Taking Stock of the Benefits of Bone Broth

I made one big oversight last week when passing on simple approaches you can take to keep your immune system in check as well as deal with gut dysfunction and inflammation. I failed to mention, in fact left off completely, the one proven tonic that is now being touted as this winter’s new miracle drink: good old-fashioned bone broth.

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OK, tell me if this sounds familiar. Today’s latest “super food” discovery is none other than something long recognized as a traditional remedy — in the form of chicken soup for example — used to help people recover from a cold, the flu and other afflictions. A recent study of chicken soup (broth) conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center verified this age-old remedy’s value when they found that the amino acids that were produced when making chicken stock reduced inflammation in the respiratory system and improved digestion.

In past generations, bone broth soups and stews were commonly recommended by doctors and health practitioners in healing the gut, relieving digestive distress and reducing allergies. No “spoonful of sugar” was needed to help this medicine go down.

That’s because bone broths are not only nutrient-dense and easy to digest, they are rich in flavor. They are the secret ingredient of celebrated chefs in gourmet cuisine, not just in soups, stews and sauces, but a fundamental ingredient to all fine dining. Handmade broth and stock is the bedrock of not just French cooking; it plays a vital role in American, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, African, South American, Middle Eastern, Russian and other traditional cuisines.

So where did our disconnect with good old-fashioned bone broth occur?

Beginning around the mid-20th century, the food industry, and ultimately stores and restaurants, began replacing traditional ingredients such as broth with monosodium glutamate to replicate natural meat savoriness with an artificial shortcut. Western diets started leaning heavily toward processed carbohydrates. The food industry’s new processing methods, along with the addition of many dubious ingredients, began providing few health benefits; instead it started to pose health risks. Today, most store-bought “stock” or “broth” in the form of bouillon cubes, soup and sauce mixes rely on lab-produced meat flavors. If you want real, reliable bone broth, sorry, but you’d better make it yourself at home, as it was done in the past.

The essential ingredients are simple enough — bones, fat, meat, vegetables and water. While I am no cook, I have read that adding a bit of apple cider vinegar to your pot helps draw the minerals from the bone.

Bone broth or stock was a way our ancestors made use of every part of an animal. Bones and marrow, skin and feet, tendons and ligaments that you can’t eat directly, would be boiled and then simmered over a period of days. This simmering process causes the bones and ligaments to release healing compounds such as collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine, components recognized for their ability to provide a variety of benefits, from drawing out toxins to soothing digestion and erasing wrinkles.

You’ve probably seen this jiggling layer atop the broth in a cooling roasting pan. It’s generally discarded. Next time, we should think again. It’s good stuff. It contains gelatin and collagen, the protein found in connective tissue of vertebrate animals. Real collagen is the source of the stock’s immune-boosting properties. The collagen and gelatin found in bone broth support hair growth and help to keep nails strong. The amino acid glycine can create a calming effect. Another main ingredient that helps elevate it to a “super food” is proline, an amino acid that helps repair tissues and maintain blood pressure.

As always these days, quality ingredients are key, such as bones from grass-fed stock.

Bone broth is inexpensive food, particularly when you consider its nutritive value. The most basic recipe calls for vegetable scraps and the bones from a leftover roast chicken, food that would normally go to waste. For recipe ideas, search “Nourishing Broth” on the Internet — you’ll find plenty.

If you still prefer to buy your soup readymade, there are some pricy, upscale brands you can rely upon such as Saffron Road, if you can find them. Or if you want to join one of today’s fast-growing trends, you can visit an upscale “broth bar,” perhaps coming to a city near you soon.

That’s right; establishments that specialize in genuine bone broth made from scratch and served up in satisfying soups, sauces and stews. It’s the latest thing. We’re told one recently opened in New York’s East Village, where New Yorkers can now stop by for a cup of nourishing, warming, delicious broth, instead of their usual specialty coffee drink. Imagine starting your day with a delicious warm drink that can get your motor running and help prevent chronic disease?

I think they’re on to something.

Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook’s “Official Chuck Norris Page.” He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com.

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