Over the past three years, I have had the pleasure of giving a keynote presentation at the annual PaleoFx conference. This conference is a gathering of individuals and vendors door focused on the notion of reclaiming health through emulating the environment of our ancestors. Most importantly, the event looks at food, and how that important choice influences health.
This year, at the 2018 event, there were two areas of interest that were clearly trending, especially in comparison to previous years. First, there was a high level of interest in the ketogenic diet. This was the topic of multiple presentations and its popularity was certainly not lost on many of the vendors who were present. The idea of that consuming various types of food products could boost ketones was certainly very well represented at the conference. The other topic that was receiving quite a bit of attention both in the lectures as well as in terms of what was being made available to the consumer was bone broth. Truthfully, I was happy to see both of these trends getting a lot of attention because they’re so well supported by science. As many of you know, I am deeply involved in spreading the message as to how powerfully effective the ketogenic diet is in terms of allowing people to regain health and stave off disease. Similarly, I speak often about the benefits of making bone broth a dietary staple because of it is tied to some really terrific health benefits, which we will explore below.
What is bone broth?
Bone broth is made by boiling connective tissues and bones of animals, generally cattle or chicken, for several hours. Typically, recipes for bone broth call for the addition of various spices, herbs, and vegetables. What differentiates bone broth from typical broth or stock has to do with the amount of time bone broth simmers. Typically bone broth will simmer anywhere from 10 to 20 hours, and this is really important because that length of time is required to liberate collagen and various other components that contribute to the nutrient density of the bone broth.
Bone broth is an important source of important nutrients:
Collagen is one of the most important types of protein in human body. In fact, about a third of the protein in humans is collagen in one form or another. As mentioned above, collagen is the fundamental component of various connective tissues including cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, as well as playing an important supportive role in the skin.
It is truly collagen that binds the human body together. This makes it a powerful nutrient for skin conditions and joint pain. For example, clinical research has demonstrated that oral collagen has beneficial effects on human skin physiology in research looking specifically at skin elasticity. In terms of the joints, an interventional study published back in 1993 looked at 60 patients with severe, active rheumatoid arthritis. The subjects that were fed collagen for 3 months had a decreased number of swollen joints, with 4 patients going into complete remission.
While the name sure sounds compelling, it would be good to get to know this import and group of carbohydrates. Now that we’ve discussed the importance of collagen, it’s important to know that collagen is supported and maintained by glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). In addition to supporting collagen, GAGs also support elastin and therefore they are really important in terms of skin health and appearance. One of the main things that GAGs do to help keep skin healthy is they enhance the ability of collagen and elastin to absorb and retain moisture. And this extends well beyond the skin as GAGs combine with various proteins that help form synovial fluid, keeping the joints lubricated.
Proline is an amino acid that plays a role in regulating the process of apoptosis. Apoptosis is an important mechanism in the body for getting rid of defective or unnecessary cells. Apoptosis, for example, is one of the mechanisms by which our bodies offload potentially malignant cells. Proline is important for the formation of collagen, and as such, wound healing. In fact, the protein collagen contains approximately 15% proline. We are now seeing quite a bit of research that relates proline to healthy skin.
Bone is a rich source of a variety of minerals including iron, copper, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, and zinc. Liberating these minerals from bone happens, to some degree, during cooking. Adding a small amount of apple cider vinegar, an acid enhances the liberation of these minerals into the broth.
Glutamine is an amino acid and in fact is the most abundant amino acid in the human body. One of its most important roles is to serve as an important fuel for the enterocyte, which is the type of cell that lines the intestines. Not only does glutamine fuel the metabolism of these cells, but it also regulates their growth. We absolutely depend on healthy enterocytes to maintain the integrity of the gut lining. This becomes especially important when we consider that increased permeability or “leaky gut” is associated with a variety of inflammatory bowel issues as well as other inflammatory conditions elsewhere in the body. And beyond the enterocyte, glutamine also serves as a source of fuel for cells in the kidney, liver, brain neurons, immune cells, and the beta cells of the pancreas – the cells that make insulin. It’s also important to note that glutamine is a required precursor for the production of glutathione, one of the most important antioxidants in the human body.
Like glutamine, glycine is also a requirement for the production of the antioxidant glutathione. And beyond just serving as an antioxidant, glutathione is also very important for detoxification reactions. Glycine is an important component of the connective tissue collagen, so it has an important role to play in terms of the health of cartilage, tendons, bone, blood vessels, ligaments, and skin.
Clearly, bone broth is a terrific food. No wonder it is so popular. And it’s a great choice if your trying to maintain a gluten-free or ketogenic diet. What’s more, it’s really not that difficult to make, although it does take a bit of time. You simply boil any kind of animal bones for at least 10 hours, add vegetables, and various spices, and then you have it! As mentioned, adding a bit of apple cider vinegar helps release minerals.
Or, you can buy bone broth online or in health food stores. But when shopping for bone broth, be sure to look for:
- Bone broth that is simmered for at least 10 hours, preferably longer.
- The ingredients should be organic.
- The bones should come from grass-fed and finished animals that are hormone and antibiotic free.
- There should be no additives or preservatives
Whether you make it yourself or buy a healthy version, bone broth is a delicious way to supply your body with key nutrients that keep you healthy.
P.S. I frequently get asked where I get my bone broth – my go-to choice is Kettle & Fire.