By: Dr. Sonja Fung
As I was mulling over what health topic to write on, I thought, why not talk about one of my favorite subjects, good food. I love good food. When I get a food craving, I will drive a couple hours, even, to get my fix. So when the topic of bone broth popped into my head, I let it slowly simmer on the back burner of my brain.
To me, nothing comes closer to home cooking than a beautifully prepared soup broth. I grew up with bone broths. From my earliest memories, my family would always start dinner with a bowl of some type of broth based soup, usually made from chicken, pork, or beef bones. I was reading an article in Lucky Peach food zine a few months ago about bone marrow and the virtues of bone broth. It reminded me of a paper in the Townsend Letters I had read years ago, in medical school, about the healing properties of bone broth. I finally got a knock in the head as I was sucking down some divine bone marrow at Sense Restaurant a couple weeks ago. Eureka! The broth has finally gelled.
Chicken soup has been a common home remedy for simple colds and flu, but it’s far from old-fashioned. Bone broth is a nutrient-dense, immune boosting, super food with roots that go back centuries. Bone broths are usually made from the left over chicken or turkey carcass, pork knuckles, or ox tails. What most people don’t realize is that bone is a connective tissue. The properties of bone include: Minerals (calcium, magnesium), Cartilage (collagen, glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), chondroitant), Marrow (stem cells for RBC, WBC, PLT, immune building), and Gelatin (skin, hair, nails). When you break down the bone by slowly boiling it for a long time, your body is able to easily absorb and utilize these key components.
Traditionally, bone broths were used for a multitude of conditions such as: anemia, digestive issues, malnutrition, weight loss, muscle wasting, cancer, low immune function, osteoporosis, arthritis, and thinning hair, skin, and nails. Broths were sipped more like a medicinal tea than as soup. In modern practice, the healing properties of bone broth are under-valued and under-utilized. However, the health benefits are clear. Because bone broths are so nourishing, I highly recommend them to everyone, regardless of health status. I especially recommend them to my cancer patients because of the immune supportive properties and high nutrient density. Just sipping the broth throughout the day like a tea nourishes and tonifies your body. Sometimes you don’t have to travel hours to enjoy delicious, nutrient-dense, healing food.
Basic Broth Recipe
1. Bones (cooked or raw)—from poultry, fish, shellfish, beef, lamb
2. Water—start with cold water enough to cover bones
3. Vinegar (apple cider, red or white wine, rice)—2 tablespoons per 1 quart water or 2 pounds bones
4. Vegetables (optional)—celery, carrots, onions, garlic and parsley are the most traditionally used, but any will do. If added towards the end of cooking, mineral content will be higher.
5. Mushrooms (shitake, button, brown, white, etc.)- add towards the beginning. The more you cook them, the more immune boosting properties you get out of them.
Combine bones, water, mushrooms, and vinegar in a slow cooker. Turn onto low and cook for 24-48 hours. Add vegetables in last ½ hour of cooking (or at any point as convenience dictates). Strain through a colander or sieve, lined with cheesecloth for a clearer broth. Discard the bones. If uncooked meat was used to start with, reserve the meat for soup or salads. Broth may be frozen for months or kept in the refrigerator for about 5 days.