Eat Local! Bone Broth
November 1, 2016
Bone broth has become a popular nutrition trend over the past few years, but has been used by civilizations for centuries for health, nourishment, and simply as a way to put leftover kitchen scraps to use. Bone broth is touted for its ability to aid in improving allergies, autoimmune conditions, digestion, healing, cancer care, and more; however, there remains very little research isolating bone broth and the effect of its constituents on various medical conditions.
To begin, let’s define the difference between broth, stock, and bone broth. Broth is typically simmered for less than 2 hours and can consist of animal meat, herbs, and vegetables. Sometimes, bones will be attached to the meat and broth can be consumed by itself or used to cook grains and soups in. Stock, on the other hand, is simmered for several hours and contains animal bones which add a gelatinous texture when cooled. Stock is not consumed on its own and is added to soups, sauces, or gravies to enhance flavor and texture.
Bone broth is a combination between broth and stock in the sense that it can contain both animal meat and bones, but it is simmered for a very long time (up to 24 hours). Bone broth is rich in protein from collagen found in the spongy matrix of bone, as well as calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, and a handful of other trace minerals. Adding an acid, such as vinegar, to bone broth helps to extract more of the minerals from the bones.
There is currently very little evidence-based medicine to prove that drinking bone broth regularly can prevent or mitigate the symptoms of any disease. Although some individuals may claim that they feel better after making bone broth a staple of their diet, these claims are not substantiated by scientific evidence. The USDA nutrient database lists information for home-prepared beef, chicken, and fish broth, but unfortunately does not specify how the broth was prepared or if it is indeed a true bone broth. Regardless, based on the values in the database, one cup of bone broth provides approximately 4-6 grams of protein and less than 5% of the daily value of calcium, phosphorous, and most other minerals. Chicken broth, for example contains only 7 milligrams of calcium per cup while the RDA for adults is 1,000-1,2000 mg/day.
Although bone broth contains collagen, which is an essential component of our body’s connective tissues, it will still be broken down into amino acids when it’s consumed and distributed to the cells that need it. Gelatin, formed from the hydrolysis of collagen, is not a complete protein. In essence, you could easily consume more protein than is contained in bone broth by eating a chicken breast, eggs, or yogurt and get all essential amino acids needed to make new cells, rejuvenate the skin and hair, fight off infection, and many more functions that protein serves.
The reality is that bone broth is a low calorie option for nourishment that can warm you up on a cold day and provide some relief to cold and flu symptoms, just as chicken noodle soup would. Since it’s easier on the stomach than whole protein foods, it would be a good choice for someone who is ill or dehydrated and needs extra electrolytes and proteins. It’s also a fantastic way to prevent food waste by using all parts of the animal and vegetable scraps.
Chicken Stock Recipe
1 whole free range chicken or 2-3 lbs. bony chicken parts, such as necks, backs, breastbones and wings*
Gizzards from one chicken (optional)
2-4 chicken feet (optional)
4 quarts of cold filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
1 bunch parsley
*Note: farm-raised, organic chickens are best as chickens raised in battery cages will not produce stock that gels
Directions: Place chicken (cut into several pieces) in a large stainless steel pot with water, vinegar, and all vegetables except parsley. Let stand for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Bring to a boil, and remove scum that rises to the top. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 8-12 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the richer and more flavorful it will be. About 10 minutes before finishing the stock, add parsley. Remove whole chicken or pieces with a slotted spoon. Reserve for other uses such as casseroles, enchiladas, etc. Strain the stock into a large bowl and reserve in your refrigerator until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim off this fat and reserve the stock in covered containers in your fridge or freeze.
By Natalie Colla, RDN, LDN. Natalie Colla is a dietitian at Kootenai Diabetes & Endocrinology.