Good to the Bone

Deeply flavorful, soothing, low-calorie, and packed with nutrients, bone broth is a healthy, comforting food that’s also good for your spine.

Homemade bone broth with leek in glass cupBone broth is on trend these days, but savory and satisfying broth made from slowly simmered meat or poultry carcasses is really an old-fashioned home remedy for almost anything that ails you. Many nutrients associated with healthy bone tissue and joints—calcium, phosphorous, vitamin D and collagen protein—are concentrated in animal bones. So it makes sense that when cracked bones are cooked in a stockpot of slowly simmering water, they break down and release these nutrients, creating a wholesome broth that helps supply your own bones with these essential nutrients.

Bone broth can also be a healthful and effective tool when you’re watching your weight because it’s satisfying yet low in calories. A cup of broth can help curb your appetite between meals and, if you drink it about a half hour before lunch or dinner, you won’t be quite so hungry when you sit down to eat. When you’re not famished at the onset of a meal, it’s easier to stick to healthy portion sizes and not overeat. 

A Recipe for Healing
Any recipe that simmers bones over low heat for many hours to make broth is, in essence, a bone broth. That even includes the broth you or your family might make from that leftover turkey carcass at Thanksgiving. A recipe for “healing” bone broth usually includes just a spoonful or two of vinegar or lemon juice, which helps soften the bones and break them down to release more nutrients.

To make about 2 quarts (8 cups) of bone broth at home, combine in a stockpot:

  • 2 to 3 pounds of leftover cooked beef, chicken or lamb bones
  • 1 coarsely chopped onion
  • 1 small chopped carrot
  • 1 chopped rib celery
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic or red wine vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • Add at least 4 quarts of water, or enough to cover the ingredients.

If you like, add 1 cup of chopped fresh or canned tomatoes for extra flavor.

  • Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, for 4 to 6 hours.

During the first half hour of simmering, skim off any foam that collects at the top of the pot.

  • Strain cooled broth into a large bowl and discard bones and vegetables.
  • Refrigerate the broth for up to 5 days or freeze for up to a couple of months.

But More is Never Better
Along with the nutritional and emotional benefits you get from a steamy cup of bone broth, there are some concerns for anyone who might overdo it. When it comes to nutrients and other substances in food, it’s difficult, but possible to get too much of a good thing. One young man who reportedly drank one to two quarts of beef bone broth at least three days a week for six months began to suffer from chronic vomiting. Ultimately, his doctor decided he was getting too much vitamin D from the fatty marrow in the bones he used to make the broth. Since vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, the man ended up with too much calcium in his blood, which caused the vomiting.

Another potential problem associated with drinking too much bone broth is the possibility of lead contamination. Many common foods contain small amounts of lead and, in an animal, any environmental lead that gets into the body is stored in bone tissue. A healthy, well-nourished person can handle small amounts of lead and most of us have some in our bodies. When it comes to bone broth, lead is only a concern if you drink abnormal quantities. There is no reason why you shouldn’t have a cup of bone broth from time to time, or use your homemade broth as a base for making soups and stews.

Updated on: 05/19/16
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