There are moments when common sense and traditional wisdom seem to make a resurgence amid our hectic and confusing times. These moments are often good reminders that we actually have solutions to many of our problems if we just look to our forebears and our own inner compasses for guidance. It is remarkable how often that is true in the case of nutrition and health.
Leaving behind things like Food Pyramids, Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) and all sorts of "healthy" processed modern foods in order to eat more like people did for many generations turns out to be a very wise move. A great case in point is the current emergence of good, old-fashioned broths as one of today's superfood trends.
Many of us who practice medicine with a focus on nutrition have been extolling the virtues of bone broths for a very long time. I have often found myself essentially recommending chicken soup to patients, smiling because I get that there is a little irony involved, but also emphasizing that I am being serious. So it is great to see a growing appreciation for the value of a well-made broth. There are few more healthful and comforting foods as readily available to us.
What makes bone broths so valuable to our health has to do with the nutrients that become available through the traditionally long, slow cooking methods that are used to prepare them. When you simmer bones and vegetables for many hours, they release generous amounts of highly available minerals, collagens, amino acids and vitamins into the broth. These nutrients are precious to our bodies, and are often scarce in more modern foods.Health Benefits
There are many health conditions that would benefit from regular consumption of true, slow cooked bone broths. Skeletal issues like osteopenia, osteoporosis and arthritis come to mind immediately, but I would include many digestive disorders, some auto-immune diseases and even cancer as good reasons to incorporate more broths into our diets.
Specific health claims aside, I recommend bone broths to promote general health. There is something valuable to the whole experience of preparing and eating this kind of food that goes beyond science and a nutrient analysis. It is a good reminder that we are so much more than just chemistry sets.
There are a variety of online and print resources available for those interested in learning more about broth making, as well as broth lore. I am especially impressed with the book Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallon and Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CNN. I have been fascinated by the book, and I am trying to get my courage up to try out some of the more exotic recipes. This week I just stuck with the obvious choice and made a turkey stock from the remains of our Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe next week I will give the Russian fish stock a try.
Dr. Clif Steinberg is a Naturopathic Physician whose approach to medicine is informed by many things, but especially by the lessons in ecology conferred by years in organic agriculture, which gave rise to his growing appreciation for how interconnected everything really is. His practice at Sojourns Community Clinic focuses on Holistic Primary Care, Nutritional Medicine, and Environmental Medicine.