By Dr. Mercola
If you happen to be in New York City, you can stop by Brodo, a trendy new to-go restaurant devoted to selling broth.1 One cup will set you back about $8… or you can make a gallon (that’s 16 cups) of this healing staple food right in your own kitchen for far less than the equivalent $128.
There’s no doubt that bone broth’s popularity as a superfood is growing. More than a few New York City bars are even featuring bone broth shots and cocktails.2 But there’s nothing “new” about it.
Bone broth may quite possibly be one of the oldest meals on record. Hippocrates was known to extol its virtues, and according to Dr. Kaayla Daniel, vice president of the Weston A. Price Foundation and coauthor (with Sally Fallon Morell) of the book Nourishing Broth:
“Bone broth goes way back to the Stone Age, when they were actually cooking broth in turtle shells and in skins over the fire.”3
Why Bone Broth Is Regarded as a Superfood
There’s something inherently soothing about sipping on a warm cup of broth, and it really does have medicinal potential.
For starters, bone broth is used as the foundation of the GAPs diet, which is based on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) principles developed by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. It forms the foundation because it is so healing to your gut.
The GAPS diet is often used to treat children with autism and other disorders rooted in gut dysfunction, but just about anyone with allergies or less than optimal gut health can benefit from it, as it is designed to heal leaky gut.
If your gut is leaky or permeable, partially undigested food, toxins, viruses, yeast, and bacteria have the opportunity to pass through your intestine and access your bloodstream; this is known as leaky gut.
When your intestinal lining is repeatedly damaged due to reoccurring leaky gut, damaged cells called microvilli become unable to do their job properly. They become unable to process and utilize the nutrients and enzymes that are vital to proper digestion.
Eventually, digestion is impaired and absorption of nutrients is negatively affected. As more exposure occurs, your body initiates an attack on these foreign invaders. It responds with inflammation, allergic reactions, and other symptoms we relate to a variety of diseases.
Leaky gut is the root of many allergies and autoimmune disorders, for example. When combined with toxic overload, you have a perfect storm that can lead to neurological disorders like autism, ADHD, and learning disabilities.
One of the main foods that you use is bone broth, because not only is it very easily digested, it also contains profound immune-optimizing components that are foundational building blocks for the treatment of autoimmune diseases.
Nutrients That Many Americans Are Lacking
Bone broth contains a variety of valuable nutrients of which many Americans are lacking, in a form your body can easily absorb and use. This includes but is not limited to:
Calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals Components of collagen and cartilage Silicon and other trace minerals Components of bone and bone marrow Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate The "conditionally essential" amino acids proline, glycine, and glutamine
These nutrients account for many of the healing benefits of bone broth. As Dr. Daniel told the Washington Post:4
“We have science that supports the use of cartilage, gelatin, and other components found in homemade bone broth to prevent and sometimes even reverse osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, digestive distress, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer.”
Additional benefits of bone broth include the following:
- Reduces joint pain and inflammation, courtesy of chondroitin sulfate, glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down cartilage and collagen.
- Inhibits infection caused by cold and flu viruses etc. Indeed, Dr. Daniel reports chicken soup — known as "Jewish penicillin"—has been revered for its medicinal qualities at least since Moses Maimonides in the 12th century.5
Recent studies on cartilage, which is found abundantly in homemade broth, show it supports the immune system in a variety of ways; it's a potent normalizer, true biological response modifier, activator of macrophages, activator of Natural Killer (NK) cells, rouser of B lymphocytes, and releaser of Colony Stimulating Factor.
- Fights inflammation: Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation).6 Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.
- Promotes strong, healthy bones: Dr. Daniel reports bone broth contains surprisingly low amounts of calcium, magnesium and other trace minerals, but she says "it plays an important role in healthy bone formation because of its abundant collagen. Collagen fibrils provide the latticework for mineral deposition and are the keys to the building of strong and flexible bones."
- Promotes healthy hair and nail growth, thanks to the gelatin in the broth. Dr. Daniel reports that by feeding collagen fibrils, broth can even eliminate cellulite too.
Kobe Bryant Swears By Bone Broth
Bone broth is also getting attention for its use in sports medicine. Genuine bone broth contains components of cartilage that may help your body make cartilage. In addition, Dr. Daniel notes that body builders have long used gelatin supplements to support muscle growth. She describes bone broth as “the raw food version of a gelation supplement.”7
Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant is among those who swear by bone broth, and he believes it has kept his NBA career sustainable. It’s a foundation of his pre-game meals. As ESPN reported:8
"I've been doing the bone broth for a while now," Bryant said. "It's great - energy, inflammation. It's great."
“You could go into a store and on the shelf you’ve got this carton of vegetable stock or chicken stock, and that’s probably something that’s been flavored with salt and chicken-flavored bouillon cubes or something like that.
But there’s no actual vitamin, mineral nutrient value in there. It just tastes good because there’s enough salt in there. But when you make a bone stock the right way, it’s like liquid gold. And the way you know you have real stock on your hand is if you put it in the refrigerator overnight and it basically turns into Jell-O.”
Indeed, the more gelatinous the broth, the more nourishing it will tend to be. The collagen that leaches out of the bones when slow-cooked is one of the key ingredients that make broth so healing. According to Dr. Daniel, if the broth gets jiggly after being refrigerated, it's a sign that it's a well-made broth.
To make it as gelatinous as possible, she recommends adding chicken feet, pig's feet, and/or joint bones. All of these contain high amounts of collagen and cartilage. Shank or leg bones, on the other hand, will provide lots of bone marrow. Marrow also provides valuable health benefits so ideally you'll want to use a mixture of bones. You can make bone broth using whole organic chicken, whole fish or fish bones (including the fish head), pork, or beef bones. Vary your menu as the many types offer different flavors and nutritional benefits.
Use the Highest Quality Ingredients You Can Find
Perhaps the most important caveat when making broth, whether you're using chicken or beef, is to make sure the bones are from organically raised, pastured or grass-fed animals. As noted by Sally Fallon, chickens raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) tend to produce stock that doesn't gel, so you'll be missing out on some of the most nourishing ingredients if you use non-organic chicken bones.
If you can't find a local source for organic bones, you may need to order them. A great place to start is your local Weston A. Price chapter leader,11 who will be able to guide you to local sources. You can also connect with farmers at local farmers markets. Keep in mind that many small farmers will raise their livestock according to organic principles even if their farm is not USDA certified organic, as the certification is quite costly. So it pays to talk to them. Most will be more than happy to give you the details of how they run their operation.
Homemade Chicken Bone Broth Recipe
The recipe that follows is from Hilary Boynton and Mary Brackett's GAPS cookbook, The Heal Your Gut Cookbook: Nutrient-Dense Recipes for Intestinal Health Using the GAPS Diet. For even more broth recipes, this book is an excellent resource.
Homemade Chicken Broth
- 1 3- to 4-pound stewing hen, 1-2 chicken carcasses, or 3-4 pounds of chicken necks, backs and wings
- 4 quarts filtered water
- 2-4 chicken feet (optional)
- 1-2 chicken heads (optional)
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped
- 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
- 1 onion, quartered
- Handful of fresh parsley
- Sea salt
- Put the chicken or carcasses in a pot with 4 quarts of water; add the chicken feet and heads (if you’re using them) and the vinegar.
- Let sit for 30 minutes to give the vinegar time to leach the minerals out of the bones.
- Add the vegetables and turn on the heat.
- Bring to a boil and skim the scum.
- Reduce to barely a simmer, cover, and cook for 6 to 24 hours.
- During the last 10 minutes of cooking, throw in a handful of fresh parsley for added flavor and minerals.
- Let the broth cool, strain it, and take any remaining meat off the bones to use in future cooking.
- Add sea salt to taste and drink the broth as is or store it in the fridge (up to 5 to 7 days), or freezer (up to 6 months) for use in soups and stews.