I've recommended making bone broth to a number of my patients in the past. It's a fantastic source of nutrition for a lot of reasons that I'll get into in a moment. The problem is, I've had a lot of patients come back and tell me that either it was too much work to make, or it didn't taste very good and so they stopped doing it. I'm writing this post to try to make the process easier and make the final product more flavorful.
When made properly it's rich and flavorful. In classical french cuisine, bone broth is the first step in making the mother sauce known as Demi Glace. If you've eaten at a four star restaurant and ordered lamb, steak, or wild game chances are the sauce used on your plate started with a version of the recipe below. It's not only very good for you, it's also very, very tasty.
First, why is it so nutritious? Bone broth is rich in the amino acids proline and glycine. These amino acids are involved in various processes in the body, most importantly including the formation of collagen. These amino acids are linked together in long chains that ultimately become the collagen in your joints, the gut lining, your skin, and your hair as well as any wound healing that is occurring in the body. Proline and glycine are known as non-essential amino acids, meaning the body can make them out of other amino acids. In a normal state (not healing from an injury, without any chronic joint issues, and obtaining sufficient nutrition) the body does pretty good at making these two amino acids to meet demand. But in the case of people with injuries, gut issues, poor nutrition or very active lifestyles it is unlikely that enough of these amino acids are being made to fully meet demand. For these people it is important to get them from the diet. Bone broth is also rich in micronutrients such as calcium, magnesium, silica, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid.
It's important to start with high quality ingredients: bone from traditionally raised animals. That means if it's cow bones you are using then they are grass fed, and organic. If you are using chicken bones the chickens should be free to graze, eating insects and foraging. There are many farms where you can get these "pastured" chickens. "Free range" or "cage free" does not necessarily mean that these chickens are out foraging. The important thing is that they are free to eat their traditional diet. If they do then they are packing their tissues with the nutrients that are best for them and for you, and not just with the limited nutrients that come in their feed. If you are using other bones such as fish, lamb, or game, again look for animals that are living as close to their natural life and diet as possible for the sake of your health (and their happiness). Look for the bones with lots of tendon and ligament attached. That will increase the amount of proline and glycine in the final product. Often these bones are labeled as dog bones. Don't be shy, those are usually the best ones. Look at your local store, or ask the butcher if you don't see them available.
Use organic vegetables as well, and the fresher the better. Clean, pure water from a well is ideal. If you are on city water then make sure you are filtering the water.
Here's the recipe:
-Large stock pot or crockpot
-Baking sheet pan
-A pile of bones:
4 or 5 large cow bones, a whole chicken carcass, or several fish heads and spines. There isn't an exact amount here. I keep a ziplock bag in the freezer and add bones to it over the course of a few weeks. Once I've accumulated enough I'll make another batch of bone broth. The amount of bones you use will depend on the size of your stock pot or crockpot.
Named for an 18th century French general, a mirepoix is a mixture of vegetables for making a flavorful stock. Traditionally this means onion, celery, and carrots. I use roughly equal parts each by volume. For one batch I typically use one to two large onions, one whole head of celery and 5 or 6 large carrots. In terms of volume I usually have about as large a pile of veggies as I have of bones.
-Tomato Paste (a small can)
-1 T grass fed butter, tallow, olive oil, ghee, or bacon fat
-Lots of cold pure water
-Various fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme, oregano, lavender, rosemary, whatever is handy, and a single bay leaf
-5 garlic cloves, each cut in quarters
-A dozen or so peppercorns
-Dash Sea salt
-1/3 cup red wine
-1/8 cup vinegar (apple cider, or red wine vinegar)
1. Throw the bones on a baking sheet, slather them with a little bit of tomato paste and put them under the broiler. Broil till slightly browned, turning over periodically, usually about 20 minutes.
2. While the bones are broiling chop the veggies roughly into medium a dice.
3. In your large stock pot add the olive oil butter, tallow, bacon fat, ghee or other source of fat. Saute the veggies over low to medium heat for about 30 minutes, until they are all softened and taking on just a very slight caramelization. Be careful not to over brown them as they can impart a burnt flavor into the broth.
4. Add the red wine to the pot and deglaze the bottom. Allow the red wine to reduce down for a few minutes.
5. Add the bones to the pot and fill with as much water as it can safely hold.
6. Add all the remaining ingredients. There is no need to chop the herbs. The larger cut of the garlic keeps that flavor from becoming sharp and makes the garlic flavor more mellow. The vinegar is added to create a slight acidity that pulls some of the other nutrients (like magnesium and calcium) out of the bones.
7. Simmer over a low heat for 8-24 hours until it has reduced down to about 1/3 its original volume.
8. Taste it periodically. Adjust the flavor as needed with some salt, pepper, or more herbs. When its flavor is sufficiently concentrated for your taste it's done. You know that you did a really good job if when you put a small cup of it in the fridge it comes out set, like jello.
9. Strain out the veggies and bones. Store the broth in (glass) jars in the fridge and freezer. As I strain the broth out I reserve the pieces of meat and tendon that have been softened for so many hours of cooking. They go great into soups. Sometimes I'll just eat them straight, or add them to a bolognese.
To warm the broth you can pour a 1/4 cup into a coffee cup and set the cup into an inch or so of water in a pot on the stove and warm it on low. I prefer not to microwave my broth. Ideally this broth should be consumed twice daily for those healing, resting gut integrity or in the case of post partum women. In the rest of us, just trying to stay as healthy as possible, I'd recommend it daily or every other day.
For more information take a look at Mark's Daily Apple, he wrote a great segment on Bone broth a while back.
How Important Is Zinc?
More important than you think.
Here's the short list:
Diabetes, Neuropathy, Mood Disorders, Digestion, Sleep, Immune Function, Cholesterol, and the sense of Taste.
Zinc is crucial for all of these and more. Zinc is required for the proper functioning of more than 100 enzymes in the body. Most people know, it supports immune function, reproductive health, but isn't even the really important stuff. Unfortunately, many people are deficient in zinc.
Most people fail to get enough zinc from their diet. This is a bad situation made worse by a very interesting relationship between zinc and another metal, one that is ubiquitous in our environment and crucial for our health, but too much of it blocks our ability to absorb zinc. (More on that below.)
Okay, back to zinc. It is an absolutely crucial, but way under appreciated mineral. Supplementing zinc (if it's deficient) can make all the difference in many conditions. One area of research that has exploded over the past decade is its effectiveness in the treatment of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and obesity. In today's newsletter we'll examine why it is so important for these conditions, and how you can find out if you are deficient in zinc yourself.
Mineral function in the human body is extremely complicated and we'll just brush the surface in this newsletter. Simply put here are the basics: zinc works with insulin from start to finish as it regulates glucose levels in the body. It accompanies insulin like a trusty side-kick on its journey through the body. Here are a few examples
Chicken or the egg? Well...both.
So does someone with diabetes have diabetes because they are deficient in zinc, or did they become zinc deficient because they used up all their zinc battling their high blood sugars? Well, either can be the case. As blood sugars rise and the body is using more and more insulin to manage it, naturally more zinc is going to be depleted to accompany all that insulin. But, if zinc levels become too low from insufficient intake, then the insulin will not be able to function as well, the pancreas won't be able to produce as much insulin, and blood sugars will rise, making the zinc deficiency even more serious, in turn making the diabetes worse, and so on in a constant spiral.
Is Zinc Deficiency really a problem in The United States?
Surprisingly, nearly 50% of adults over 60 fail to get sufficient zinc in their diets. And because one of the most common sources of zinc is nuts and grains, the number may be a lot higher than 50%. You see, nuts and grains contain a compound called phytic acid that binds to zinc and other minerals, preventing their absorption. So, very likely, most of us already aren't eating enough. But, there's another problem. Zinc has a special relationship with another mineral in our diets, copper. Our traditional diets were often rich in both zinc and copper, and foods that contained a lot of one would most likely contain a lot of the other. Our bodies evolved to treat them as a pair. If there is enough of either in the body, our digestive system will stop absorbing both of them. If we have enough of one, our bodies assume we have enough of both. That's a real problem because lots of water pipes are made out of copper. Most people end up with plenty of copper in their systems, which means not nearly enough zinc. Studies have demonstrated that type 2 diabetics often have sufficient or even excessive levels of copper, but insufficient levels of zinc.
So, How Much Zinc Should I Take?
Not so fast. Zinc is an important mineral, but like all nutrients in the body, zinc is complicated. Just because some is good, that doesn't mean that more is better. Your body is like goldilocks when it comes to most nutrients, and that includes zinc. It doesn't want too much, or too little. It wants zinc intake and zinc stores to stay in a narrow range. If you are already getting enough zinc, then getting more can have some serious side effects for you, one of which being that you'll stop getting enough copper. It can also lower your good cholesterol, cause emotional disorders, and in the case of a dozen or so elderly patients who absorbed zinc from their denture cream in the early 2000's, cause debilitating nerve and spinal damage.
Okay, so I won't rush out and buy a zinc supplement. I promise. But, what now?
Well, you've got to figure out if you are zinc deficient. Unfortunately, a blood test is not particularly good at detecting zinc deficiency. The majority of zinc is tied up in the cells, and the amount in your blood is tightly controlled. A blood test won't accurately reflect your actual zinc levels. But, there is an easier and better way to test your zinc stores. A zinc taste test allows you to assess your zinc levels without drawing blood or playing a guessing game. Your taste buds will let you know if you need more.
It's called a zinc taste assay. You hold a specialized solution of zinc in your mouth. When you have sufficient zinc, your taste buds are able to perceive the unpleasant, strong metallic taste. It's clear that you don't need any more. When you are deficient, the solution tastes like water. Then, it's safe to supplement. Pretty cool huh?
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I look forward to seeing you!
I'm Kieran, clinician and founder at The Parani Clinic. I'm an acupuncturist, herbalist, and functional medicine practitioner for the past 10 years. I have a deep curiosity in health, biology, culture, medicine, history, and a healthy obsession with the pursuit of the perfect state of health.