The days are growing colder here in the Northeast, and winter is nearly upon us. That means it’s also nearly cold and flu season. Drinking a steaming mug of beef bone broth is a wonderful way to strengthen your immune system during these months. In fact, bone broth is such a wonderful health-boosting food that my family and I love drinking it year round. Today, I’ll be sharing several of its amazing health benefits as well as step-by-step instructions for how you can make your own nourishing bone broth.
What is Bone Broth?
I made this bone broth with grass fed beef bones (you can substitute with any kind of bones, even chicken bones). It is preferable to use bones from joints that still have some soft tissue attached like tendons or cartilage. In this recipe I used a combination of bones from a local supplier in upstate New York and bones that I saved from previous meals. If you are not in New York, you can purchase grass fed bones from US Wellness Meats or you may be able to locate a local farm in your area at this site.
I use a slow cooker when making my bone broth. (If you are looking to invest in a high-quality slow cooker, I recommend this one by Hamilton Beach). Along with the roasted bones, I add vegetables, herbs, water, and vinegar and allow them to cook for at least 24 hours. This allows the bones and connective tissue to be broken down, releasing a bevy of nutrients and minerals. The resulting broth packs a powerful nutritional punch.
Here’s why you should be drinking bone broth:
It Starts With Collagen
The bones that the broth is made from are not only rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, but they are also packed with collagen. Collagen is the main protein matrix of the bones and connective tissue. When selecting bones for your broth, try to obtain ones that still have a lot of connective tissue attached. This greatly increases the protein content of the bones. Bones coming from the joints of pasture-raised animals are excellent for this. Once the bones are boiled in water, the collagen will turn into gelatin.
Gelatin: The Glycine-Proline Combination
When your broth is finished simmering in the slow cooker, it should have a gelatinous texture. This is gelatin. Gelatin is not a complete protein. It does not contain all the necessary amino acids. It does, however, contain two very important non-essential amino acids: proline and glycine.
Glycine and proline are considered non-essential amino acids because the body can make it’s own supply of these amino acids. It could be argued that since the body makes proline and glycine, these are not needed from bone broth. However, when the body is experiencing stress, immune suppression, or inflammation (think osteoarthritis), it is probable that the body needs more of the non-essential amino acids.
Why We Need Glycine and Proline
Over 90% of collagen in the human body is found in skin, tendons, ligaments and organs. It is also abundantly found in cartilage and blood vessels.
Glycine and proline make up about 1/3 each of the collagen in our bodies. In a sense, they are the raw materials needed to maintain healthy bones, joints and skin (including nails). Sufficient quantities of both amino acids are thus necessary for repairing damaged tendons, ligaments and cartilage (think of tendonitis and osteoarthritis).
A small study showed that rheumatoid arthritis patients administered chicken collagen experience dramatic improvement with four cases of complete remission. This article from Paleo Leap points out, “The amino acids in gelatin also improve the appearance of your skin and hair. Skin, just like gelatin, is made of collagen. Gelatin-rich broths help build connective tissue, which makes skin smoother (less cellulite, fewer wrinkles) and healthier.”
Further Benefits Of Glycine
Adequate glycine levels provide even more health benefits for the body:
1. Glycine aids in digestion: Studies have shown that glycine stimulates the secretion of gastric acid. Many people suffering from acid reflux may actually be suffering from not enough acid in their stomach. Because of low stomach acid, food may remain in the stomach, and then pressure from the stomach could push food and acid into the esophagus causing pain. See here. The glycine in bone broth may help in this situation by promoting increased gastric acid. Glycine is also a component of bile salts which are necessary for fat digestion. If you are on a low carb high fat diet, this will make digestion a lot more pleasant.
2. Glycine aids in detoxification: Glycine is necessary for the formation of the important antioxidant glutathione.
3. Glycine also lowers the amount of methionine in your body. Methionine is an amino acid contained in large amounts in eggs and red meats. Too much methionine can raise the levels of another amino acid homocysteine. In the process of breaking down homocysteine the body uses B vitamins. Too much methane may eventually cause a deficiency in B vitamins. Increased glycine helps to eliminate the imbalance.
4. Glycine is also believed to be supportive of liver function. This also aids in the detoxification process.
5. Glycine supports gluconeogenesis – Glycine is essential to the synthesis of glucose from amino acids (protein) during times of fasting, and therefore affects the stabilization of blood glucose levels.
6. Glycine aids in wound healing – Glycine promotes wound healing by increasing levels of creatine.
7. Glycine improve sleep quality: Paleo Leap observes, “Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it helps you relax. One trial found that glycine supplements also improved sleep quality and reduced daytime sleepiness. So a hot mug of bone broth might be just the ticket to wind down after a long day.”
Glycosaminoglycans And Bone Broth
Finally, glycosaminoglycans are a family of carbohydrates found in bone and connective tissue. Researchers have shown considerable interest in their ability to lower joint pain. Bone broth contains two important ones:
- Hyaluronic Acid – Hyaluronic acid has been shown to be helpful in reducing pain from osteoarthritis.
- Chondroitin Sulphate – Chondroitin sulphate has also been shown to reduce pain and damage from arthritis.
My Step-By-Step Recipe for Making Amazingly Nutritious Beef Bone Broth
So here’s how to make beef bone broth! Homemade bone broth is much better than store bought because you can control what kinds of bones go into your broth.
First, preheat your oven to 450℉. Place the bones on a roasting pan. Today I have some grass fed beef bones that I asked my butcher to chop into three inch pieces. Smaller bones expose more bone marrow and allow for easier absorption into broth. I also have some rib bones that I saved in my freezer from the last time my family had short ribs for dinner.
Roast the bones for 30 minutes. Then carefully transfer the bones to your slow cooker with tongs. Reserve the drippings for cooking (I keep a jar in my fridge for this fat/tallow).
Add the carrots, celery, onions, a handful of parsley (about 4-5 sprigs), and any other veggies that you like. Then toss in the garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns and salt.
Another key ingredient is vinegar, which draws the minerals from the bones. I use Bragg’s Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. I especially like Bragg’s because it contains the “mother” of the vinegar: strands of proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria.
Next, I pour 3 1/2 quarts of filtered water over the bones and veggies. Depending on the dimensions of your slow cooker, make sure the water covers the bones by an inch.
Cover and set the slow cooker on low for 24 hours. I have found that I don’t lose any of my broth to evaporation when I make it in my slow cooker.
After the broth is cooked, cool it quickly to prevent bacteria and to be able to store it in the refrigerator. Here is my method: Fill your sink with about 2 inches of cold water. (You could also put ice in the sink to speed the cooling process). Set a large empty pot in the sink. Place a strainer in that pot. Then, lift the whole pot from the heating base of your slow cooker and slowly and carefully strain the broth over the large empty pot in the sink. You’re just going to keep the broth; there isn’t any flavor left in the veggies after all the cooking is done. Cover the pot of broth and let it cool in the sink about 30 minutes to one hour.
Finally, separate the broth into jars, leaving at least an inch of space at the top of each jar, and store the jars in the refrigerator. Your broth will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also store it a lot longer in the freezer and use it weeks later. However, be careful to use freezer safe jars as jars can sometimes break due to the expansion that happens when food is frozen.
When your broth is cooled, you will find the fat rises to the top. It is a healthy beef tallow.
Don’t break the tallow seal until you are ready to enjoy the broth. You can spoon it off, rinse it free of broth, and save it for cooking. It’s high heat safe and great for pan frying.
You can also see the gelatin hidden under the tallow in this picture.
When you’re ready to drink your broth, you can reheat it on the stove (don’t use a microwave as changes occur when bone broth is microwaved that can make it toxic). Some in my family love drinking it like soup, others like to drink it from a mug. You can also use it as stock for soups and gravies.
Enjoy! Have a happy and healthy week!
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- 3 lbs of bones
- 1 large onion, quartered
- 2 medium carrots, cut into
- 3½ quarts filtered water (*see note)
- 3 stalks of celery, cut into
- 2 cloves of garlic, cut in half
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 whole peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons
gluten-freeBragg's Apple Cider Vinegar
- Preheat oven to 450℉
- Place bones in a baking pan and roast for 30 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the bones to your slow cooker. Reserve the drippings for cooking. (I keep a jar in my fridge for this fat/tallow.)
- Add the remaining ingredients and set
slowcooker on low for 24 hours.
- After your broth is cooked, cool it quickly because bacteria can multiply rapidly. Here is my method: Fill your sink with about 2 inches of cold water. Set a large empty pot in the sink. Place a strainer in that pot. Now, lift the whole pot from the heating base of your slow cooker and slowly and carefully strain broth over the large empty pot in the sink. Cover and let it cool about 30 minutes - one hour.
- Separate broth into jars leaving at least an inch of space at the top of each jar and store jars in the refrigerator. Your broth will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days.
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