Is bone broth the new superfood?

Sudeshna Ghosh
Sudeshna Ghosh
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Forget green juice and exotic berries, the latest superfood fad taking the world – and this region – by storm doesn’t come from obscure Latin American jungles, but rather, your grandmother’s kitchen!

Bone broth is essentially meat stock - but not the kinds you get out of a bottle or a cube, it’s pure stock made from simmering bones for several hours, extracting an array of nutrients that isn’t otherwise available from eating just the flesh.

Broth, in various avatars, has been part of traditional diets around the world for centuries - from our Paleolithic ancestors making use of all parts of the animal they’d hunted, to the classic clear soups always eaten at mealtimes by the Chinese and other Asian communities.

The transformation of bone broth from a historic natural remedy to trendy diet fad started in New York - as most such trends are wont to do - a couple of years ago when a chef started selling his homemade broth out of a storefront window of his East Village restaurant. Its popularity spread to the healthy-living West Coast too, where endorsements from celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Salma Hayek only helped cement its ‘viral’ status – and beyond, to as far as Australia, and more recently, the UAE.

Keith Littlewood is a wellness expert and consultant health educator at Hapi, a Dubai-based café that was one of the first to bring bone broth to the region. He says, “Modern diets rely too much on muscle meat. This increases the levels of tryptophan, which, in excess, increases inflammation in the gut, and depletes antioxidant levels. Bone broth provides the body with essential amino acids [the building blocks of protein], which help the body make potent antioxidants. This benefits the digestive system, and calms the nervous system. Bone broth also contains high levels of collagen, which improves skin and hair health.”

The increased collagen isn’t just important for beauty, it also has heart health benefits as it prevent arteries from stiffening, says Dean Henry of Clean Living Company, a newly established purveyor of bone broth in Dubai. He adds, “Glycine, another amino acid, regulates blood sugar levels, aids digestion and enhances muscle repair. Glutamine assists in helping the gut to function properly, and boosts the immune system. And the gelatin content in bone broth helps to heal and seal the gut lining.”

While there aren’t too many definitive studies on the medicinal benefits of bone broth yet, improving gut health is clearly one of its central benefits, and a healthier gut has a knock-on effect on everything – from detoxification to mood and emotional health. And if that wasn’t enough to grant it superfood status, it also has a high vitamin and mineral content – including essentials like magnesium and calcium.

For something that’s so good for you, bone broth tastes surprisingly appetising, even heart-warming. While it can be made with beef, lamb or chicken bones with more or less similar nutritional benefits, Henry says beef bones are probably the most nutrient dense, as the bones are thicker and the knee joints, knuckles and shins pack in the most gelatin.

Recipes can vary, but typically, the bones are roasted, then slow-cooked in water with vegetables like carrots and onions, plus seasoning and aromatic herbs, for a minimum of four hours, but ideally for up to 48 hours. An acidic element such as vinegar is important, in order to help break down the nutrients.

Sounds simple enough to make at home, right? It may be, in theory, but getting hold of good quality organic, grass-fed cattle and poultry bones (which is the kind you want) may prove to be surprisingly hard. Which is the reason why broth doesn’t come cheap – the Hapi broth starts at Dh16 for a 250ml serving, while Clean Living Company offers 500ml packs for Dh55. (They also offer a 21-day lifestyle package, to align with a 21-day paleo-focused detox diet, which promises magical weight loss and overall health results.)

You don’t need to get on a detox diet to reap the benefits of bone broth though – proponents claim that regularly consuming around 250ml daily as a drink or as stock in cooking is proven to help manage chronic conditions and boost overall health.

So, there you have it – apparently it’s not so much an apple a day (although apples are pretty good for you too!) but more like a cup of soup a day that will keep the doctor away!

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