The last few months I’ve been making my own bone broth, (I accept this isn’t a killer opening line). Bone broth, the very name sent a shiver down my spine when I first came across it. Whether it be connotations of cannibals or medieval witches boiling sheep skulls, either way it didn’t really inspire.. That is until I learnt A; just how incredibly dang good it is for you and B; just how cheep & easy it is to make!
Bone broth has been shown to help you sleep better; have healthier immune system, (A 2015 Harvard study showed that people with auto-immune disorders saw relief of their symptoms when drinking bone broth, with some achieving complete remission); and strengthen joints.
I’ve shamelessly “borrowed” from a couple’a folks who know what they know when it comes to the health benefits of this stuff. We’ll first unpick the key ingredient; Collagen, and I’ll show you why Mr Mark Sisson, (AKA numero ono Paleo/Primal living supremo) believes you need more of this wonder stuff in your life. I’ll then give you a mighty fine recipe for bone broth from those mighty fine people of Kettle & Fire via the most mightily fine people at Natural Stacks.
So, do we need more Collagen in our lives? Isn’t it just something that celebs use to defy the ageing process?? Hell no my friends, let me show you what the great Mark Sisson has to say about the 10 good reasons to get more of it in your life..
1. We don’t make enough glycine to cover our body’s needs
Most people view amino acids in one of two ways: either they’re essential, meaning our bodies can’t synthesise them, or they’re inessential, meaning our bodies can. In actuality, there’s a third category: amino acids can be conditionally essential. Glycine, the primary amino acid in collagen, is synthesised from the amino acid serine to the tune of 3 grams per day. That’s not nearly enough. The human body requires at least 10 grams per day for basic metabolic processes, so we’re looking at an average daily deficit of 7 grams that we need to make up for through diet.
2. We’re wasting half the animal otherwise
The average cow is half muscle meat and half, well, “other stuff”. This to the most part goes for chicken, pigs, etc, etc. Most people only eat the muscle meat and ignore the other stuff, which includes bones, connective tissue, cartilage, tendons, and other collagenous material. The other stuff ends up in pet food or used by other industries, but we could be eating it, getting healthier, and wasting less food in the process. So health effects aside, there’s also a environmental benefit!
3. It balances out our meat intake
The more meat we eat, the more glycine our bodies utilize. This has been shown in rodent studies. Rats on high methionine (the amino acid most prevalent in muscle meat) diets die earlier than rats on low methionine diets. Keeping the methionine high while adding glycine, though, abolishes the reduced longevity. In human terms, this would be like continuing to eat muscle meat while adding in collagen or gelatinous meats. If the same holds true in humans, it means low-animal protein diets aren’t necessary to live longer, healthy lives. It means all those atrophied calorie restriction folks are doing it wrong. They could be eating meat—deriving the “short-term” benefits like increased lean mass, better athletic performance, and lower fat mass—and living long, healthy lives.
4. It might explain the “meat-disease” links
There are those who draw the (questionable) link between meat and disease or death, although there are many a variable the researchers failed to control for. There is also another possibility! What if there is a connection between meat and certain diseases, like diabetes, and eating collagen is the key to severing that connection? In one recent study, the relationship between red meat and diabetes was abolished after controlling for low-glycine status. People with low glycine levels and high meat intakes were more likely to have diabetes; people with higher glycine levels could have higher meat intakes without any issues. In another study, low circulating levels of glycine predicted diabetes risk. It may very well be that the way most people eat meat in developed countries—eating chicken breasts over chicken wings and skin, lean steak over oxtails and shanks, muscle meat over bones, skin, and tendons, is not as nature intended and as such; unhealthy. Increasing your collagen, then, could balance out the meat intake.
5. It’s protein-sparing
Eating gelatin reduces the amount of muscle meat required to maintain muscle mass and perform your regular protein-related physiological functions. We don’t need so much of the expensive muscle protein when we’re eating enough collagenous materials. Most recently, elderly men who supplemented with collagen experienced greater anabolic responses to resistance training than elderly men who didn’t take any collagen. Note: this was collagen, not whey, or beef, or eggs, or any of the other rich sources of essential amino acids normally associated with muscle building. The increased dietary collagen was likely sparing the amount of “meat protein” used for daily maintenance and allowing its greater utilization for putting on lean muscle mass.
6. It improves sleep quality
Need a “sleep hack”? Human studies show that 3 grams of glycine taken before bed increases the quality of your sleep and reduces daytime sleepiness following sleep restriction. Try a cup of bone broth before bed to get you catching some serious Zeds.
7. It’s good for your joints
Remember that study showing how we need at least 10 grams of glycine each day for basic metabolic processes? One of those processes is the maintenance of the collagen in our body (the most abundant protein we carry, in fact). Collagen is everywhere through the human body, but it concentrates where joints meet and in the connective tissue binding us together. Those 10 grams of glycine is just for maintenance, not repair after catastrophic injury or recovery from intense loading. If you’re a heavy exerciser or are recovering from joint damage, supplementary collagen/gelatin/glycine will improve your resilience. One recent studyfound that a glcyine-rich diet made the Achilles’ tendon stronger and more resistant to rupture in rats, increasing tendon remodelling in response to injury faster than rats on a low-glcyine diet. A 2008 human study found that giving collagen hydrolysate supplements reduced pain in athletes complaining of joint pain.
8. It’s good for your skin
Your face is made of collagen. Your underarms are made of collagen. All the problematic swathes of skin liable to descend into wrinkly parchment are made of collagen. Collagen provides body and bounce. Just like it keeps the integrity in a bowl of jelly, collagen keeps skin buoyant. And when collagen levels in the skin drop, the skin droops. The studies bear this out:
In middle-aged Korean women, a collagen supplement (6 g per day) reduced skin cracking and increased serum collagen.
Collagen peptides reduced wrinkling.
Collagen improved skin elasticity.
And since the apparent age of your face is actually a good barometer of your longevity, increasing collagen consumption to maintain skin appearance may be way more than just a cosmetic intervention.
9. It improves wound healing
Our collagen requirements increase during wound healing (which involves laying down collagen to build new tissue), so a little extra in the diet can make a big difference. In patients recovering from ulcers, collagen supplementation sped up healing time. Some clinicians are even packing collagen directly into the wound dressing to speed up the healing process.
10. It enhances cooking
The foundation of many classic cuisines and dishes is gelatin-rich bone and meat broth. Soups, sauces, demi glace, curries, Jell-o and certain egg custards. You can even use straight gelatin powder to enrich sauces and curries.
Here’s a few others ways to pack that collagen into your life;-
- Eat gelatinous meats. Many meats are low in collagen, but not all. Shanks, necks, feet, cheeks, oxtails, ribs, and all the other cuts that take extra time in the slow cooker to become tender are high in collagen. Favor these meats instead of yet another chicken breast.
- Clean your bones. You know those crunchy caps at the end of chicken drumsticks? That’s cartilage, a big whopping dose of concentrated collagen. Eat it.
- Eat skin. Skin is almost pure collagen. Eat it, and eat the discarded skin from finicky dinner mates.
- Drink bone broth. Bone broth is getting some serious notice now, and for good reason; it’s a rich source of collagen. Bone broth is simple to make but takes valuable time. If you can’t do it yourself, there’s a budding bone broth industry just waiting for you to tap into
- Use powdered gelatine. Try a Thai curry: toast the spices and curry powder in coconut oil, add coconut milk, reduce, and whisk in a couple tablespoons of gelatin powder to obtain the desired texture and mouth feel. Delicious and a huge dose of collagen.
- Use collagen hydrolysate. This contains the same amino acids as gelatin, but mixes more easily into liquids of any temperature (gelatin needs hot water to dissolve).
So on to the bone broth nitty gritty. Bone broth is typically made with bones and can contain a small amount of meat adhering to the bones. As with stock, bones are typically roasted first to improve the flavour of the bone broth. Bone broths are typically simmered for a very long period of time (often in excess of 24 hours), with the purpose being not only to produce gelatin from collagen-rich joints but also to release minerals from bones. At the end of cooking, the bones should crumble when pressed lightly between your thumb and forefinger.
Note: This recipe is directly from the Natural Stacks website. I have played with the bone quantity and used chicken carcass for example. Also, play with the water ratio to fit with having less bones available.
Beef Bone Broth Ingredients
4 pounds beef bones, preferably a mix of marrow bones and bones with a little meat on them, such as oxtail, short ribs, or knuckle bones.
2 medium unpeeled carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium leek, end trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, quartered
1 garlic head, halved crosswise
2 celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
6-quart (or larger) stockpot or a large slow cooker
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Place beef bones, carrots, leek, onion, and garlic on a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Toss the contents of the pan and continue to roast until deeply browned, about 20 minutes more.
- Fill a large (at least 6-quart) stockpot with 12 cups of water (preferably filtered) . Add celery, bay leaves, peppercorns, and vinegar. Scrape the roasted bones and vegetables into the pot along with any juices. Add more water if necessary to cover bones and vegetables.
- Cover the pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a very low simmer and cook with lid slightly ajar, skimming foam and excess fat occasionally, for at least 8 but up to 24 hours on the stovetop. The longer you simmer it, the better your broth will be. Add more water if necessary to ensure bones and vegetables are fully submerged. Alternately, you can cook the broth in a slow cooker on low for the same amount of time.
- Remove the pot from the heat and let cool slightly. Strain broth using a fine-mesh sieve and discard bones and vegetables. Let continue to cool until barely warm, then refrigerate in smaller containers overnight. Remove solidified fat from the top of the chilled broth.
So, there we go my friends, a little intro to the wonder that is bone broth. No it won’t likely get the pulse racing but it’s certainly a cost effective way of doing far more than you could bargain for..