When our household first went paleo, one of the first things I did was start using bone broth. Of everything I had been learning, it seemed the most important thing was to start taking actions that would heal the gut. All of those years of inflammatory foods had most likely damaged our gut linings. This meant that in order for our bodies to absorb all of the beneficial nutrients from the healthy foods we were eating on the paleo diet, we needed to first heal our digestion. Who could argue with that! My body had been proving this to me on a regular basis by suffering severe indigestion caused by all of the fiber rich vegetables I was now eating. It was fairly evident that I wasn’t digesting them properly. There was actually one particular morning where I “burped up” the veggie-filled breakfast I had eaten well into the late afternoon! I had somehow forgotten that I had gone through not one, but two rounds of antibiotics over the summer to try to cure an inner ear issue that turned out NOT to be an infection. It was pretty safe to say that I had probably decimated any beneficial bacteria in my gut.
The thing that I didn’t understand, at first, was that I was going about this all wrong! I was buying the commercial bone broth. Not the stuff from the refrigerated section that looks like brown jello. I was buying the stuff that you find in the carton on the grocery store shelf right next to the chicken broth. And while I’m sure this stuff isn’t horrible for you, and is probably a very small step in the right direction, it didn’t have the benefits that my body needed. Add to that the fact that I was only using it for cooking. Silly me!
Back to my indigestion….it was getting rather annoying and a little embarrassing. Standing in line at the grocery store and stifling a burp is not an ideal picture to paint. I was actually getting a little disheartened and wondering if there was a possibility that the paleo diet wasn’t for me. With a little research, I quickly remembered the antibiotics and put together a simple course of action to reverse the damage. I needed to heal the damage and recolonize the good bacteria that live in the gut. That very weekend, my husband and I made a trip to pick out a good quality probiotic and find a local butcher that had beef bones. I had already stashed some chicken bones in the freezer from the chicken legs we had earlier in the week. My first batch of bone broth was made that same evening and I have made a batch once a week ever since. We both drink at least one warm cup of broth each evening. It has become such a comforting, healing part of our lifestyle!
Why has the bone broth been such an important player in healing my gut? It is one of the best natural sources of collagen (a type of protein) that is needed to form the tissue of the lining of the gut. Bone broth also contains a myriad of amino acids, of which, L-glutamine has been shown to reduce gut inflammation. By drinking it every day, I’m reducing inflammation, rebuilding the gut lining, and giving the probiotics I’m taking a hospitable environment.
So, yes, bone broth is an important part of healing your gut! But there is so much more it can do. Let’s take a quick look:
- Bone Broth Can Boost Immunity
Remember the hot chicken soup that you mother would give you when you came down with a cold or the flu? There’s more science to that, than wives tale. Bone broth is high in amino acids, like arginine, glutamine, and cysteine, all of which have been shown to boost immunity. It also clears mucus and opens respiratory pathways, thanks to one of those amino acids we just mentioned, cysteine.
- Helps Improve Your Complexion
That same collagen that helps to rebuild the gut lining also helps to form tissues found in the skin that give it strength, smoothness, and elasticity. It also can help minimize the appearance of cellulite, which develops because of a lack of connective tissue.
- Aids in Weight Loss
Bone broth can help to provide vital nutrients, while keeping calories low. It can also boost nutrient metabolism with that amino acid, glutamine. Antioxidant defense from carcinogens is increased and it improves antioxidant use for cell protection and metabolic output.
- Increases Energy and Muscle Recovery
If you’re an avid athlete, and even if you’re not, bone broth can increase your energy levels and aid in post-workout muscle recovery. This is thanks to those amino acids, collagen, and mineral content. They help expedite nutrient-rich blood to sore muscles and broken down tissue, speeding recovery.
How do I make bone broth?
The how of making bone broth is just as important as the why. You want a flavorful broth that gels. This is the key indicator that you have extracted that all-important collagen from the bones. But how do you get it to that point?
You want to make sure to start with good quality bones, preferably from grass-fed beef and free range poultry, if possible. I like to use a combination of beef and poultry in each batch, for a balanced flavor composition, as well as the additional cartilage that poultry contains. Some recipes say to roast your beef bones prior to cooking, but I skip this step. It’s not really necessary for extracting the benefits from the bones. It just adds a rich taste and flavor.
I also like to make sure there is a little meat on the bones, as well. The very first time I made bone broth, it was with clean bones. While the broth was perfect, I didn’t find the flavor appealing. A little bit of meat on the bones will add more flavor to your broth, as well as add other important nutrients. If I find that my bones don’t have much meat, I will buy some chicken or turkey gizzards to throw in the pot. These add the flavor I’m looking for, as well as impart their own nutritional benefits.
Make sure to add plenty of vegetables, especially aromatics! These will add to the flavor of the broth, as well as additional vitamins and minerals. I always make sure to add the basics; carrots, celery, and onion/leeks. But this is a perfect opportunity to make use of your kitchen scraps! I keep a gallon bag in my freezer that my vegetable trimmings go into. Then, when I make my broth, the contents of the bag go in with the bones (along with any of the basic veggies that are needed) and I start filling it up all over again. I’ve used the tops of peppers, onion skins, mushroom stems, cauliflower leaves, cabbage cores, carrot greens….if it goes in another meal, the trimmings go in my broth! You can also use fresh herbs. Have a bunch of parsley, cilantro, or basil that is starting to wilt? Toss it in.
Be sure to add just a little bit of apple cider vinegar. Don’t worry! It won’t affect the taste of your broth. The acv helps to break down the bones in order to extract all of the collagen and minerals.
Finally, cooking time is the biggest factor in whether you will have a successfully gelled bone broth. You can simmer it on the stove top, in the slow cooker, or my favorite….the Instant Pot. If you cook it on the stove or in the slow cooker, aim for a minimum of 24 hours. I’ve seen where some people simmer up to 48 hours, but I’ve always done well with 24 hours. However, this past Christmas I received my Instant Pot as a gift and it has been one of my most prized small appliance! You can use the Instant Pot and have your bone broth in a matter of two or three hours! I love this because I can actually put off making bone broth until my previous batch is gone (yes, I am a bit of a procrastinator). And because I love all of you, I have included instructions for the Instant Pot in the recipe below!
Healing Bone Broth
A Basic Recipe for a Healing Batch of Bone Broth.
Ingredients-2 to 3 lbs. of chicken, turkey, or beef bones (or a combination of)
-2 carrots, roughly chopped
-2 to 3 stalks celery, roughly chopped
-1 onion, quartered
-herb and other aromatics of your choosing
-2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
-enough water to cover everything
DirectionsPlace your bones, vegetables, and herbs in your crockpot (or Instant Pot). Next, add the apple cider vinegar and enough water to cover everything (if using an Instant Pot, DO NOT fill above the Max Fill line). Set your crockpot to low and allow everything to simmer, undisturbed for 24-48 hours. For an Instant Pot, set to high temperature and high pressure. You can set the timer between 2 – 3 hours. I typically do 2 hours with good results.
Allow the broth to cool and strain the bones and vegetables from the broth. Place in a sealed jar or container and keep refrigerated (I have found that it will generally keep for up to a week). When you want a cup of broth, warm it on the stove and season with salt and pepper to taste.