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Bowl of bone brothPhoto: Alison Marras

Bone Broth – the Food of Yesteryear Turned Super!

Hannah de Gruchy
By Hannah de Gruchy

Bone broth is gradually earning its own superfood crown. Often used as a base for soups and stews or consumed as a warming hot drink, it’s a versatile and nourishing food. It’s packed with collagen, gelatin, amino acids, glucosamine, vitamins and minerals.

But it isn’t new. Bone broth used to be a staple. It was typically made at the end of the week by boiling up the bones of whatever meats had been feeding the family, along with onions, carrots, herbs and a small amount of vinegar.

My mum often tells the story of coming downstairs for school on a Monday morning to the smell of bone broth bubbling away on the stove, lovingly being tended to by my grandad. It’s extremely cheap, yet nutritious, so it’s unsurprising that in a post-war era it was such a staple food.

However, once families became more affluent, bone broth fell out of favor. But it’s now enjoying a resurgence as we realize its nutritional benefits once more. And bone broth has nutritional benefits aplenty…

Bone Broth Helps Keep Joints Healthy

Our bones, ligaments and tendons contain cartilage that helps to keep them healthy and ‘well oiled’. Collagen is a major constituent of cartilage and helps our bones ‘glide’ over each other smoothly, without them painfully rubbing together. As we age, or if we exercise excessively, we gradually lose our natural supplies of collagen, resulting in stiff and painful joints.

Just like in humans, the bones, ligaments and tendons of chickens, cows, pigs and other animals also contain collagen. But these are the parts of the animal that we now tend to throw away. However, making bone broth from these tougher animal parts, captures this collagen, and during the heating process, turns it into gelatin.

It’s this gelatin that gives bone broth the appearance of Jell-O when its chilled in the fridge. And it’s this gelatin that’s so good for our joints. Full of the amino acids that make up collagen—proline and glycine— the gelatin in bone broth helps to keep our joints supple.

It helps build collagen that increases the strength of our tendons and ligaments, protecting them and our joints against damage. In fact, a paper published in October 2000 concluded that collagen is also “an attractive agent for long-term use in the treatment of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis”.

Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin which help support the integrity of our cartilage.

It’s Great for the Skin, Too!

Although a major constituent of our joints, collagen is perhaps more often associated with our skin. Collagen forms a framework for our skin to sit on, keeping it plump and smooth. Over time, as our levels of collagen fall, this framework starts to weaken, taking the skin with it, resulting in sagging and wrinkling.

One double-blind placebo controlled study in 2014 showed that female participants taking collagen supplements (collagen identical to the type found in bone broth) showed significant increases in skin elasticity after just four weeks.

Bone Broth Can Help Seal a Leaky Gut

If the lining of our gut is impaired, then we won’t be able to digest and absorb the nutrients from our food efficiently. An impaired gut lining, or leaky gut syndrome, can be caused by food allergies and sensitivities, a lack of good gut bacteria, stress and inflammation.

Often, people with leaky gut syndrome and other inflammatory bowel conditions are found to have lower levels of collagen. Regularly consuming collagen in the form of gelatin from bone broth can be “effective in the treatment of intestinal inflammatory conditions” according to a 2012 study.

Bone broth is inexpensive, relatively simple to make and as you’re making use of the animal parts you wouldn’t usually eat, it helps cut down on food waste, too. It’s nourishing and full of nutrients that help with immunity - a hearty bowl of warming homemade chicken soup when we’re unwell can also do wonders for the soul!

The benefits of bone broth lie heavily in a good quality, homemade broth. Shop bought bone broth often contains the artificial flavor enhancer MSG and can be low in gelatin. If you’d like to try making your own, try this easy bone broth recipe from Wellness Mama. If a super green smoothie is a nourishing and intense plant based hit, then think of bone broth as an animal based version!

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Hannah de Gruchy

Hannah de Gruchy

Hannah is a freelance writer from London and is passionate about diet, nutrition, health and wellness. Using knowledge from her degree in Human Biology she loves to turn complex scientific ideas into fun and engaging pieces to read. She lives a life conscious of her impact on the environment and is a self-confessed odd mix of dairy free and pescatarian.

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