilapia; the biggest challenge for making fish bone broth is sourcing bones wild-caught fish only; supermarket fish will almost never do (you may have to order the online from places like https://www.wildforsalmon.com/collections/wild-alaskan-whitefish/products/halibut-stock-bones
There’s really no limit to the veggies you can use in bone broth. Just get creative. Consider leftover or scrap veggies you otherwise don’t know what to do with.
I’ll just list my favorites and leave additional veggies to your imagination.
Cole crops of all kinds: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choi (maybe not Brussels sprouts)
Onions: at least one whole yellow or white onion, quarteted; include “other” onions such as green onions or leeks
Garlic: 4-5 whole cloves (no need to peel them)
Carrots: 2 large carrots, coarsely chopped
Celery: 2 full ribs, including leafy parts, coarsely chopped
Herbs and Spices
There’s also no limit to what herbs and spices you can use. Let your imagination run wild again.
My favorite herbs, always on hand in the pantry or garden, may include 1 tbsp of some of each of the following:
Sea salt: ½-1 tsp or enough for your taste (avoid Himalayan pink salt – it’s equivalent to roadside dirt)
Apple cider vinegar: 1 tbsp helps extract nutrients from the bones and sinew
About 10 cups: Use only filtered water (RO is best), commercial spring water, or glacial water (do NOT use tap water or distilled water)
- Roast bones if necessary (beef only)
- Prepare veggies (chopped) and herbs (whole or chopped)
- Combine all ingredients into a 6-8 quart cooking pot or slow cooker
- Remove solids
Simmer for at least 24 hours (36 hours is even better)
Scoop out the big stuff with tongs; strain the rest through a sieve
Unless you’re feeding a big family, you will want to store leftovers.
You can store them in jars and keep them in the fridge for up to 5 days. After that you can freeze and store for up to a year. CAUTION: Leave jars slightly ajar until frozen, otherwise the expanding liquid as it freezes may shatter them.
One simple way to evaluate your result is whether it gels when cooled in the fridge. If it does, this means you got all the goodies out of the bones you could.
It’s also a quality check on commercial bone broths. Most of them won’t gel.
If you haven’t had a truly good bone broth before, your reaction to one should be complete awe.
In fact, just writing up this article made my mouth water.
Now, if you really want to get the maximum health benefits from your own bone broth, simply have a nice cup of it every day.
Comments or Questions?
I’d love to hear from you. This and every other post here provides a comment section at the end of the post, exactly for that purpose.
So, by all means, leave me your thoughts.
I would be especially grateful if you point out any flaws in my logic, factual errors, or ordinary typos. (I’ll give you a little ‘huzzah’ in my heart.)
Then I’ll respond as soon as I can.
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All the best in natural health,
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