Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bone Broth Benefits

Natural Medicine: Bone broth for better flavor and health

Broth is an ingredient used in kitchens all over the world to create delicious soups, sauces and gravies, and to add flavor to cooked grains or beans. While broth can be made from meat alone, it is traditionally made from leftover bones. Although this practice may have originated as a way to extract more value from a commodity during scarce times, it also extracts flavor and nutrients from something that might otherwise be thrown away. The result is a tasty, nutrient-filled liquid that makes an excellent addition to many recipes.

Properly made bone broth contains measurable amounts of calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and other minerals, as well as collagen, gelatin and amino acids. These nutrients are beneficial for bone and joint health, for muscle strength and action, and for maintaining connective tissues and the gastrointestinal tract.

The gelatin in bone broth has been shown in some studies to stimulate digestion and protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It also is thought to improve digestion of milk, beans, meat and gluten-containing grains. The gelatin also contributes texture to the broth, lending what chefs call "mouth-feel" to any dish.

Making bone broth is simple, though time-consuming. Bones can be purchased fresh at the grocery store meat counter, or use leftover bones from chicken or beef. Place bones in a pot, cover with water and a splash of vinegar (or lemon juice) and slowly bring to a simmer. The vinegar helps leach more minerals from the bones.

Allow the broth to simmer uncovered 2-4 hours, skimming the top of the broth throughout the cooking process. When the broth is done, strain it through a fine sieve. Discard the bones but save any meat for another dish. The broth will keep for three days in the refrigerator, and for several months in the freezer. One substantial batch of this broth, safely reheated to boiling, will enhance the nutrition and taste of several future meals.

-- Carol White, B.A., and Debra Boutin, M.S., R.D., associate professor with the School of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University