One of the cornerstones of ancestral nutrition and cooking – whether that’s full-blown paleo or primal or the “nourishing traditions” approach – is to eat food that is nutrient dense. I emphatically don’t give medical advice, but I do think it’s imperative to eat food that is organic, fresh, uncontaminated by weird chemical additives or GMOs, and, frankly, packed with nutrients to make it worthwhile eating it.
I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about how I moved toward the paleo approach. Even before that, I had been influenced by a holistic doctor who introduced me to a book called Nourishing Traditions and Three Stone Hearth, a Berkeley community kitchen that offers prepared food based on the Nourishing Traditions approach. One of its axioms is to eat what people in traditional cultures have thrived on for eons.
Back to basics, in meat cooking, means using all of the nutritious parts, and this includes making stock from bones. People have been making bone broth as long as they’ve known how to use fire and cookware. The best chefs know to begin soups and sauces with stock made from animal bones.
Starting about seven years ago, the same holistic doctor urged me to have bone broth on a regular basis. It has been a long journey, and I have become a convert!
When I underwent chemo, the nutritionist at the cancer center urged me to drink bone broth daily to replenish minerals lost to chemo. I followed that advice and was lucky enough to have a friend and a neighbor bring me a steady supply of their homemade chicken broth.
As I recovered and started studying paleo nutrition, I also started making my own broth, using organic chicken bones from El Cerrito Natural Grocery and a slow cooker. I’d get the broth into my system by using plain stock to make a meat-and-veggie stew which I then put into pint jars to take to work for lunch each day. That was good until the summer, when eating a heavy stew didn’t appeal to me. Over the summer I stopped having daily broth even though I need it to strengthen my bones and immune system. I’d been able to down the broth if it was doctored up in a stew, but I couldn’t drink it straight.
Then I took a class on fermentation and bone broth with local nutritionist Sara Russell (www.yourprobiotickitchen.com). She advised us to cook the bones with veggies, herbs such as parsley and a little sea salt which – duh – had not occurred to me. Since then, I’ve been cooking my broth this way, making a batch at least once a week. I get about two quarts from each batch, which I refrigerate in mason jars. It’s so good I want to drink it straight and I now have a cup or two daily for lunch. I throw into the bowl a scoop of sauerkraut, sometimes some leftover meat or veggies, or avocado slices, or even a hard-boiled egg. I still cook plain broth into stews. I also use my veggie and herb-flavored broth to cook liver and onions or sautees of various sorts. I recently cooked a pot of brown rice for a friend and I replaced half the water with broth. It came out great.
I must say that the more bone broth I drink, the better I feel. It is a one reason why I no longer have joint pain from the anti-cancer drug I take and why my digestion has improved. (Since I’ve been drinking bone broth daily, I no longer need to put much moisturizer on my face.)
Now a new book is out detailing some of the science behind bone broth, along with how-to instructions and recipes for cooking with it.
Sally Fallon Morell, author of the now-classic book I mentioned previously, Nourishing Traditions, along with Kaayla T. Daniel, have just published Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World (2014).
I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is encyclopedic and written for non-scientists. The authors explain the nutritional benefits of ingesting, via broth as food, the gelatin, cartilage, and a host of amino acids and minerals in bone broth. Then they go chapter by chapter into what is known – not enough research has been done – on the benefits of broth for various ailments, from arthritis to digestive disorders, even mood disorders.
About half the book consists of instructions on making different kinds of broth and then using the liquid for an amazing variety of soups, sauces and even main dishes. I’m an utter novice at making broth and I am just flat-out excited at the possibilities for future cooking.
Next week, for example, after I finish eating from my Thanksgiving turkey, I’ll throw the bones, with veggies and a dash of apple cider vinegar, into the slow cooker to make a turkey broth.
There’s a chapter on what little is known about the causes of cancer and how broth may help prevent it and heal from it. We just don’t know enough about this scientifically, and I would certainly not suggest treating cancer simply with nutrition.
What I do believe in is a holistic approach to health. We know that the immune system is what rids the body of cancer cells which appear and die on a regular basis, unless such cells are somehow not defeated by the immune system, and take hold and proliferate. We know that keeping a healthy immune system has a lot to do with stress management and good gut health, and that bone broth enhances digestion and aids in the absorption of phyto-nutrients that thwart cancer.
I conclude, for myself, personally, that the consumption of broth is essential to keeping my immune system strong and keeping my health in a good state.
For years I’d been thinking that the key to good health would be to eat, more or less, what my ancestors ate. I imagine they kept a pot of broth-based soup on the stove, because it’s such good medicine.