As we head into the winter months, the best way to protect our bodies on the inside is, once again, through food. And you’ve no doubt heard of this most popular immune booster: bone broth.

There’s a solid scientific reason that we reach for chicken soup during cold and flu season. Chicken soup (bone broth) does indeed aid in alleviating symptoms of the common cold by clearing mucus, opening respiratory pathways and providing easily digested nutrition. In addition, according to a UCLA study, chicken soup naturally contains the amino acid cysteine, which chemically resembles the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine.

Bone broths offer a wide range of nutrients that aid in the prevention of compromised health.

Feeling bloated? That’s due to inflammation. Studies show that many of the amino acids in bone broth reduce inflammation, and L-glutamine specifically reduces gut inflammation. And chicken soup’s anti-inflammatory benefits may be one reason it is so helpful with relieving symptoms of the common cold.

The process of bone-formation (including teeth) requires an adequate supply of nutrients as follows: calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper, boron, iron, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, and the B vitamins. Bone broth with vegetables and meat or fish provides a good source of these numerous vitamins and minerals.

A personal note on calcium — I have benefited from experience by using bone broth over the last few years. Diagnosed with osteopenia (the early stage of osteoporosis) I needed to ramp up my calcium reserves through diet and exercise. Bone broths extract calcium from cow and chicken bones which are ingested by us, thereby replenishing depleted amounts in our system.

Another side effect of winter’s wrath can be dehydration. Bone broth, especially when it’s made from vegetables, adds electrolytes (minerals) and carbohydrates (from vegetables) to the diet. Studies have shown that drinking broth can rehydrate better than water alone due to the electrolytes.

In addition to these benefits of bone broth, the gelatin it contains has nine bonus side-effects:

1. Stronger, healthier nails

2. Anti-aging

3. Anti-tumor

4. Arthritis and joint-pain relief

5. Cell-protecting

6. Can alleviate diabetes and lower blood sugar; supports insulin regulation

7. Can improve sleep

8. Helps regulate bleeding from nosebleeds, heavy menstruation, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and bladder hemorrhage

9. Helps normalize stomach acid, which is useful for colitis, celiac disease, ulcers, and other inflammatory gut conditions

Homemade Bone Broth

2 pounds (or more) of bones from a healthy source

2 chicken feet for extra gelatin (optional)

1 onion

2 carrots

2 stalks of celery

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

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Optional: 1 bunch of parsley, 1 tablespoon or more of sea salt, 1 teaspoon peppercorns, additional herbs or spices to taste. I also add 2 cloves of garlic for the last 30 minutes of cooking.

You’ll also need a large stock pot to cook the broth in and a strainer to remove the pieces when it is done.

Instructions

If you are using raw bones, especially beef bones, it improves flavor to roast them in the oven first. I place them in a roasting pan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Place the roasted bones in a large stock pot (I use a 5 gallon pot.) Pour (filtered) water over the bones and add the vinegar. Let sit for 20-30 minutes in the cool water. The acid helps make the nutrients in the bones more available.

Rough chop and add the vegetables (except the parsley and garlic) to the pot. Add any salt, pepper, spices, or herbs.

Bring the broth to a boil. Once it has reached a vigorous boil, reduce to a simmer and continue until done (at least 4 hours.)

During the first few hours of simmering, you’ll want to remove the impurities that float to the surface. A foamy layer will form which can be easily scooped off with a big spoon. Throw this part away. I typically check it every 20 minutes for the first 2 hours to remove this. Grass-fed and healthy animals will produce much less of this than conventional animals.

During the last 30 minutes, add the garlic and parsley.

Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Strain using a fine metal strainer to remove all the bits of bone and vegetable. When cool enough, store in a gallon size glass jar in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for later use.

Note: If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can make a delicious vegetable broth. If you have a compromised digestive system, vegetables can be key to recovery as they are so easy for the body to break down.

To make a vegetable broth, take veggie scraps or whole vegetables and cover them in water, then simmer for at least 4 hours. You will then discard the vegetables because all of their nutrients are now in the soup broth.

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