Beef femur bones with a lot of cartilage and marrow are ideal for broth, which can be made with roasted or raw bones.
WITH EVER-CHANGING dietary guidelines and contradictory scientific research, healthy eating has never felt so complicated. The past couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with how food affects my health and well-being. The most recent trial has me hunting around town for raw bones.
Two years ago, I started an anti-inflammatory program in hopes of decreasing pain and increasing energy. On the diet, at least two-thirds of every meal needs to be fruits or veggies. Protein was not required at lunch, dinner or snacks; just a small amount at breakfast. Though many people benefit from the program, I was disappointed. At the end of a year on a plant-based, low-protein diet, I felt more tired and achy than ever.
Then I met naturopathic physician Dr. Kristen Acesta, who immediately gave me a vitamin B12 shot and recommended I up my protein intake. She said that one of the best sources of nutrients was bone broth. People across the globe have been making broth from animal bones forever. It’s the basis of Vietnamese pho, Korean seolleongtang and Mexican sopa de lima. I had made soups and stocks from poultry before, but what Acesta suggested was new to me: simmering beef bones for days.
“Bone broth is incredibly nutritious, with a high concentration of amino acids and trace minerals,” she says. Cartilage contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which stimulate collagen, repair joint damage and reduce pain. Bone broth is considered good for skin, hair, bones and digestive health.
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But it is not a panacea. Acesta cautions against current bone-broth fads. Rather, broth should supplement a broad whole-food diet. At home, she makes a pot every weekend to use in place of water when cooking grains and vegetables.
Making broth is simple and requires little active time. Based on a review of several recipes, here are some guidelines:
• Choose bones from grass-fed, hormone-free animals. Beef femur bones with a lot of cartilage and marrow are ideal.
• Add a couple of tablespoons of an acid (like vinegar or lemon juice) to help extract the minerals.
• Many recipes call for roasting the bones for flavor, but raw bones can be used.
• Place bones in the bottom of a large stockpot, and fill with water (filtered is best). Bring to a boil, and simmer gently for two to three days on your stove or in a slow cooker. Skim off foam and excess fat. You might need to add water as it evaporates.
• Add herbs and vegetables, or leave it plain. Do not add salt.
• Remove the bones, strain the broth into small containers and refrigerate or store in the freezer.
Broth can be made in the same way from fish, which are full of beneficial cartilage. PCC and Whole Foods sell frozen fish heads and tails as well as grass-fed beef bones. Three pounds of cut femur bones should run $12 to $15. A cheaper option is to keep a bag of bones in your freezer from your daily cooking and eating. Might as well use the bones rather than discard them.
Boxed broths sold in stores generally have too much sodium and not enough nutrients. You can buy thick, ready-made broth from Sea Breeze Farm at Seattle Farmers Markets (fresh poultry or meat broth, $9 a quart).
Sea Breeze owner George Page started making broth because of the superior taste.
“I use bone broth as a soup base, in Bolognese sauce, pan sauce, anything,” he says. “I love the flavor of pasture-fed meat, and it’s a happy coincidence it’s nutritious.”
For me, I’ll be curious to see whether my health and energy improve after incorporating broth into my diet. If nothing else, I’ll know how to make a fabulous stock.