Bone Broth: What’s up with that?

Bone broth has popped up as one of the latest ‘superfoods,’ and while I try not to elevate any one food too highly, there isn’t much to dislike about it.

Bone broth is made by simmering bones and meat for an extended period of time, and leads to a liquid higher in protein and minerals than traditional broth or stock. While all three liquids are good sources of protein, they do differ slightly in preparation and nutritional value.

Think of them in this order, which also reflects the cooking time and ‘intensity’ of the finished product: broth, stock, and then bone broth. Broth is made by simmering meat and may include some bones, and is cooked for 1-2 hours. Stock is made primarily of bones, but may contain some bits of meat stuck to the bones, and is simmered for closer to 4 hours. Bone broth is made of the same ingredients as stock (bones and some small scraps of meat), but is simmered for at least 8 hours and sometimes for more than 24 hours. Cooking for that long allows the bones to soften and release minerals and produce gelatin from the tough collagen found in the animal’s tendons and ligaments, which is what differentiates bone broth from traditional broths and stocks. For both stock and bone broth, it’s recommended to roast the bones prior to simmering to improve the flavor of the liquid.

Bone broth is high glycine, a nonessential amino acid (which means our bodies can synthesize it from other nutrients, unlike essential amino acids, which must be consumed in our diets) that promotes digestion, helps regulate blood sugar levels, provides antioxidant protection and may even aid in promoting better sleep. Proline is another nonessential amino acid found in bone broth that is required for the production of collagen in our bodies, which is important for the health of our joints. Additionally, proline plays a role in strengthening the muscles of our heart. Both proline and gelatin (found in bone broths) may improve our skin health as well, as collagen is what gives our skin its elasticity and ‘youthfulness.’ Gelatin may also be beneficial for those trying to improve their gut health, as it coats the intestinal lining.

Collagen and gelatin are essentially the same thing, as they both contain the same amino acid (i.e. protein) profile; collagen (sometimes called ‘collagen peptides’) is simply a more processed version of gelatin. When bones are simmered for long periods of time, as is the case with bone broth, gelatin is released. Both gelatin and collagen are produced by drying, and can be purchased in the form of powders and added to liquids. The biggest difference between the two is that gelatin gels, and collagen does not. For example, gelatin can be used to thicken soups or stews or to make homemade jello, while collagen powder will simply dissolve and remain a liquid, making it a better choice for adding to hot beverages or smoothies. Because collagen is broken down further than gelatin, it may be easier for some to digest.

Making bone broth is as simple as saving up some bones and then popping them into your Instant Pot. Bone broth can be made with beef, chicken, turkey and even fish bones. We often grab a rotisserie chicken for busy weeknight meals, and I always save the bones in a plastic bag and pop it into the freezer. Once I have a few of them, I make my own broth! If using a slow cooker, place bones into the ceramic insert and cover with water (about 4 cups for each carcass) and cook on low for 24 hours. If using an Instant Pot (or other electric pressure cooker), place bones into metal insert, cover with water and set for 120 minutes using the ‘manual’ setting. Adding aromatics (carrot, onion, herbs, etc…) is optional; aromatics will add flavor to your broth but could also add bitterness due to prolonged cooking, or compete with the flavor you desire when using your broth in the future. Also, roasting bones prior to simmering is recommended but optional as well. Once the cooking time is finished, allow the Instant Pot to release the pressure gradually and strain the liquid before pouring into containers. Broth can be refrigerated up to one week, or frozen.

 

po-TAY-to

Let’s talk about the humble potato. They come in multiple colors and sizes, they’re dirt (haha, get it?) cheap and you probably ate one within the last 48 hours. Potatoes have been a pantry staple since, well, forever. Potatoes were discovered in Peru and brought to Europe via Spain. In the late 1500s, potatoes made it to Ireland, where they became a huge hit because of their ease of cultivation and nutritional value. Because they became such an important crop, during the Potato Famine in the mid-1800s, almost 1 million Irish died and another million emigrated. Today, they are the world’s fourth largest crop, behind rice, wheat and corn.

White potatoes have gotten a bad wrap lately in the diet department, as folks have lumped them together with white bread and labeled them ‘bad carbs.’ Before we go any further, let’s pause and talk about ‘bad’ versus ‘good’ carbs. First of all, none of our food items are misbehaving in the pantry, so categorizing them with terms more akin to a moral code seems silly. Second, carbs aren’t ‘bad’ for us at all; approximately 50% (or more!) of our diet should be made up of carbohydrates so that we have sufficient energy to function. What I try to emphasize from a nutritional standpoint is to choose nutritionally dense (i.e. foods high in nutritional value, low in things like added sugars, etc…) food more often than calorically dense foods. In short, I’d rather someone get more of their carbs from fruits and vegetables and a smaller amount of grains, rather than relying solely on grain products (such as bread, crackers, cereals, etc…) to get their carbs. Perhaps we should be describing potatoes as ‘better for you’ carbs and cookies as ‘less nutritionally dense.’

Back to the potato! It’s a great source of vitamins, minerals and fiber while being low in calories. Unfortunately, we don’t often eat our white potatoes plain, which is where we get in trouble. Read up on the facts below and consider making some tweaks to your potato game at the dinner table!

Potato Nutrition Facts:

– One small white potato has about 130 calories, nearly 4 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein. Potatoes are high in potassium and Vitamin C, as well as iron and magnesium.

-Sweet potatoes are similar, but do have a slightly different nutritional profile. One small sweet potato has about 115 calories, 4 grams fiber and 2 grams protein. They aren’t as high in potassium or Vitamin C, but they are incredibly high in Vitamin A (it’s the beta carotene—how it gets it’s orange color).

-Whoa! Check out these calorie counts, all based on a 5-ounce potato: loaded baked potato, 415 cals; hash browns fried in oil, 375 cals; French fries, 440 cals. Reminder, a plain potato has only about 130 calories.

-Don’t compare white potatoes to white bread; bread has been refined and processed and has lost much of its nutritional value, while a potato has not.

-Purple potatoes are also pretty cool. They are similar to white potatoes nutritionally, but contain 4 times the amount of antioxidants! Try them in a potato salad with celery, dill and onion.

-Don’t forget to eat your potato skins! Some of the fiber and vitamins are contained in the skin, so unless you’re mashing them, consider eating the skin, too.

-Top a small baked potato with ¼ C plain Greek yogurt, ¼ cup salsa and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. You’ll add only 80 calories and 9 grams of protein, totaling approximately 210 calories and 11 grams protein, perfect as a light lunch or paired with 2 ounces of meat and a side salad for dinner.

-Roast a batch of sweet potatoes to eat as sides at dinner, sprinkled with cinnamon and mixed with a nut butter and plain yogurt for lunch or thrown into a smoothie at breakfast.

Swanson Health Products

Awhile back, Swanson Health Products contacted me and offered to let me pick out some items from their website.  I was already familiar with Swanson, since another RD blogger I follow, Kath, promotes their probiotics.  I’d actually been thinking of trying a probiotic, but wasn’t ready to make a call on a specific one right then.  Continue reading “Swanson Health Products”