BONE BROTH: A PANACEA
Bone broth is by no means a recent trend. It is an ancient superfood that is simple, delicious, and effective. It has been a mainstay among traditional cultures worldwide for thousands of years as a healing aid. If you have ever used chicken soup to help get over a cold, you have already participated in an ancient lineage of food wisdom! Bone broth is a true tonic when properly produced. It starts with the bones of locally sourced grass-fed cows, sheep, or pastured raised pigs and poultry, or the bones and heads of wild-caught fish. The broth is slow simmered for many hours to maximize the extraction of beneficial amino acids and minerals. Bones are the deepest and densest tissue of the body. To cook with bones is to cook with the “roots”—the core of the animals. Broth has a soothing and fortifying effect in the body, strengthening us from the core to the surface.
Bone broth is a terrific nourishing food because it helps our digestive system absorb nutrients without expending too much energy. Even though broth is not high in calories, it provides many of the building blocks that our body needs to build and maintain its own structures.The nutrients in bone broth are extracted from the soft part of the bone—the marrow—as well as from the outer bone matrix, the dense part of the bone.
Bone marrow provides the most iron—the trace mineral that is at the core of hemoglobin. The iron from bone marrow is of the easily absorbable type: heme iron.
The bone matrix provides other trace minerals, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, boron, and iodine (in fish broths only). These minerals are important for healthy bones and muscles, proper nerve transmission, and gland function.
The collagen and gelatin in bone broth are of special importance in the nutrient profile and the unique therapeutic properties of bone broth. Collagen, mostly found in the cartilage and connective tissue attached to bones, though also part of the bone matrix, is reduced to gelatin during the cooking process. It helps in the formation and repair of cartilage and bone healing, and in the coating of the mucous membranes of the gastrointestinal tract. It also facilitates the digestion and assimilation of proteins, and is beneficial in reducing bruising, fast wound healing, and promoting healthy skin.
The amino acids found in higher concentration in bone broth are proline, glycine, glutamine, and alanine. Although these amino acids are not considered essential because our bodies can produce them, the reality is that only people who are in excellent health manufacture enough of these amino acids to satisfy their needs. Most of us need to supplement with nutrient-dense foods.
Proline and glycine are key in our own manufacture (“manufacturing” sounds right to us, is this a grammatical rule?)of cartilage and collagen, which give us healthy joints and skin. Glycine is key in the production of other amino acids, and it is involved in many important functions in our body: It builds our blood, it is involved in the production of glucose, it enhances gastric acid secretion, it assists in wound healing, and it plays an essential role in the detoxification process of the liver. The amino acid alanine is involved in the production of glucose and in helping with our liver’s functions. It also helps with building muscle mass and is praised by athletes because it enhances physical endurance.
Glutamine is one of the most abundant amino acids in our bodies, found in the gastrointestinal tract. While our body can make glutamine itself from glutamic acid through the glutamate ammonium ligase, glutamine levels are often compromised after surgery, under stress, and when immune function is low. This is troublesome because glutamine plays an important role in many metabolic processes: maintaining acid-alkaline balance in our systems; ensuring firm, healthy skin; promoting wound healing; assisting the detoxification process of the liver; combating fat storage from sugars; aiding our brain’s production of GABA, the naturally occurring neurotransmitter commonly taken as a supplement for its calming effect on the nervous system; and enhancing our immune system. Interestingly, the gastrointestinal mucosal lining is made up of cells that feed on glutamine more than any other amino acid. Glutamine is an essential aid for gut cells to grow and heal.