Food trend: the return of bone broth

Food trend: the return of bone broth

Old becomes new

Text: Yeong Sassall

Bone broth has enjoyed increasing popularity of late - but why? Nutritionist Louise Cavanough explains all

You know something has reached the zeitgeist when it makes headlines as Kobe Bryant's off-court secret weapon (for repairing his sprained ankle). Not to mention when food-obsessed East Village New Yorkers dedicate an entire takeaway store (Brodo - it's name in Italian) to a simple cup of soup. 

But funnily enough, far from being a new fad, bone broth has been enjoyed as a source of nourishment since practically the stone age. Traditionally used across cultures as a remedy for colds and flu, it also treats degeneration of the connective tissue, repairs problems of the gastrointestinal tract and alleviates issues of the joints, skin and muscles.

Until recently, broth suffered a fall from grace in the home kitchen, it's demise no doubt paralleling the rise of 'faster' food and an increased pace of life. It always remained a staple in any professional kitchen where it is used as stock and as a base for sauces.

But as an emphasis on slow cooking is returning to the home cook, so is the tradition of bone broth. Not only does bone broth offer nutrional benefits, utilising bones also utlises a more ethical 'nose to tail' approach in our consumption of animals.

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From a therapeutic standpoint, bone broth may be useful in treating any disorders of the bones or joints as well as speeding recovery from illness and improving wound healing. It may reduce inflammation in IBS and diseases of the gastrointestinal tract, plus strengthen the immune system, remineralise teeth, harden brittle nails and it may be beneficial during times of growth such as pregnancy. (It is important to bear in mind that at this stage we have no clinical trials proving these therapeutic effects.)

The benefits of broth are attributed to several factors, including the varying levels of minerals, gelatin and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). The nutritional profile of broth will vary depending on the type of bones you use. Fish broth contains the mineral idodine for healthy thyroid function and chicken broth incorporating the feet has higher levels of gelatin. Beef broth gives you the benefit from the marrow, as well as collagen, cartilage and minerals.

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So why is it so good for us? Bone is a reservoir for minerals - most importantly calcium and phosphorus, but also magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfur and and fluoride. The gelatin from bone and cartilage that we extract as we simmer broth, together with the minerals make bone broth the nutritional powerhouse that has everyone raving.

Making broth is incredibly inexpensive and straightforward, it just requires a little patience. It is imperative the bones are from a healthy, grass-fed, preferably organic animal, as you will be extracting and consuming the contents of the bone. Additional ingredients are variable but apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, carrots, celery and onions are commonly added for flavour and increased nutritional value.

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Once you have broth on hand you can drink it on its own or use it as a basis for soups and stews or to flavour any type of cooking.There is something undeniably soothing about sipping on a warm cup of broth, especially when weak or ill. The aroma that fills the house as this nourishing concoction simmers away on the stove is as good for the soul as it is for the body. If you haven't already jumped on the bone broth bandwagon, give this beef version a try:

2 kg of grass-fed organic beef bones - a mix of marrow bone, shin and knuckle works well
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
2 carrots roughly chopped
1 brown onion roughly chopped
Filtered water to fill a large stock pot (or slow cooker)

  1. Method:

To improve the flavour of a beef broth, you can roast the raw bones in the oven at a high heat for 30 minutes before commencing your broth.

Then, place the bones into a stock pot and fill with filtered water along with the apple cider vinegar, allow this to sit for 30 - 40 minutes (the vinegar works to make the minerals in the bone more available).

Add the vegetables and bay leaves and bring to the boil. When it has reached a rolling boil reduce to a simmer for 48hours. Within the first few hours of simmering a scum may appear on the surface; skim this off.

Once simmering time is complete, allow the broth to cool before scooping out the bones using a slotted spoon and passing it through a fine strainer. Store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze. Add salt to taste as you serve.

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