On Your Health

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Got Questions About Bone Broth? We Have Answers.

Our recent blog post on bone broth was one of the most viewed articles in the history of I On Your Health. Kellye Elliott, business development manager at INTEGRIS Cancer Institute and author of the original post, answers questions sent in by readers.

I am happy that so many of you are excited about bone broth! We received many questions since our original blog post published a few months ago. Today I will try to answer many of the questions that came in, with help and guidance from Juli Johnson, APRN and Integrative Medicine practitioner.

First though, I have to admit to falling off the bone broth bandwagon these past few weeks due to a packed schedule. But as I write this, I have a pot brewing at home in my trusty crock-pot. Without my daily bone broth, I have been feeling sluggish, my hands are achy, my stomach feels bloated and I have some pimples on my chin. Starting tomorrow I plan to once more begin each day with a warm cup of homemade bone broth. Now, on to the questions.

Q. Why is this good for digestion?

A. The collagen in bone broth helps heal your gut lining and reduces intestinal inflammation. All this can help aid in digestion.

Q. How does it taste?

A. To me, the taste grows on you. It’s neither spicy nor bland, but somewhere in between. Make sure to warm it before you drink. I made some for a friend but forgot to tell him to warm it first, so he was drinking it cold from the fridge. Yuck! I have learned that a warm cup in the morning helps me wake up, like a cup of coffee.

Q. What is the difference between meat broth and bone broth? What is the difference between broth and stock?

A. Broth, stock, consommé and bullion are often used interchangeably. I looked online and couldn’t find any big differentiation between stock and broth. I guess Martha Stewart says it best: “Broth is the liquid that remains after meat and vegetables have cooked in water. It may be served alone or as a base for a light soup. Stock is more intense and used for stews and gravies.” Here is more info you are interested.

Q. Will this help me lose weight?

A. There are debates in the scientific community on bone broth’s ability to promote weight loss. Research is ongoing. Many do believe the health benefits themselves are a key factor in shedding unwanted pounds. Also, bone broth is naturally low in calories and will hydrate you, which is always helpful in weight loss. Finally, some experts say chronic inflammation is linked to weight gain, and the nutrients in bone broth can help reduce inflammation, which may in turn help you lose weight.

Q. Do the bones have to be organic? Aren’t all bones organic?

A. Technically, yes, bones are organic in the sense that bones are comprised of living cells embedded in a mineralized organic matrix. But in reference to organic bones in the recipe we talked about in the last article, we mean the way the animal was raised: no overcrowding, no pesticides, no fertilizers, no antibiotics, no hormones and other synthetic contaminants. If you do choose to use non-organic bones, you still get health benefits.

Q. Which kind of bones? Femur bones? Does it have to be beef bones? What about chicken or turkey?

A. Organic bones are your best bet (see last question). The original recipe called for beef bones and I used the femur bones because that was what the butcher had available. However, the type of bone you use is up to you. The larger the bone, the more bone marrow (the good stuff) there will be. For example, there would be more marrow in a cow’s femur bone than a small bone from a chicken. I have used leftover chicken bones from a rotisserie chicken and I used my leftover turkey carcass from Christmas. I actually enjoy using different types of bones and experimenting with the different flavors and colors. I sometimes add different veggies, depending on what I have on hand.

Q. Why do you add the vegetables and why do you remove them and strain the soup?

A. The vegetables are added for flavor and extra nutrients. You will want to remove them because after so much cooking they become limp and soggy, and most of the flavors have been cooked out. Straining the soup gets small bits of veggies, bones, cartilage, etc. from the broth, which will help when drinking it. You should feel free to use this broth as a soup starter and add fresh meats and vegetables to make a delicious soup or stew. You can also freeze the broth in ice cube trays and use them when sautéing vegetables, tofu or meats.

Q. Does Vietnamese pho soup count?

A. I would say yes to this question. When I checked recipes online for pho soup, many recipes called for “the best bones” when making your soup. The resulting broth would have the same benefits as my bone broth recipe. The added vegetables and herbs could be a healthy addition, too.

Q. I’ve seen bone broth powders. Are these good for me?

A. The powders can be useful in your diet regimen. Juli Johnson says these are a fine substitution for bone broth. By the way, I do add chocolate bone broth powder to my smoothies. The taste is a little different, but not too bad.

Q. I’ve seen pre-boxed bone broth in the grocery store. Is this good for me?

A. This will work in a pinch but you will need to make sure it doesn't have too much added sodium. I have purchased organic bone broth from the grocery, but I've noticed this has much stronger flavor and isn't as easy to sip. One of the things I enjoy about making homemade broth is knowing I am creating my own whole food and exactly what is going into the pot.

Q. Can I pressure cook the bone broth?

A. Yes, here is a good recipe using your pressure cooker.

Q. Is this similar to “tendon soup” for dogs?

A. I often give my little Chihuahua the leftover meat off the bone after I make a pot of bone broth. I hadn’t considered giving her the broth, though. I googled "bone broth for pets" and found so much information. According to what I read, yes, this soup would be beneficial for your pet. The collagen in the broth could especially help those pets suffering from arthritis. Here is more information.

Q. It is hard to find a local butcher. My grocery store sells soup bones. Will these work?

A. These days bone broth has become rather popular and many grocery stores are selling the bones. You might be surprised, but there are local butchers popping up around town as well. I did purchase soup bones from the grocery for one batch of soup and it was good, although it had a little more meat on the bones than I am used to and my soup was a tad more oily than usual.

If you are local to Oklahoma City, Country Home Meat Company in Edmond will sell organic bones. Also, Juli Johnson says you can use the bones twice -- just freeze them after your first batch and use again. This can help reduce the price as the organic bones often do cost a bit more.

Q. Can a person with gout eat these soups?

A. The broth itself is actually good for gout. Juli Johnson says to follow your diet recommendations from your physician on what to avoid to determine what you can add to your broth as you prepare it, or if using it as a base for soups or stews.

Q. Any ideas for vegetarians who are looking for similar health benefits?

A. Do you consume fish on your vegetarian diet? You might add salmon to your broth. If you eat eggs, you might consider adding a couple of boiled eggs when you begin the brewing process. Also, canned oysters or sardines could add some benefits to help with inflammation. Although I have not yet tried a fish bone broth I think it might be a nice light broth to make in the hot summer months. Here is the recipe.

Also, here is another recent blog post on mineral broth for vegetarians. The benefits are different from bone broth, but both types are very good for you.

Kellye Elliott, M.S., CCC-SLP, has been with INTEGRIS since 2008. She began her career as a speech language pathologist in 1991. Prior to her position at the INTEGRIS Cancer Institute, Kellye worked at INTEGRIS as a clinic manager and in marketing and sales.