Bone Broth: The Superfood In Your Slow Cooker
It’s the time of year for merriment. And for most people, holiday indulgences can leave you feeling sluggish and dull as you ring in the New Year.
But it’s not just holiday overindulgences that tax our liver and leave us feeling low. Every day we’re exposed to a barrage of assaults from the air we breathe, the water we drink and the chemicals we come into contact with.
Our modern world a toxic soup and we can’t help but bathe in it.
And while many people choose to more “drastic” measures (like a multi-day juice fast) to help counteract the damage, there’s a more practical way to lighten your liver’s burden and cleanse away occasional culinary sins and environmental toxins…
Drink bone broth!
The Non-Essential Nutrient That’s Essential for Detoxifying
Bone broth is rich in a wide variety of nutrients, including the amino acid glycine. Glycine is the simplest of all amino acids and is considered “non-essential.” That means that it can be produced by the body.
But when it comes to detoxification, glycine is absolutely essential. In fact, without enough glycine, your liver’s ability to do its job comes to a slow grind.
You see, glycine is one of several starting compounds needed to make the body’s most powerful antioxidant and detoxifying agent: glutathione.
The Most Miraculous Anti-Aging Substance (Your Doctor Hasn’t Heard Of)
Glutathione is made up of just three amino acids bonded together – glycine, cysteine and glutamic acid. And while glutathione is a very small and simple molecule, its function in the body is extremely diverse… and unquestionably vital.
It’s so important that more than 89,000 medical articles have been written about it!
The first way that glutathione works its healing magic is by recharging the other antioxidants in your body. These include vitamin C, vitamin E and lipoic acid. Without glutathione, free radicals would overwhelm your antioxidant defenses and cause rapid physical deterioration.
But this amazing substance is also an essential part of your liver’s ability to detoxify the blood.
Here’s how it happens…
Glutathione: Your Body’s Crucial Cleanser
First, the blood is filtered by the liver. Think of this as the deep cleaning phase. Toxins and other unwanted chemical junk are removed from the blood and converted into water-soluble chemicals (called conjugates). These conjugates are then reduced to smaller fragments, which can then be more easily neutralized and excreted.
The next step is called phase II detoxification. This is where enzymes and antioxidants – including glutathione – step in to neutralize the metabolic debris and free radicals that were gathered or generated in the first phase.
Day in and day out, your body performs these complex housekeeping tasks. But this internal “maid service” does not come without a cost – each and every time the body cleanses compounds from the blood, glutathione and other vital nutrients are depleted.
And the more toxins you are exposed to, or the longer the exposure, the more costly this “housekeeping” becomes from a nutritional standpoint.
This is exactly why you need to…
Detox Weekly… Not Yearly
Humans are in contact with more toxins today than ever before in history. From radiation to the tens of thousands of chemicals we’re exposed to in our food, water and air – your health depends on being able to continuously and efficiently detoxify.
The best way to achieve this is to provide your body with a constant supply of the nutrients that facilitate internal cleansing – including glycine.
And making bone broth is the best and easiest way to incorporate the glutathione-boosting benefits of glycine into your diet.
Here are some quick tips to get the most:
- Cook Slow & Low or Add Pressure: Longer cooking times at lower temperatures help to ensure maximum extraction of glycine and other important nutrients in bones. To make bone broth simply add 4-5 large bones to a slow cooker and fill three-quarters full with water (you can add salt, seasonings, onions and vegetables, if you wish). Make sure you have enough water in the pot and cook for 24 hours on low to create a nutrient-dense broth. A quicker alternative with all of the same benefit: Make gelatin in the pressure cooker.
- Add Parts: Marrow bones are the standard for making bone broth, but you can get more glycine if you add parts like chicken feet.
- Consider the Fat: If you make a bone broth predominantly from beef bones, the fat will be saturated. However chicken parts will produce more omega-6 fats. For this reason, you should consider scraping (if it’s cold) or ladling the fat from top of bone broth made from chicken.
- Make Gelatin Cubes: If you won’t be using or consuming all of your nutrient-rich bone broth within four to seven days, simply spoon or pour the amount you want to store into ice cube trays and freeze. Then pop out the cubes and store them in a zip-top bag for quick individual use. They can be added to soups, stews and sauces or just gently heated for a soothing, cleansing drink.
To lighten your liver’s load, you should also avoid processed foods and chemicals, limit your alcohol consumption and engage in regular exercise. But for the toxins that inevitably make their way into your body, boosting glutathione and other key nutrients goes a long way to protecting your health. And consuming glycine-rich bone broth is one of the best ways to do that.
Linda Hendrex says
Hi Kelly, What a great article on bone broth. I have made it regularly for several years and most of the time it is great. However, occasionally I wonder if something went wrong. This week’s broth is a good example.
I cooked a stewing chicken in a crock pot (this is an old chicken that used to be an egg layer). The age of the chicken might have something to do with how it came out. The chicken was cooked for 24 hours on low heat. Although it was done, the meat was tough and rubbery, but I chopped it very fine and made it into a great chicken salad. Then, I returned the bones to the crock pot and added water and cooked the bones on very low for the next 48 hours.
When everything was done, I strained the bones out and refrigerated the liquid until the fat separated. The fat never solidified and remained a cold oil on the top of the broth. The broth never turned to a thick, wonderful gelatin, and remained a thin, runny liquid. I skimmed off the fat and discarded and was left with a watery brown broth that looked more like a beef broth than a chicken broth. It isn’t a light, golden color like chicken stock usually is. It also has a kind of “overcooked”
Normally, when I make a bone stock, the stock itself is a thick gelatin and the fat is solid. But when it turns out this way, I wonder if something has gone wrong and if it is still good to eat. It also doesn’t taste exactly like normal chicken stock – it has a heavily “roasted” flavor with a slight burnt aftertaste. Neither the chicken nor the stock was ever cooked on a high temp and nothing actually burned. I don’t know what to make of it when my stock is like this, but it makes me uncomfortable.
I usually use a pressure cooker because I live in the Rocky Mountains, but this time my pressure cooker was otherwise engaged and I used my crock pot instead. But no matter what method I use, I get an occasional batch that comes out with a strange color, texture and taste. Not sure what I’m doing differently.
What do you think? Do you ever have a stock that turns out like this? Would you still consume it?
Thanks for any insight you can give!
Kelley Herring says
Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us. I think it can be very helpful to other readers.
First, let me say that I have gone to pretty much exclusively using my pressure cooker for the efficiency, nutrient retention and amazing gelatin rich bone broth I get when making my pressure cooker chicken recipe.
Now, to address your quandary. The first thing that strikes me is the amount of time you cooked your chicken. 24 hours is a very long time, even on low, to cook any meat. This is why it turned out tough and rubbery – the protein fibers shrank up due to extended exposure to heat. Similarly, it is my feeling that this long cooking method broke down the gelatin. As you may know, gelatin is basically collagen that has been broken down. The extended heat used in the preparation method you mention above changed the structure, reducing its ability to gel. Here is a good article on the biochemistry of gelatin. And for your last concern on the “roasted” flavor”. Because a good proportion of fats in chicken are polyunsaturated fats, I’m afraid the long exposure to heat has caused the fats to break down and generate lipid oxidation products (LOPs). To me, this is the most concerning element of all as LOPs have a myriad of nasty effects on cellular health. Similarly, the browning you mention is the Maillard reaction, which can taste heavenly, but causes proteins and sugars to combine and create advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) that again, have some serious negative effects.
Our senses give us important clues to the health and vitality of the food we eat. Anything with an “off” taste, smell or appearance, I discard. While cooking our food can unlock many important nutrients, I do endeavor to apply the minimum effective dose to achieve the desired outcome. For bone broth, it is cooking it only to the point where the most nutrients and gelatin have been extracted – and no more. Otherwise, we end up with a devitalized (and potentially harmful) product, and that pretty much defeats the purpose!
Please trust your instincts and try my pressure cooker chicken recipe the next time you make bone broth from chicken. You’ll get a fork-tender chicken and a good amount of gelatin-rich broth. I then re-use the bones one more time with water and salt to extract more gelatin, cooking for only an additional 30 minutes.
I hope this helps and thank you again for sharing!
Linda Hendrex says
Hi Kelley, Thanks for the input. After reading your comments, I’m pretty sure that this batch is just not up to par and I plan to discard it. I believe you are so right when you say that our senses can tell us a lot about the food we are preparing.
I wonder if you could say more about the chicken being cooked too long? The reason I cooked It SO long was because it was a hard, rubbery chicken, even in it’s raw state. I could feel how the tissues resisted handling and how tight the joints and muscles were. That is why I decided to cook it for so long – because I had been under the impression that a bird that is small, tough and wiry needs an extra long cooking time to break down the tissues enough to make it edible. This gentle, low and slow method works well and the chicken is usually ready within a few hours. This particular chicken wan no better after 6 hours of stewing and that is what prompted an extra long cooking time. After about 24 hours, the chicken was slightly more “relaxed” but mostly still retained that “resistant” feel. It wasn’t even good for soup and I ended up dicing it fine for chicken salad. It was OK, but not the best.
I have to wonder if the ultimate issue was the chicken itself. The stewing chickens I have been buying are from a little girl who raises hens for eggs and slaughters the older hens for meat after they do not lay anymore. Some of her chickens are very good and have made wonderful food, but others have been like this last one. Honestly, as soon as I thawed out this particular chicken, I had a feeling that it wouldn’t be good for much.
So, your point about not overcooking a bird is well taken, but I wonder just how much we can tell about the quality of meat before we even try to cook it? I understand that pastured birds can be a bit tough, but most of the time there are ways of preparing that mitigate these issues. But I have occasionally run into birds that are such poor quality that nothing I do seems to help. Your thoughts? How do you choose a good quality bird?
Linda Hendrex says
Oh – One more thing about my chicken. It was extraordinarily small, with very little meat, very little fat and mostly bones. I actually wondered how such a tiny chicken could have ever laid an egg. And there were no eggs inside the carcass. Most of the time when I get old hens form this girl, there are clusters of eggs on the ovaries, but this chicken had no eggs at all. All in all I didn’t have a good feeling about this bird at all…..
Kelley Herring says
In all of my days of cooking chicken (which, by the way, is probably my favorite thing to cook!), I have never had an experience like yours. But then again, I don’t know that I have ever eaten a former layer (at least that I know of). I buy all of my chicken from US Wellness Meats – they have a great selection of free range chicken – whole and parts – and even have soy-free chickens.
Thanks again for sharing your story. I hope your days of encountering scrawny, fat-free, tough birds are over!