Bone Broth – A traditional super food.
Honoring traditional diets
When searching for potent healing foods, traditional diets are the place to look. Our ancestors knew about the healing properties of foods and were masters in using food as medicine. In traditional wisdom bone broth is highly valued as medicinal food and is used almost universally by traditional cultures all across Europe, Asia, America, Middle Eastern and Russia. ‘Good broth will resurrect the dead’ says a South American proverb. And who isn’t familiar with the cure-all chicken broth, the famous ‘Jewish penicillin’, that is a valued remedy for convalescence, prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. For centuries, meat and fish broth have been known as healing folk remedy for the digestive tract and this wisdom was passed on through the generations. Science now validates (what our ancestors knew all along) that nutrient-rich bone broth provides building blocks for the rapidly growing cells of the gut lining and that they have a soothing effect on any area of inflammation in the gut.
A bit of history
Humans consumed bone broth as nutrient-rich food since before civilization. In Paleolithic times, ‘primitive’ cultures (if you can call them that!) would grind up the bones of small animals and mix it with water to make a mineral-rich paste that they would consume. As civilization advanced and people started cooking, every part of the animal was valued and used, and broth and stock were generously used as bases for soups and stews. In cultures who didn’t consume any dairy products, bone broths were critical to the diet as they supplied calcium, magnesium, potassium and trace minerals.
Many societies still make broth. In Japan and China, for instance, broth (often mixed with some miso) is consumed with every meal. But also in the Western world the art of making good homemade bone broth used to be a basic cooking skill. Broth was consumed regularly as base of stews, soups and gravies. Research into the health benefits of bone broth, and in particular gelatin, boomed in the 1800 and early 1900s and people were consuming gelatin-rich stock every day. Bone broth was a super food in those days. During the great depression, bone broth became a means of survival when meat was a luxury item. Gelatin in properly made broth helps the body use protein in an efficient way.
Bone Broth was important to traditional cultures because:
- It provided plentiful and easily absorbed minerals in the diet (macro-minerals AND trace minerals)
- It supplied the broken down minerals from cartilage and tendons (e.g. glucosamine & chondroitin sulphates)
- Supplied natural gelatin to the diet – a natural aid for digestion
The disappearance of bone broth
So why have we forgotten about this traditional super food? In the 1950s the local butcher shops gradually began to disappear. Bigger supermarkets that used modern and increasingly large-scale meat processing techniques replaced them. It was the beginning of the convenience-lifestyle, the rise of packaged, convenience food, bone-less cuts and pre-sliced meat. Leftover bones were discarded in the processing facilities away from people’s eyes and minds. The shift away from traditional foods continued with the advances of food chemistry and synthetic food engineering.
When the food industry learned how to make the flavor of meat in the laboratory, using inexpensive proteins from grains and legumes, the door was opened to a flood of new products including bouillon cubes, dehydrated soup mixes, sauce mixes, ready-to-eat meals and condiments with a meaty taste. At the same time, food companies also discovered monosodium glutamate (MSG), a food ingredient to enhance food flavors, including meat-like flavors. Flavor could now be put into food quickly and easily through artificial and synthetic flavorings instead of having to simmer a pot of broth for 10hours to develop the natural flavors. When homemade broth was pushed out by cheap substitutes, an important source of minerals disappeared from the diet. The thickening effects of gelatin could be mimicked with emulsifiers but the health benefits were lost.
Rediscovering traditional foods
Luckily, today more and more people are rediscovering bone broth (and other traditional foods) as potent medicinal food. The work of the Weston A Price Foundation and Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride (Gut and Psychology Syndrome / GAPS) helped bring traditional foods, such as bone broth, back to our attention and highlighted the therapeutic relevance they have when treating disease. Most people are amazed to learn just how many conditions can benefit from bone broth consumption. It is an integral tool to heal the body from disease and has therapeutic effects on physical, mental and emotional level. But apart from a being a healing food, bone broth is also a general health tonic that nourishes the body to prevent the onset of any disease.