Bone broth is a hugely valuable tool in your digestive-healing toolbox. Seriously, huge. Here’s how to use bone broth to heal your gut.
Let’s start with some benefits:
Promotes healthy digestion by healing & sealing your (leaky) gut
Reduces joint pain & inflammation
Promotes strong & healthy bones
Inhibits infection caused by cold & flu viruses
Promotes healthy hair & nail growth
Known as anti-ageing
In this blog, I’ll share with you:
Why broth is so good for your tummy – some simple science (you can skip this bit if you want to)
How to use broth
Who can use broth
Where to find bones
How to make broth
How to store broth
1. Why broth is so good for your tummy – simple science on how to use bone broth to heal your gut
Collagen, the glue that holds the body together, breaks down into gelatin.
Gelatin is the ‘jelly’ consistency of the broth that appears when refrigerated. Broth also contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium & other minerals which are easily absorbed by the body.
It’s this sticky collagen that reduces as we age, causing skin, joints and other body parts to become drier, thinner and weaker.
Fats better tolerated than carbs
In a 1908 textbook, it was noted that fat was much better tolerated than carbohydrates by coeliac patients. It was also believed that the gelatin was beneficial to anyone with digestive disorders, not just coeliac disease.
It was understood that carbohydrates were fermented by our digestion. Replacing with complete proteins there was a risk of protein putrefaction (fermentation – think rotten smells!). However, gelatin was easily absorbed within the digestive tract supplying energy without the fermentation.
This benefits your tummy
Gelatin gives your digestive system a much-needed rest, often important if you have digestive issues. Later in the century, it was believed that by having it in the diet, food intolerances may be better tolerated as the gelatin seals a ‘leaky gut’. The main 4 amino acids (building blocks of protein) in broth are proline, glycine, glutamine & alanine.
2. How to use bone broth (to heal your gut)
The ideal way to use it is part of a soup or casserole that includes high-quality animal protein such as fish, meat, organ meats, poultry, eggs or dairy. This ensures your diet is rich in complete proteins.
- Cooking rice
- Cooking legumes
- Drinking as a ‘meat tea’
- Reheating leftovers
- To thin out thick sauce
How long do I cook broth for?
Short-cooked 4-6 hours (best on a hob)
Long-cooked 12-24 hours (best in a slow cooker)
The longer you cook it, the more flavourful and gelatin-rich it will become
3. Who can use broth and how to use bone broth to heal your gut.
Generally, bone broth has a long history of safety with an absence of unwanted side-effects.
However, cooking broth for longer has three times higher levels of amino acids. If you are sensitive to MSG, a flavour enhancer, or have histamine issues it is possible you may feel sensitive to bone broth, particularly if long-cooked. Therefore you may want to start with short-cooked broth first.
If you have SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) you may find it an irritant due to the polysaccharide content. Extremely sensitive people may prefer to use meat broth (simmered stew meat, not bones).
1 cup prevention
3 cups if dealing with a medical condition
4. How to find bones
Get your bones from a good butcher, ethnic food market or an organic box delivery scheme. It is preferable to use organic, grass-fed animals, not those raised in confined feeding operations (known as CAFOs or battery animals).
I find I get them free if I buy something when I am there. Ask for bones than contain lots of cartilage such as feet, knuckles, beef shanks, short ribs. You can freeze bones from leftover roasts or meals if you don’t have time or not enough bones to make broth that day. I have lots in my freezer and often use two carcasses to make a really rich broth.
5. How to make broth
Monday is broth-making day in my house after a Sunday roast. You’ll never again throw away a hugely valuable carcass!
To extract the minerals from the bones, add vinegar so your broth gets the additional goodness. I recommend Braggs organic raw unpasteurised apple cider vinegar, but wine vinegar will suffice.
Use whatever vegetables are in your salad drawer (except broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, sprouts which are bitter in broth) – it’s a good way to clean out wilting veg! I don’t bother peeling them.
Slow cooker version:
1 chicken carcass or 8 cups bony chicken parts e.g. necks, backs, breastbones & wings
2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2-4 cups roughly chopped vegetables (onions, leeks, carrots, peppers, celery, turnip)
Peppercorns, bay leaves & bouquet garni to add flavour (optional)
1 bunch parsley (optional)
1 tbsp. fennel seeds (optional)
About 4 litres cold filtered water
- Place bones in slow cooker & pour vinegar over them. Add veg & just enough cold, filtered water to cover the bones. Leave to stand for 30-60 minutes if possible.
- Cook on low for 6-12 hours, checking occasionally to ensure the bones remain covered (you can cook as long as 24 hours for chicken). Keep it at a low simmer, ideally not coming to a boil, set your lid askew if needed. Add parsley for last 10 minutes to add extra minerals
- Turn off cooker and leave to cool.
- Remove large bones with tongs or a slotted spoon. Strain the broth through a mesh sieve (to catch bone fragments) into a bowl/jug. Cool to room temperature and store as required. If you prefer, refrigerate overnight and in the morning, skim off the fat (will have risen to the surface) and use as cooking fat.
- If your refrigerated broth is jiggly & jelly-like then you’ll know you have plenty of gelatin.
Using a raw chicken: This recipe is for a cooked carcass, but you can cook the chicken whole (as in the picture), just remove the giblets first and ideally break down the bones – then you can remove the meat from the bone after 2-4 hours (use in salads, soups), then carry on cooking the bones for 12-24 hours.
Chicken broth can cook for up to 24 hours and beef broth for up to 48 hours in a slow cooker
Hob version. Bring a large stockpot to a boil and remove any scum that rises to the top, reduce to a simmer, leaving the lid askew if needed. You will need to check this often to ensure water is topped up to keep the bones covered or that it doesn’t boil dry. Cook for 6-8 hours if using the hob method. A slow cooker is safer to leave unattended if you go out.
6. How to store broth
Broth can be frozen for many months or kept in the fridge for about 5 days.
Ideal fridge storage is in glass Kilner jars (available in Lakeland, Homebase & Amazon). If freezing, fill only ¾ full to allow for expansion and only freeze when the broth is cooled down.
Freeze in ice cube trays for flexible use. This is ideal for when you need only a cube or two. It also means you don’t waste any valuable broth that’s sat in the fridge too long.
It is preferable to use silicone or stainless steel ice cube trays.
Storing hot, fatty foods (such as broth) in plastic containers leaches chemicals from the plastic into foods. These are known to be hormone-disrupting chemicals. Please avoid where possible. Only put into plastic ice cube trays when the broth is cooled.
When frozen, transfer the cubes to a plastic bag for easy access.
Happy broth making! Your digestion will thank you.
Suggested Reading: If you want the benefits of collagen but for a sweeter palette, read the Gut Healing Grape Jelly blog.
Bone broth is the basis of many of the 14 Day Gut-Friendly Meal Plan recipes, such as the family favourite Bolognaise, a great Lamb Tagine or the extremely popular Lamb Saag Curry (pictured below). Get your copy here.
Jane Barrett is a registered nutritionist and expert in digestive health helping women & children with digestive issues take control of their health through food. She offers support through meal plans, online courses & personalised 1:1 programmes on Zoom.