Eating This Ancient Food Can Heal You

If you asked a food historian to name one type of food that globally has a deep and rich cultural history, it's broth...

Some might consider it boring, but humans have enjoyed broth at mealtime since Neanderthals were living in caves and roasting their meat over open fires.

Every region around the globe has its own local flavors of broth. The Turkish added vegetables to their broth. The Chinese developed wonton soup, named "swallowing clouds" for its appearance. Spain had gazpacho. And medieval Europeans added meats and vegetables to hot water.

Broth is not only a way to create a simple, hot meal... it has long been known for its healing properties.

If you had a Jewish grandmother, you may have slurped down some chicken soup – "the Jewish penicillin" – as a kid when you caught a cold. Turns out, this age-old tradition started when the 12th century Jewish philosopher and scientist Maimonides called chicken soup a "panacea" for many things, including asthma, weight gain, and leprosy.

Today, we have scientific research to back this up. A study out of the Nebraska Medical Center, in Omaha, found that chicken soup's benefit lies in its ability to reduce inflammation. Turns out, soup inhibits the movement ("migration") of neutrophils – which are white blood cells that eat viruses and bacteria and release enzymes that also kill them. They are the first line of defense against such microorganisms, but when they migrate into the bloodstream, neutrophils can create an inflammatory response in healthy areas where it is not needed. So inhibiting their movement is beneficial.

For the past few years, bone broth has been a health fad. But is it really that good for you?

It turns out that bones are rich in nutrients, like:

Vitamins and Minerals – In bone broth, you'll find a plethora of essential vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Calcium – Calcium serves many functions in the body, including keeping your bones and tissues strong and flexible.
  • Phosphorus – Phosphorus is important for repairing and maintaining your body's tissues and cells. It also helps build your DNA and balance your intake of other vitamins and minerals.
  • Magnesium – Magnesium is a mineral that we don't typically get enough of, yet it's so vital for our health... It helps regulate our muscle and nerve functions. It balances blood sugar levels and blood pressure. And it helps make new bone, protein, and DNA.
  • Vitamin A – This vitamin supports vision, the immune system, reproduction, and growth. It also helps your organs (heart, lungs, etc.) work properly.
  • Vitamin K2 – K2 helps the body use calcium to build bones and keep our blood vessels pliable. It also contributes to skin health, brain function, bone metabolism, and prevents heart-related disease.
  • Iron – Iron helps deliver oxygen from the lungs to other parts of the body – like the muscles.
  • Zinc – Zinc helps your immune system fight off bacteria and viruses.
  • Selenium – This mineral protects your cells from damage and also helps build your DNA.
  • Manganese – Manganese helps your body metabolize amino acids, cholesterol, and carbohydrates. It helps with reproduction, bone formation, and immune system responses. It also pairs up with vitamin K to help your blood clot.

Glycine – Glycine is an amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter – meaning it helps your nervous system send messages back and forth. It plays a vital role in breaking down blood sugar and improving your liver fat content. It also promotes the secretion of digestive acids in the stomach and regulates your cholesterol levels.

Gelatin and Collagen – Bone broth is a good source of gelatin, which promotes the health of your skin, joints, hair, nails, and gut. Studies show that collagen – which is found in bone tendon, ligaments, and cartilage – provides essential amino acids that improve your body's collagen production.

And gelatin – which is broken down into collagen – is especially important for your joints. As we age, the cartilage in our joints becomes thinner and smaller. This creates more pressure on your joints and causes you pain. But gelatin actually helps you restore your thinning cartilage.

A Boston study out of Tufts Medical Center found that consuming 10 grams of broken-down ("hydrolyzed") collagen per day caused participants to experience thickened knee cartilage.  Another study found that taking 10 grams of collagen hydrolysate over the course of 24 weeks decreased movement-related knee pain in a group of athletes. Just 2 cups of bone broth contain 10 grams of collagen.

As you can see, bone broth is full of beneficial nutrition...

These nutrients help with problems such as leaky gut syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, and even sleep disturbances. Bone broth is also rich in protein, so it aids in weight loss by helping people feel full for longer after eating.

But Wait... Is There Lead in My Bone Broth?

In 2013, there was a British study done on the amount of lead in three types of bone broth made from chickens that found trace amounts of the substance. Lead is a deadly neurotoxin, and lead poisoning shouldn't be taken lightly.

But critics of this study have cited the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ("EPA") ruling that water with less than 15 micrograms/liter (µg/l) of lead in it is safe. And the amount the researchers found in the bone broth samples (9.5 µg/l and below) was much less than that.

So we feel confident telling you that you're not going to get lead poisoning from enjoying your bone broth. Drinking 2 cups of bone broth a day has shown to help with gut health, joint pain, and weight loss.

How to Make Bone Broth

Anyone can buy bone broth from the store. It comes in both powder and liquid form. But it can be expensive, and you can't be certain of exactly what is in it. So if you can, make your bone broth at home using feet and knuckle bones for the best nutritional results. Cooking with an acidic ingredient, like lemon or vinegar, will also boost your nutritional yield.

You can save the leftover bones from meals you have cooked, or you can buy bones from your local butcher.

Using a slow cooker, heat 1 gallon of water, 1 ounce of vinegar (or another type of acidic liquid), and 3 to 4 pounds of bone and tissue. Bring the ingredients to a boil and then simmer for 10 to 24 hours.

When you finish cooking the broth, strain the liquid through a cheese cloth. Adding salt, vegetables, and spices (such as sage, dill, or thyme) will give your broth more flavor.

Pour the broth into small containers and store what you don't use right away in the freezer. Using multiple containers allows you to heat the broth over time in smaller amounts.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 16, 2023