One of our family's favorite ways to boost immunity, especially on dark, cold winter days, is to make a batch of homemade bone broth. Bone broth (technically "stock") has numerous health benefits. There's a reason our grandmother's told us to eat chicken soup to fight a cold.
The theory is that you can pull minerals, amino acids, and collagen out of the bones by boiling them. Of course no one is getting rich off of bone broth (it's nearly free to make), which means no one is throwing much money behind researching its health benefits. This doesn't mean there are no health benefits, just that there isn't much credible peer-reviewed research about it.
Some of the reputed health benefits of bone broth include:
Does it really do any or all of these things? No one really knows, and opinions are strong on both sides of this debate. But here's what we do know: getting in the kitchen and cooking homemade food out of whole ingredients is never a bad thing. So give it a try!
Bone Broth Recipe
This is so easy you won't believe it. First, roast a whole chicken either in the oven or crockpot. We prefer the slow cooker because it's so easy (rinse chicken, place in crockpot, dab some butter or oil on top, put an inch or two of water or broth in the bottom of the pan, add vegetables if desired). After you roast your chicken, remove and eat (and enjoy!) the meat. Save the bones.
When you're ready to make the bone broth, place the chicken bones in a large pot. Fill pot with water and set over a medium-high flame and bring to a simmer. As water is heating roughly chop up some carrots, potatoes, celery, and onions and add to the pan. Throw in some herbs - whatever you have on hand is fine - and some peeled garlic cloves.
Extra tip: If you eat cheese with a rind, freeze the rind to save it. Whenever you're making soup or broth, put the frozen rind into the pot for extra flavor.
Simmer this mixture for a few hours. Every 20 or 30 minutes check the pot and skim any foam or grease off the top. The longer you simmer the bones the more minerals that will seep out and into your stock. Beware, however, that increased cooking time can lead to a stronger flavor that some people (particularly children) don't like. And if no one likes the bone broth, they're not going to eat it and they're not going to get any of the benefits. A healthy balance seems to be a few hours of simmering.
After you remove the pan from the heat, strain the broth to remove the bones, vegetables, and large pieces of herbs. What you have left is your homemade bone broth. You can drink this as-is, or make it into a soup.
Chicken Soup Recipe
Heat your homemade bone broth over medium heat. Dice any meat and vegetables for your soup - carrots, garlic, celery are our favorites - and add them to the broth. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Taste the broth. If it's bland consider adding salt, herbs, or even some chicken boullion cubes. The health benefits come from the homemade bone stock not storebought broth our boullion. However, if store-bought boullion adds flavor making the dish more pallatable (especially to the kids) it's a worthwhile add.
Separately, cook either rice or pasta to add to the soup at the very end.
As you can see, this is one of our kids' favorite meals. In the winter we try to make it weekly, and it's become a family tradition to sit around the table and share the story of "Stone Soup" as we eat. We often make homemade bread to go with the meal. It's such an easy way to get whole, healthy, homemade foods (including vegetables) into their little tummies.
Michael A. Sassack is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist serving the northwest suburbs of Chicago.