Nothing says comfort like a warm bowl of soup on a cold day. Grandma’s famous chicken noodle soup might even help kids recuperate from colds.
Broths have been used for centuries as a base for cooking and soups. They’re warming to the soul and to the taste buds, and they offer a rich flavor profile.
But is there more than just comfort to a good broth? Can it deliver any health benefits?
In recent years, we’ve seen a push toward greater awareness about broth’s potential health properties, particularly with bone broths.
Here’s what to look for when selecting a broth for good taste and optimal health benefits.
When shopping for broths at the store, you’ll find plenty of choices. Stock, broth or bone broth? Chicken, beef or vegetable? Which brand? What about broth bases and bouillon?
In culinary terms, broth comes from simmered meat or vegetables, while bone broth—or stock—requires simmering bones. Some people will even simmer whole carcasses or joints.
Bone broth is simmered longer, over 24 hours, which releases nutrients found in the bone, including protein, potassium and sodium.
When shopping, let flavor guide you. Decide whether you prefer chicken, beef or vegetable.
Be cautious of additives, and aim to determine the authenticity of broths. Pre-packaged broths are often loaded with sodium (especially the bases) and they can contain added sugars, fillers, colorings, chemical flavor enhancers or oils.
Be sure to read the label for traditional broth ingredients. Avoid those that sound like they are from a chemistry lab.
Also, look for sodium-free or low-sodium versions when possible.
As with most ready-to-eat foods at the store, cooking homemade is always the best bet. You can minimize additives and maximize nutritional benefits.
One cost-effective option: Save your vegetable scraps, including onion and garlic peels, carrot peels or roots, celery stems or leaves, scallions, ginger peels and leek roots. You can place them in the freezer and use them later in broths.
The peels, often the most nutrient-dense part of the plant, can provide great taste and health benefits.
You can also save bones from roasted whole chickens or other meats.
To save time, consider using a slow cooker to make broths and stocks. Once it’s ready, you can freeze large batches for later use.
Nutrients and health
The many health claims about broth, especially bone broth, include improved digestion and benefits for joint health and bone health. It may even help reduce inflammation.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of research specifically on bone broth to confirm these claims.
And given the variety of recipes and cooking methods, nutrient profiles can vary greatly from batch to batch.
But one of the distinguishing nutrients in bone broth is collagen. It’s cooked out from the bones and joints. It cooks down into gelatin and it gives the bone broth its Jell-O-like consistency.
Studies have shown that collagen can help reduce joint pain from osteoarthritis or sports activity. It can also help build muscle and strength, as well as improving wrinkles and skin elasticity.
These studies, however, evaluated collagen in a form that’s broken into individual peptides, called collagen hydrolysate. Experts don’t yet know if the same type of collagen in bone broth offers these benefits.
A word of caution: Some bone broths may contain levels of lead, given that bones can sequester the heavy metal. If you’re unsure about what types of broth to use, or how much, consult a registered dietitian.
Very good, informative article! Thank you!