Anyone familiar with cooking and kitchen culture knows that offal such as bones, cartilage and fish leftovers are often used as the basis for broth. Both in gourmet cuisine and in all traditional cuisines from France to Russia, Japan and South America, broth made from meat and fish is indispensable as the basis for soups, sauces and stews. Many recipes come from a time when people still slaughtered on the spot and used the whole animal. Bones, skeletons, tough meat and more went into the soup pot. A good broth is not only the secret to great cooking, it's also incredibly nutritious and has numerous health benefits. In this article, you'll learn about the benefits of broth and why you should make it a regular part of your diet.
A brief history of the broth
Evidence of the existence of soup pots goes back a full 20,000 years. In India, chicken soup is commonly sold by street vendors in winter and comes in a number of different forms. Chicken soup was also a traditional dish in Jewish cuisine. It was even called "Jewish penicillin" and used to treat and prevent diseases. In Danish and German culture, large chickens were reserved specifically for making soup, and the cooked meat was saved for other dishes or added back to the soup. In East Asia, dishes like miso soup and ramen sometimes contain broth. In Greece, beaten eggs mixed with lemon are commonly added to chicken broth as a traditional remedy for colds and indigestion. Chicken soup in Hungary usually contained meat from organs such as chicken liver and heart, while in Vietnam and the Philippines, beef bone marrow was used as the basis for making beef bone broth. In the American tradition, chicken soup was made with old chickens that were too tough to roast or boil, but still made an excellent soup.
Some anthropologists even argue that in some regions of the world early humans were scavengers rather than hunters, using tools to break open the bones of carcasses left behind by large predators to reveal the nutrient-rich bone marrow.
Unfortunately, many modern cultures have lost the practice of "whole animal eating." The centuries-old tradition of constantly simmering a hot pot of bone broth on the stovetop has been lost in favor of modern convenience, microwave ovens and highly processed canned soups.
Bringing bone broth back into the modern diet offers an easy and tasty way to source nutrition from parts of the animal that were prized in traditional cultures. Today we mainly buy steaks or fish fillets and boneless chicken breasts from the butcher or in the supermarket, eat fast food on the go or have food delivered to us and even if there is ready-made broth to buy today, which can be prepared in smoothies or when cooking without spending any time can be used, the broth has disappeared from the diet of many people. Yet today, with an oversupply of industrialized food and convenience products, is a good time for a comeback.
An old saying goes: "Good broth raises the dead."
While that's an exaggeration of course, broth rightly has a good reputation. Be it beef broth, fish broth or, of course, grandma's chicken broth - they all have various positive effects. Broth is said to help with a cold and soothe a sore throat, build strong bones or stimulate love life. Scientists from the University of Nebraska attempted to test this folklore in 2000.
Some components of the chicken soup were able to inhibit the migration of innate immune cells, so-called neutrophils, in vitro (in a petri dish) and thus had an effective anti-inflammatory effect. This could theoretically reduce symptoms of the disease. Whether this effect occurs in vivo (in a living organism) is still unclear, but this preliminary data suggests that our grandmothers knew from experience, which science has yet to definitively confirm.
Broth contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur and trace minerals in a form that is easy for the body to absorb. Boiling cartilage and tendons releases glucosamine and chondroitin sulfates, which can help with arthritis and joint pain. Fish broth also contains substances that strengthen iodine and the thyroid gland. These are just a few of the many reasons to consume broth.
Also found in broth is gelatin, which becomes noticeable as it cools and solidifies. The use of gelatin as a therapeutic goes back to the ancient Chinese. Although gelatin is not a complete protein as it lacks the essential amino acid tryptophan and contains only the amino acids arginine and glycine in large amounts, it is a supplemental source of protein. Thus, the French recognized gelatin as a nutritious food and it was used by them to feed their soldiers and the large numbers of homeless people in Paris and other major cities, or to save the population from starvation during the siege of Paris in the Franco-Prussian War by replacing vegetables and meat with gelatine broth with some added fat.
Gelatine is probably the first foodstuff to emerge from the invention of the "digestor" by the French Papin in 1682. A device by which the gelatin extracted by steaming bones or meat was extracted. Two hundred years ago, gelatin held a leading position in food research similar to that vitamins hold in nutritional studies today. Gelatin research, in which the French were at the forefront, continued into the 1950s. It was found that gelatin was useful in treating a long list of diseases. Babies whose milk had gelatin added had fewer digestive problems, which is because gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid. This means it attracts and holds fluids, drawing digestive juices to foods in the gut, making digestion easier.
Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, one of the most important gastrosophers, was also a fan of the broth-based soup and not only evaluated its taste, but also its nutritive value and its positive effect on digestion, saying: "Soup is a healthy, light and nutritious food, good for all mankind; It pleases the stomach, stimulates the appetite and prepares the digestion.”
However, research on gelatin largely ceased in the 1950s as food companies discovered in the lab how to trigger Maillard reactions and produce meat-like flavors. In a General Foods Company report published in 1947, chemists predicted that almost all natural flavors would soon be chemically synthesized.
And then came MSG...
After World War II, food companies also discovered the flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG). It is a food ingredient invented by the Japanese in 1908 to enhance the flavors of foods, including meat-like flavors.
In fact, humans have receptors for glutamate on their tongues, because it's the protein in food that the human body recognizes as meat. Any protein can be hydrolyzed to produce a base containing free glutamic acid or MSG. When the industry figured out in the lab how to use cheap proteins from grains and legumes to flavor meat, the door was opened to a flood of new products. These include bouillon cubes, dehydrated soup and sauce mixes, sauce mixes, ready meals and condiments with a meaty taste.
The soups of some restaurants are based on a soup powder base and not only in Asian restaurants and snack bars the use of MSG in many dishes is the order of the day. A number of canned soups and stews contain MSG, where it is also known as "hydrolyzed proteins" as an ingredient. The fast-food industry uses MSG and artificial meat flavorings to create sauces and condiments that lure consumers into eating bland and tasteless foods — and also into eating more of them than they should because of the stimulating taste. What is to the advantage of manufacturers and users means a disadvantage for consumers.
As homemade supplies were supplanted by cheap substitutes, an important source of minerals disappeared from the Western diet. The thickening effects of gelatin could be mimicked with emulsifiers, but the health benefits were lost. Not only that, because MSG can even make you sick. In 1957, scientists found that mice became blind and obese when MSG was given through a feeding tube. In 1969, MSG-induced lesions were discovered in the hypothalamic region of the brain. Many studies indicate that MSG is a neurotoxic substance that produces a variety of reactions, from temporary headaches (Chinese Restaurant Syndrome) to permanent brain damage.
While Asian restaurants around the world often take shortcuts and use a powdered base for sweet and sour soup. In Asia, many soup kitchens and restaurants make their own broth and sell it as soup on shop fronts and street corners. From Korea to Japan, broth is an important element in Asian cuisine. Authentic Chinese food cannot exist without the bubbling soup pot on the stove. Bones and leftovers are thrown in and mineral-rich broth is removed to complement stir-fries.
This tradition did not arise without a reason. In many Asian cultures, the use of broth is a health necessity, as only bone broth provides calcium in a form that the body can easily absorb. When meat is in short supply, the gelatin in the broth helps the body use protein efficiently.
But the interesting question is: why do consumers respond to industrially produced MSG but not to the naturally occurring glutamic acid in foods?
One theory is that the glutamic acid produced by hydrolysis in factories contains many isomers in the right-handed form, while natural glutamic acid in meat and bouillon contains only the left-handed form. For example, L-glutamic acid is a precursor to neurotransmitters, while the synthetic form, D-glutamic acid, can pathologically stimulate the nervous system.
Bone broth ingredients and their health benefits
Traditional cultures accomplish a fundamental component of functional medicine—namely, providing the body with the whole foods and nutrients it needs to stay healthy—by literally using animals from head to toe. All parts of the animal are eaten, including the skin, cartilage, tendons, and other parts rich in gelatin. This enabled a balanced intake of all amino acids required to build and maintain essential structures in the human body. For example, bones contain an abundance of minerals, as well as 17 different amino acids, many of which are found in bone broth as proteins such as collagen and gelatin. Although the exact nutrient content will vary depending on the bones used, cooking time, and cooking method, the following nutrients are consistent in most bone broth and provide a whole host of health benefits:
The name collagen comes from the Greek "kólla" meaning "glue" and the suffix "-gen" meaning "to produce". In fact, glue was once made from collagen more than 8,000 years ago, likely by boiling the skin and tendons of animals. With over 28 different types, collagen makes up about 30 percent of the protein in the human body. It is the main component of connective tissues such as tendons, ligaments, skin, cartilage and bones. It is also present in blood vessels, the cornea and the lens of the eye. In addition to structuring, collagen also plays an important role in the development and regulation of tissue. Collagen can also benefit the joints. In one study, researchers found that athletes experienced less joint pain after taking collagen supplements. Low levels of collagen in the blood have also been linked to inflammatory bowel disease.
As already mentioned, gelatin will form as the broth cools. This is formed when collagen is cooked. Hydrolysis of collagen is irreversible and results in the breakdown of long collagen protein fibrils into smaller protein peptides. However, the chemical composition of gelatine is very similar to its parent molecule, collagen. Several studies have shown that collagen and gelatin can improve skin health. In a 2014 randomized and controlled study, collagen consumption significantly improved skin elasticity and tended to improve skin hydration levels. Collagen scaffolds are widely used in medical applications to promote tissue regeneration and heal wounds. A study in mice found that gelatin supplementation could even protect against UV-induced skin damage.
Consuming bone broth is also an effective way to optimize the gut. This is because the gelatin absorbs water and helps maintain the mucus layer that keeps gut microbes away from the gut barrier. A healthy colon contains a single, dense layer of epithelial cells, a thick layer of mucus, and a diverse collection of microbes. Microbial dysbiosis and a thinning of this mucus layer can quickly compromise the integrity of the epithelial barrier and cause leaky gut syndrome. In people with leaky gut, microbes and dietary proteins can enter the bloodstream and trigger an inflammatory immune system response.
Lipopolysaccharide (LPS), a component of bacterial cell walls, stimulates a particularly robust immune response. Studies have shown that gelatin and glycine reduce inflammation caused by LPS. The presence of gelatin in the gut also draws fluid into the gut, which improves gut motility and supports healthy bowel movements.
Glycine is an amino acid that makes up more than a third of collagen. It also acts as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, binding to glycine receptors present throughout the nervous system and peripheral tissues. Signaling via this receptor is particularly important for mediating inhibitory neurotransmission in the brainstem and spinal cord. Glycine can reduce anxiety, promote mental calm, and aid in sleep. It plays a role in blood sugar regulation by controlling gluconeogenesis, the production of glucose in the liver. Glycine has also been shown to reduce the severity of heart attacks and has been shown to protect against neuronal death after ischemic stroke. It probably even plays an important role in the development of the brain in the womb and in the first few months after birth. Glycine is also important for the synthesis of hemoglobin and myoglobin, which carry oxygen throughout the blood and muscle tissues, respectively. It increases creatine levels, which leads to an increase in anaerobic exercise capacity and stimulates human growth hormone secretion, which can improve muscle repair.
Glycine receptors have also been discovered on the surface of immune cells, where they cause a reduction in immune response. This in turn leads to reduced inflammatory signaling molecules and oxidative stress, which can reduce tissue damage in the lungs, among others.
Drinking broth with meals is an excellent way to aid in digestion. Glycine stimulates the production of gastric acid, which is essential for the proper digestion of each meal. Low stomach acid (hypochlorhydria) is surprisingly common in developed countries and can lead to a number of health problems, including heartburn and GERD. Glycine is also an important component of bile acid, which is released to help digest fats in the small intestine. Bile acid is important for maintaining normal blood cholesterol levels. Glycine also protects against stomach ulcers and also stimulates the production of glutathione, the body's main antioxidant. In animal models, glycine has been shown to accelerate recovery from alcoholic fatty liver disease, protect liver cells from hypoxia, and improve survival after liver transplantation. In people with metabolic syndrome, glycine reduces oxidative stress.
Bone broth contains the master antioxidant glutathione, which studies have shown to play important roles in antioxidant defenses, nutrient metabolism, and the regulation of cellular processes such as signal transduction, immune responses, gene expression, cytokine production, cell proliferation and apoptosis, and DNA and protein synthesis.
Proline is an amino acid that makes up about 17 percent of collagen. The addition of hydroxyl groups to proline significantly increases the stability of collagen and is essential to its structure. Proline can scavenge free radicals, acts as an antioxidant, and plays a role in apoptosis, a process in which the body breaks down old cells, cleans up waste products, and recycles raw materials for use in healthy cells. Although small amounts of proline can be made in the body, studies show that an adequate amount of dietary proline is required to maintain optimal levels of this amino acid in the body. Recent evidence suggests that proline plays a role in regulating the mTOR pathway, which integrates signals from nutrients, growth factors, stressors, and cellular energy status to affect cell function and growth. Proline, along with other amino acids, activates mTOR, resulting in enhanced muscle protein synthesis. Proline is not normally considered a neurotransmitter, but it can bind weakly to glutamate receptors and glycine receptors.
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the blood and another important amino acid in bone broth. It acts as a non-toxic nitrogen transporter and safely transports amino groups through the bloodstream to the kidney. In the kidney, the conversion of glutamine to glutamate regulates the acid-base balance due to the production of ammonium. Glutamine is one of the few amino acids that can cross the blood-brain barrier directly. Gut epithelial cells and activated immune cells use a lot of glutamine for cellular energy, as glutamine also helps maintain the integrity of the gut mucosa and gut barrier.
Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are complex carbohydrates involved in many biological processes. They can attach to proteins to form proteoglycans, which are an integral part of connective tissue and synovial fluid, the lubricant that lines the joint. With connective tissues such as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage still attached, the bones in the broth provide our body with raw materials such as keratan sulfate, dermatan sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and glycine for bone, cartilage, and skin formation.
Our skin consists of two layers: the epidermis and the dermis. The epidermis, or upper layer, is made up of keratinocytes and is largely responsible for skin barrier function. Beneath is the dermis, a dense matrix of collagen and GAGs that provides structural and nutritional support. Keratin, collagen, and GAGs are abundant in bone broth, especially when the animal's skin is involved in the cooking process. GAGs also provide additional benefits for our skin. GAG Hyaluronic Acid has been shown to promote skin cell proliferation and increase the presence of retinoic acid, thereby improving skin hydration.
Dermatan Sulfate has been shown to support cell turnover and aids in wound repair.
For joint health, lubrication from GAGs is key to a full range of motion. GAGs allow part of one bone to slide smoothly and painlessly over part of another. Rather than purchasing supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, bone broth makes it much easier and cheaper to get these and a host of other beneficial nutrients.
The bone marrow is inside the bone. There are two types of bone marrow, red and yellow. Both types contain collagen. The difference is that red bone marrow is the production site for new immune cells and red blood cells, while yellow bone marrow is made up of healthy fats. It is believed that important nutritional and immune-supporting factors may be extracted from the marrow during cooking, but the bioavailability of these factors has not been studied.
Bone contains a variety of minerals, including: magnesium, zinc, iron, calcium
Copper, Potassium, Sodium, Manganese and Phosphorus. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the chemical form of energy in the body that allows work to be performed. Phosphorus is required for the formation of this compound, and ATP can only be biologically active when bound to a magnesium ion. Phosphorus nutrient deficiencies have been shown to decrease muscle performance. Both phosphorus and magnesium are found in small amounts in bone broth.
It should be pretty obvious by now that the best way to get the nutrients needed to build bone is by consuming bone-based foods. Drinking bone broth provides all of the raw materials needed to build healthy bones, including calcium, phosphorus, amino acids, and more. A lack of raw materials for bone formation can lead to a number of different conditions. For example, osteoporosis is associated with decreased levels of collagen and calcium in the bones. It is also essential for nerve conduction. When a nerve cell is stimulated, the influx of calcium triggers the release of neurotransmitters, allowing the signal to be passed on to the next nerve cell. Calcium deficiency impairs this transmission and can lead to hyperactivity, insomnia and depression.
Since the minerals listed require an acidic environment to be extracted from the bone, a dash of vinegar or other acid should always be added to the broth when preparing it.
Recipe for broth
There are now also good broths in organic quality that have been cooked for 18 hours or longer and can be bought ready-made. However, if you want to cook your own broth, you can try this recipe:
You'll need bones or fish skeletons, some meat and fat chunks, vegetables like onions, garlic, carrots, and celery to add flavor and nutritional value, and water. Fish, chicken, beef or lamb can be used. For beef and lamb broth, the meat can be browned beforehand in a hot oven to add flavor and color.
In a large stockpot or slow cooker, place the bones and meat, along with soup vegetables of your choice such as carrot, celery root, leek, onion, and parsnip, and add enough water to cover.
Tip: Personally, I use an 18l pot that can hold around 10kg of bones and a mobile stovetop so that the broth can simmer on the balcony in the fresh air.
Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar/apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to the broth before cooking to loosen more minerals from the bone.
Slowly heat the broth, reducing the heat as the water boils so that the broth is barely simmering. Then foam rises to the surface, which consists of impurities, alkaloids and lectins, which should be carefully removed with a ladle, otherwise the broth can be affected by these aromas.
For fish broth, just two hours of simmering is enough to extract the flavors and gelatin. Chicken or beef should be simmered for at least 18 hours and up to 48 hours.
Once the broth has finished cooking, use a charcoal scoop to remove any bones and soup greens.
And then it is crucial to cool the broth down as quickly as possible. The germs multiply fastest between 90° and 10°, which reduces the shelf life of the broth.
After cooling, a layer of fat forms and hardens on the surface. This layer protects the broth underneath. Skim off this layer of fat when you're ready to eat the broth. How much fat you skim off is primarily determined by how much fat you personally want in the broth at the end. The fat content primarily influences the energy content of the broth and hardly affects the taste or the content of the functional nutrients, since these are almost exclusively determined by the broth itself and less by the fat content.
And I recommend using a straining cloth, which frees the broth from small, solid parts. This affects the taste and the look. Passing creates liquid gold.
Season the final broth with salt and pepper to taste.
Bone broth will keep in the fridge for several days or can be frozen in glass or vacuum sealed containers.
Enjoy the bone broth pure or as a soup.
The bone broth can also be used as an ingredient in bolognese, ragu, goulash or other recipes.
One of my personal favorites is cooking rice in chicken broth instead of water.
Bon appétit and good luck with bone broth!