The Health Benefits of Bone Broth

It's odd enough to think it, nevermind voice it, but bone broth conjures images of deserts and camels in my mind. At my desk, around 3pm, caught between a couple of minty Eucalyptus stems and a constellation of empty coffee mugs, there I am, sipping on seasoned broth broth, imagining vultures.

A South African proverb claims that good bone broth will resurrect the dead. Maybe that's why I envision bones, the remnants of what was once alive; the Earth's inheritance. At this very moment in New York City, a restaurant on 200 1st Ave in the East Village is selling bone broth to those willing to bare the brunt of the cold for it. Rumour has it the chef add turmeric and ginger juice. I don't know whether it's the promise of ginger-infused bone broth or having just spent the last forty-eight hours engulfed in photographer Karen Mordechai's Sunday Suppers, a triumphant cookbook and a design + food community out of South Williamsburg, but the desire to kick back in Brooklyn -- sipping on bone broth, naturally -- is coursing through my veins with a greater sense of urgency than a sticky sweet macaron on an empty stomach.

Bone broth is comforting. And now that I think of it, a salted caramel macaron doesn't sound half bad, either.

Bones are coming out of the closet, experiencing a deserved resurgence after falling out of favour for so many decades. As a self-professed lover of traditional foods, nutritionist, and collagen convert, I'm pleased. Bones house proline and glycine, considered "non-essential" amino acids (not required by the body) that are, truthfully, conditionally essential. In exchanging robust, whole chickens for boneless and skinless chicken breasts we've done ourselves an enormous disservice.

Proline and glycine, what I fondly refer to as Nature's Botox package, support the joints, muscle development, and digestive disturbances (which is why bone broth is a heavy hitter in the GAPS diet). What about osteoarthritis? Studies have shown that a family of carbohydrates, referred to as GAGs, provide some relief; chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and glucosamine are recognized for their anti-inflammatory benefits, but this is another case where the real deal - stock or bone broth made from cows, chicken, fish, etc - is way more powerful than synthetic (and expensive) supplements, which have yet to prove their worth.

Antioxidants are all the rage, and have been for years: drink your pomegranate juice, eat your organic blueberries, and what about that resveratrol in red wine? But glycine is actually more powerful, since it plays a part in the manufacturing of glutathione and uric acid, internally-produced antioxidants that researchers claim have a stronger preventative impact on cell oxidation than orally-consumed antioxidants, minerals like selenium, or vitamins with antioxidant properties such as C and E. Translation: bone broth, theoretically speaking, possesses powerful anti-cancer properties, and keeps us younger than all the colorful foods in all the lands.

Researcher and writer Denise Minger, and some members of the Paleo camp are also quite outspoken regarding muscle meat -- specifically the amino acid methionine -- which is present in high amounts in these cuts. Why is methionine such an issue? It's been shown to increase blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid and product of protein breakdown, implicated in arterial plaque formation, strokes, and heart attacks (there's the heart disease-meat correlation for those interested.) Normally the process of eliminating homocysteine from our bodies depletes us of B vitamins, which you definitely don't want. The lovely thing about bones and chicken skin? They contain glycine, which takes care of business quite naturally, kicking that homocysteine to the curb. This is why the dietary practice of ditching chicken skin to save a few measly calories kills me (and can kill you, quite literally, especially if you lead a stressful lifestyle and don't compensate with B-vitamin rich foods.) This applies not only to chicken but to any protein source high in methionine and devoid of so-called non-essential amino acids proline and glycine.

These two pretty amino acids also help in the beauty department, working to increase hair growth and strength. Bone broth gives us smoother skin and prevent wrinkles from occurring, which is possibly why the elders of long-living populations, known for eating each and every part of the animal, are reputably very youthful-looking. On a vain note, glycine and proline are thought to decrease the appearance of or eliminate cellulite; on a less vain note, they have the power to remineralize teeth, super important if your enamel is as non-existent as mine. These amino acids also regulate human growth hormone, imperative for muscle development. Why not make a cup of stock or bone broth part of your post-workout routine? There's a reason some add gelatin or collagen to their morning beverages.

Making bone broth is a bit of a rite of passage from one world to the next, connecting us in the present day with the practices of our ancestors. Bone broth (different from stock), takes up to 48 hours or more to make. It involves boiling animal bones until they crumble in your hands; that's when you know you've taken everything you can from them, all of the amino acids and the calcium and the phosphorus and the trace minerals. And when you're through and you've seasoned it thoroughly and perhaps have thought to blend it with some grass-fed butter, you'll find yourself at 3pm, nourishing your body right down to its core, imagining vultures, building your energy reserves up from the bottom.

Sarah Berneche

Sarah Berneche, 14 Denison Square, Toronto, ON, M5T 1K8