Is bone broth good for bone health?
The advocates of bone broth are certain of its curative powers – and yoga bones up too
Bone broth: is it the next superfood?
Them bones, them bones . . .
We are accustomed to hair-raising statistics coming out of the Health Service Executive. But two lines in Prof John Carey’s article on osteoporosis in Health & Family last month (Osteoporosis is not a silent disease, August 16th, 2016) struck me as being shocking beyond belief.
“One in three men and one in five women will be dead within a year following a hip fracture, from complications related to their fracture or other illnesses. This outlook is worse than many cancers and other diseases today.”
You are an older person. You have a fall. You have a fracture. And inside a year your family are burying you. Our death rates following a fall and a fracture are “almost twice those of other countries where national policies and programmes have reduced these numbers in the past decade”, writes Carey.
In the absence of national policies and programmes, what can be done to save all that suffering and all those lives? While it sounds simplistic to say it, there may be two simple solutions that can help, yoga and bone broth.
In 2009, Dr Loren Fishman of Columbia University, a specialist in rehabilitative medicine, published the results of a study which showed that people who practised yoga for 10 minutes a day, using a series of 10 different yoga poses, had better bone density in their hips and spine. Yoga, it seemed, was good at building bone.
This happens because yoga makes you work your muscles in unusual ways, and “By opposing one group of muscles against another, it stimulates osteocytes, the bone-making cells,” says Dr Fishman. His conclusion was that the “ancient methods” of yoga were applicable to both the prevention and cure of osteoporosis and osteopenia.
And, perhaps even more importantly, “By improving posture, balance, range of motion, strength and co-ordination, decreasing anxiety and improving gait, yoga opposes falls in ways no medicine can provide.”
The advocates of bone broth are as certain of its curative powers as yoga practitioners. “Rich in minerals and amino acids, bone broths can provide a much-needed source of these nutrients and are rich in gelatin, which helps to support both digestive and skin health,” writes Jennifer McGruther in The Nourished Kitchen.
The presence of gelatin provokes Sally Fallon Morrell into rapture in her book Nourishing Broth: “gelatin . . . provides the amino acids the body needs to make the ‘glue’ we call connective tissue. In the form of twisted cables, collagen strengthens the tendons that connect muscle to the bone and the ligaments that connect bones together . . . collagen is the secret to well-lubed and well-cushioned joints.”
You are probably rolling your eyes at the idea that bone broth is some sort of super-duper health food, and anything other than the latest fad for paleo diet hipsters. But the truth is that bone broth has been recognised as a staple of good health for centuries in numerous diverse cuisines around the world, and has been cooked and sipped to maintain and restore health.
The key to making great bone broth is using those bones that have the most connective tissue and marrow, so neck bones, knuckle bones and marrow bones, roasted then slowly cooked with water and vegetables for hours on end with a good dose of acid in the form of vinegar, will give you a broth that puts a pep in your step, and more suppleness in your Sun Salutations.
Here is Jennifer McGruther’s recipe for bone broth. I would add a good glug of white wine vinegar along with the water.
Beef Bone Broth
3lbs beef soup bones
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs thyme
3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 large yellow onions, quartered
3 carrots, chopped
2 celeriac, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup red wine
2 gallons water, plus more as needed
Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
Arrange the bones in a roasting pan in a single layer and roast for 45 minutes. Transfer the bones to a heavy stockpot. Toss in the bay leaves, thyme, peppercorns, onions, carrots, celeriac and garlic. Pour in the red wine and water.
Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, then immediately lower the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for at least 12 and up to 18 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the bones submerged.
Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve, discard the solids, and pour the broth into jars. Cover the jars and place them in the fridge; you can remove the fat that hardens on the surface and use it for cooking. Use up the broth within a week, or freeze it for up to 6 months.
John McKenna is editor at guides.ie