Everything You Need to Know About Making Bone Broth for Gut Health
Bone broths have been a part of many traditions for hundreds — even thousands — of years, before it started gaining it’s more recent popularity in the Western world.
It’s truly a superfood packed with a ton of nutrients that can support good gut health.
Here are some of the reasons why I love bone broth:
It is a nutritional powerhouse. Full of protein, vitamins like A, B12, B2, E, and minerals from veggies, like calcium, magnesium, zinc, and more.
It’s high in proteins like collagen and gelatin (which contain amino acids like glycine and proline). Glycine is an important amino acid for fat digestion (they’re a component of bile salts, which are a component of bile), and is supportive for the tissue that lines the GI tract. Gelatin can promote a healthy intestinal barrier integrity, and increase gastric acid secretions to aid in digestion.
How to make Bone Broth
Bone broth is super easy to make, and as we just learned, packs a huge nutritional punch. That’s a win-win in my books! One of the fun things about bone broth is that besides the basics, you can get really creative with the ingredients you add in.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Here’s what you need to get started with a really basic bone broth:
good quality bones (see below)
an acid (like apple cider vinegar)
stock veggies like carrots, celery, and onion (all preferably organic); scraps from organic vegetables are also a great addition to your bone broth!
garlic (you can use whole cloves)
herbs and spices like peppercorns, bay leaves, salt, oregano, thyme, etc.
The acid that we add into bone broth, like the vinegar, is key. Adding this acid helps to break down the collagen and connective tissue in the bones, and draw out nutritious minerals.
How to Source & Choose Bones
Ideally we want to use organic bones, from a reputable source. For chicken, we want to use bones from organic, free-range chickens; likewise for beef, we want to use organic, grass-fed beef. What we’re trying to do here is avoid any hormones or antibiotics that can be stored in the animals tissues and bones, and ensure that the bones we’re using came from healthy, happy animals.
Explore your local butcher shops, and visit your local farmers, and talk to them about their farming practices! Most will have great organic options. If this is inaccessible to you, then opt for organic meat (and bones) from your grocer where possible.
If you’re using chicken in your bone broth, you can use whole chicken carcasses. Chicken wings and feet are great additions to your bone broth, as they’re generally higher in collagen and gelatin. Whether frozen or fresh, chicken bones can be added right into the broth without any prior preparation.
For beef, look for knuckles, joints, bones with marrow, and even cuts like oxtail for added flavour and nutrition. It’s recommended by some that you blanch and roast your beef bones prior to adding them to your broth. This can be helpful for removing impurities from the meat like blood, and helps to enhance flavour (when roasted).
Turkey and lamb are also great options for bone broth. The same rules apply here respectively!
Saving Vegetable Scraps for Your Broth
Uplevel your bone broth by adding in veggie scraps for additional vitamins and minerals! While veggie “scraps” like carrot tops, broccoli stems, root-veggie peels, etc. might not make it into your main dishes, that doesn’t mean they aren’t packed with nutrients, and worth keeping around!
When you’re prepping your veggies throughout your week, keep your scraps in your freezer, until you accumulate enough to add to your broth!
I recommend opting for organic vegetables as much as possible, again to reduce exposure to pesticides, and other toxins that can be present on conventionally farmed produce.
Ideally, your bone broth should turn out gelatinous, or jelly-like once it’s cooled. This means that it’s full of nutrient dense goodness (like collagen!). There will often be a layer of yellow-ish fat that forms on top of the broth once it’s cooled. You can choose to remove some or all of these when it comes time to use your liquid gold!
You can make bone broth in a few ways, depending on what’s available to you in your kitchen!
The three ways I recommend to make your broth are either using a stock pot on your stove, a slow-cooker, or a pressure cooker:
Stove-top: using a stockpot (like a 6 or 8 quart), you can add your bones, vegetables (scraps included!), herbs and spices, and filtered water directly to the stock-pot, and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer, and leave on the stovetop for 10-12 hours (depending on your comfort zone with the stove being on overnight!).
Slow-cooker: similar to the stove-top method, add your bones, vegetables & scraps, filtered water, herbs and spices, and let simmer for 10-12 hours.
Pressure cooker: add your bones, vegetables & scraps, filtered water, herbs and spices, and set to high pressure. For chicken or turkey bones, you can probably get away with 3 hours or so in a pressure cooker, and for beef or lamb bones, a little longer (4-4.5 hours).
After cooking the broth, use a fine mesh strainer to filter the bones, veggies, herbs, etc., out of the broth.
Note: bone broth can contain elevated levels of histamine. If you are struggling with histamine, it might be best to cook your broth for less than 8 hours. To learn more about histamine intolerance and the gut, click here.
Bones and stock veggies aren’t the only ingredients you can add to your both. Here are some extras you can think about to uplevel your bone broth, for some extra nutrient density, and some extra gut-love:
Functional mushrooms. Adding mushrooms like turkey tail, lions mane, chaga, maitake, etc., can provide some additional immune, cognitive, inflammation, and nervous system support, on top of an already nutrient-dense broth.
Gut loving herbs, like dandelion root, turmeric, cloves, oregano, etc., can provide some additional digestive support, making your bone broth extra gut-friendly.
Storing & Using Your Bone Broth
You can store your bone broth in the fridge for up to 5 days. If you store it in containers (ideally glass), and allow the broth to cool and form a thick layer of solid fat on top, it may be stored for longer if the layer of fat doesn’t become compromised (ie. if it’s not broken). The fat can act as a protective seal.
Likewise you can store it in the freezer, where it can be good for up to 4-6 months! If you make your bone broth in large batches, freezing some is a great way to ensure it doesn’t go bad, plus have some stored away to use in the future.
Bone broth is a versatile superfood! You can enjoy bone broth by the mug, for a nourishing warm beverage, or incorporate it into your recipes. Use it as a base for soups, in risotto, to make quinoa or other grains, to make beans and legumes, etc., to add additional nutrient density and gut support to these dishes.
To learn more about how to support good gut health through nutrition, lifestyle, and supplementation, check out my “Beginners Guide to Gut Healing”