This popular health food trend with roots in the past has health applications for energy, weight loss and even better sleep.
Bone broth, made with the boiled bones of poultry, fish or beef, is a health food trend steeped in tradition. Its amino acids and nutrient base helps with weight loss, and is also a natural energy source.
Photo by Allan Penn
What was once known as your grandmother’s miracle cure for a cold or the flu is now the most popular health-food trend. The Bone Broth Miracle (Skyhorse Publishing, 2015) details everything you need to know about the many health benefits of this miracle soup. This excerpt comes the chapter “Bone Broth Health and How Other ‘Trends’ Stack Up.”
With every health trend, whether it is juicing, coconut oil, detox cleanses, gluten-free dieting, or another movement of the moment, it can be difficult to sift through all of the different messages coming our way. We live in a society that is constantly on the go, and taking care of ourselves can be exhausting, particularly when there are so many conveniences—from fast food to prepared meals to boxed mixes that cut the time of cooking considerably. While this is an understandable concession of a busy lifestyle, we pay for it later with excess weight, nutrient deficiency, and myriad illnesses and ailments that can make life pretty miserable.
With all of these different diets competing with one another, nailing down the exact benefits of each and applying it to your own diet can be a daunting task. Going gluten-free can be a wonderful way to rid your body of many inflammatory food products, but sometimes it can be easier to ask “Is that gluten-free?” than question whether even a gluten-free swap is truly healthy for you or just labeled that way. Similarly, juice cleanses can offer myriad benefits from antioxidants and energy boosters, but if it is made with non-organic fruits and vegetables, you may just be drinking an elixir of sweetly flavored pesticides and chemicals from the farming process. Many green juice products, for example, contain large portions of fruit juice to sweeten the vegetable taste, but contain scads of fructose that can cause spikes and drops in blood sugar level. Businesses in the food industry can just as easily slap on a “gluten-free” or “green juice” label to a product without having to reconcile other empty nutritional elements, and this can be very damaging to consumers who rely on honest labeling to make their food selections.
What consumers, health enthusiasts, and chronic illness sufferers who are looking to make healthy changes should take away from the trend of the moment is twofold: first, that it should never be a trend. Nutritious eating is about healthy lifestyle changes as a whole, and while some movements like the Paleo Diet appear as though they are here to stay while others have long since passed, it is because Paleo has been able to accomplish what other nutritional movements have not. It has encapsulated what healthy eating truly is by weeding out the preservative-filled and processed foods that many people have become so used to seeing on store shelves or passively nuking in the microwave after a long day. The second is that the marvel diet or ingredient of the moment is never just about that one ingredient, but rather what that ingredient can mean as a tool to open the door to a rejuvenated, energetic, and healthy new lifestyle full of opportunity. Too much of something is never a good thing, whether it is water, sunlight, or even bone broth, but added in balanced amounts to a daily lifestyle can be the health awakening that you have been waiting for.
So what makes bone broth different? Bone broth is a return to our roots. As a species, hunting, gathering, and preparing meals based on animal meat were what made us thrive. Boiling the meat and bones of animals for soups and stews was perhaps the founding culinary practice of our survival. The health benefits of bone broth are innumerable, but the exercise of preparing it is what makes bone broth truly unique. Unlike many other popular health trends, the emphasis on drinking and cooking with bone broth is not so much about restricting a particular food group, but rather on having special awareness of the kinds of foods that we choose to put into our bodies. The practice of selecting healthy bones from local farmers, organic butchers, and organic food sources is the first step along this path, because it manifests a desire to take control over the healthfulness of the food that ends up on the dinner table.
While cooking bone broth can seem intimidating based on the long hours it can often require, modern conveniences like pressure cookers and slow cookers mean that you do not have to sit around monitoring the stove all day. Making bone broth is as simple as adding healthy bones, water, and vinegar to a pot and letting the goodness from the bones cook out into a rich broth over many hours. Once you have nutrient-filled bone broth in your kitchen, drinking it daily and using it as a base for meals can become as routine as preparing a morning cup of coffee or boiling a pot of water. Taking a step back and preparing a meal that is truly made from scratch can help us better understand the cost of convenience in other foods that we have commonly accepted into our diets. The practice of preparing bone broth can manifest into other elements of our cooking as well, from selecting vegetables and spices that boost energy, revitalize our whole system with good vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, and detoxify our bodies by ridding them of all of the foods that weigh us down and contribute to illnesses. The most important aspect to remember of this nourishing approach to cooking and eating is that it is not that hard. With an investment in time-saving kitchen appliances, incorporating bone broth into a regular routine is completely within reach, if not incredibly easy.
The extra boost in energy is just a few daily cups of bone broth away. Not only is the elixir packed with nutrients, minerals, protein, and vitamins that can replenish your system, but also in practice, drinking bone broth can replace some of the drinks that make us lethargic, unmotivated, and less likely to be active. Sugary energy drinks, sodas, and too much caffeine can stimulate momentary rushes of energy, but more often than not, they are followed by intense, regrettable energy crashes and adrenal fatigue. Not only this, but these kinds of beverages are filled with preservatives, chemicals, and coloring agents that can have severe health consequences, from weight gain and illnesses, all the way to cancer.
Drinking bone broth is a warm pick-me-up, but its nutrient and protein base sparks energy and jump-starts metabolism. Pair this with supercharged stews and soups made from bone broth, and the medley of vitamins, rich minerals, and nutrition yields a healthy, balanced diet that keeps your system from experiencing inflammation, digestive problems, and other stressors related to diet that can prevent us from getting up and moving. Studies show that individuals who take an active role in food preparation and health-conscious eating are more likely to exercise and relish activity. Some may chalk this up to be a personality trait, but the reality is that if your body feels good from the nutritious foods you put into it, you are more likely to want to get on your feet and use that body.
Most Americans suffer from sleep deprivation in some form or another. According to the National Center on Sleep Disorder Research at the NIH, 30–40 percent of adults in the United States report symptoms of insomnia, and 10–15 percent of those people suffer from chronic insomnia. What’s more, the National Sleep Foundation has found that 38 percent of Americans awake from sleep feeling unrested, with others in that group experiencing tossing, turning, and an inability to return to sleep if woken. This is a very real problem because the stress on the body associated with lack of sleep can creep into the day, causing fatigue, low energy, and headaches, and can lead to more arduous health problems down the line. Sleep disorders are often associated with obesity, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, depression, cardiovascular disease, poor work performance, memory lapses, impaired cognitive function, gastrointestinal ailments, irritability, and anxiety. Excess weight and inactivity can cause disruptions in breathing during sleep, causing sleep apnea and other sleep disorders.
The benefits of bone broth to sleep are multifaceted. The first is that with healthy nutrition and bone broth as a part of an active lifestyle, individuals can reduce obesity and gastrointestinal-related sleep deprivation and have more restful nights. Additionally, the amino acid glycine has been found to facilitate the sleep cycle. Its interaction with brain receptors may be responsible for limiting muscle movement during REM sleep (rapid eye movement), increasing serotonin levels, and lowering core body temperature. Bone broth is rich with amino acids, including glycine, which can help transition the body into healthier and more restorative sleep cycles.
Chicken soup has been the trusted home remedy for cold and flu season for generations. While the reasons behind this have long been anecdotal, recent studies have indicated that chicken soup can inhibit neutrophil migration, which typically leads to inflammation. The combination of fats and antioxidants in soup made from a whole chicken work together to achieve other health benefits, but the anti-inflammation qualities of chicken soup can deter a number of nutritional deficiencies and sicknesses. Additionally, sipping the warm broth stimulates nasal clearance. Drinking the broth throughout the duration of a cold can help improve painful symptoms of the upper respiratory tract.
Sports and fitness have long been closely linked with high-protein diets, and for good reason. Protein provides energy and helps build muscle, but as a society, we tend to rely on lean cuts of meat and protein powders. While this can have many short-term benefits in the way of muscle building and strength, neglecting the other parts of the meat that include joint pieces, cartilage, and marrow is a missed opportunity for many other reasons. These lesser-chosen parts of the animal provide the vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and fatty acids that lean cuts do not. This can lead to vitamin deficiency and cause harm over the long term.
This is where bone broth comes in. The gelatin in bone broth contains many important, conditionally essential amino acids that can help athletes train, compete, and repair the wear and tear on their bodies that can result from intense physical exertion. Gelatin supplements have even been associated with over 200 percent higher performance output in athletes. Studies have shown that 15 grams of glycine paired with exhaustive exercise can increase dexterity, rebuild muscle tissue, bolster muscle strength, and fend off exhaustion. Glutamine, another conditionally essential amino acid present in bone broth, can support the immune system, reduce muscle atrophy, and help the body recover from fatigue faster. When the body is overworked, particularly through athletics and intense training, muscles release glutamine to help make up for this exhaustion. When this happens, the muscles weaken. Drinking bone broth as an exercise supplement can replenish this glutamine so that this kind of negative result is never a problem.
When faced with injury, athletes can do astonishing damage. Constant training and strain on the body can break down cartilage and joints, tear ligaments, and add intense strain on the skeletal frame. With daily cups of bone broth, these joints, connective tissues, and bones receive constant nourishment and protection of amino acids and anti-inflammatory agents that can make injury less likely. In the case of injury, however, the typical response is for the athlete to take NSAIDs like ibuprofen to suppress inflammation and decrease pain. Dependency on these kinds of medicines can lead to worn stomach lining. Instead, a holistic approach with bone broth can reduce injury-associated inflammation and speed up the healing process. The LA Lakers’ nutrition consultant—a physician—has been prescribing bone broth to the players for years with phenomenal results. When the prognosis for a severely sprained ankle seemed to mean that Kobe Bryant would not play for the foreseeable future, bone broth brought him back in two games. Bone broth can offer athletes and people who live active lifestyles a healthy buffer, aiding in muscle strength, safeguarding bones and muscle tissue, and soothing recovery in the face of injury.
The most healthful elements of bone broth relate to the lifestyle, eating habits, and body healing that it promotes, but it is also a great tool for weight loss. No individual should look to bone broth alone as a replacement for meals. Enhanced bone broth drinks like the “Energy Tonic” in this book have the benefit of additional fats that release nutrients slowly and consistently into the bloodstream. Bone broth contains many beneficial vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, but it is not so packed with nourishment that it can meet a day’s needs in any of these categories by itself. Weight loss should be managed in a responsible way, meaning that it should include exercise and meals full of heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory, and clean foods. At the same time, broth is the perfect source of nutrition to satisfy and curb hunger until the next meal rather than unhealthy but convenient snacks.
At this point in time, the population of the United States is experiencing a terrible obesity crisis. More than 65 percent of Americans are overweight, and 35 percent of those individuals are obese. The distinction between the two depends on weight as it relates to body mass index, or BMI. For a person who is five foot nine inches, being “overweight” means someone who weighs between 169 and 202 pounds and who has a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9. “Obese” would be 203 pounds or higher with a BMI of 30 or more. This can cause countless life-threatening or life-altering sicknesses, from heart disease and diabetes to infertility and cancer. Lifestyle changes and shifts in the functionality of the commercial food industry are the only way to reverse these numbers, but the process for one individual alone can seem insurmountable. Many diets are aimed at people looking for a quick weight loss miracle, but oftentimes these can become expensive, challenging to make into a routine, and, frankly, boring to keep up day in and day out.
The perks of adding bone broth into your diet are that it is low-calorie on its own, inexpensive over the long term, simple to make into a daily occurrence, and has dozens of associated recipes for tonics, soups, stews, recipes, and even cocktails to make it an exciting part of your day. The caloric content of one cup of beef, chicken, or fish bone broth rests between sixteen and thirty calories, depending on the ingredients added to the blend. This number goes up significantly for commercially sold broths, which can range between fifty-five and two hundred calories based on the additives.
This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from The Bone Broth Miracle by Ariane Resnick, CNC. Published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2015.
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