You’ve probably heard of one of the biggest health trends now: Bone Broth.
Not only is it an easily made inexpensive traditional food, but you can buy it pre-made in cans, boullions, frozen, or fresh; and now you can even get a powdered version! (Not sure how I feel about that one)
It’s true that bone broth can have a lot of nutrients, including minerals, but you may not be getting as much as you’ve been led to believe.
At the end of this post you will find my recipe for bone broth/chicken soup that is:
maximized for mineral absorption;
packed with veggies;
AND (and this is the most important point IMO) is requested by my 7-year-old! She loves it, and that makes it quite likely that your family will like it too. 🙂
Did I forget to say it’s also oh SO very easy to prepare?
And, as with all posts written by a science-based holistic nutritionist (me!), you’ll get the un-branded and un-biased science that goes along with it! 🙂
The science of bone broth
Scientifically speaking, bone broth is awesome! 🙂
Bone broth is easy to make, uses parts of the animal that are typically thrown away (thus making a second meal from that one single chicken), and contains several nutrients including minerals & amino acids.(1)
In general, there are two things you can do to get the most nutrients from your foods:
Eat the foods with the highest levels of those nutrients;
Increase the “bioavailability” of those nutrients, so they’re more easily absorbed into your body from that food.(2)
One great thing about bone broth is that you don’t lose many of nutrients that leach out of the foods while cooking it, because you will actually drink the water it was cooked in.(3)
There are several techniques I use to maximize the levels of absorbable minerals in my recipe – but it’s still super-easy!
Why even consider “maximizing” mineral absorption?
I personally make an effort to maximize mineral absorption because I’m maximizing my own bone health (of course minerals are necessary for much more than just strong bones).
I’m not saying this to concern you about mineral absorption, just to give a few tips and ideas how to make something that’s already awesome even better.
There are several things you can do to maximize your own ability to absorb minerals.
How to maximize your mineral absorption
One obvious, and often overlooked habit that increases your absorption of most nutrients is to eat slower and chew your food better; in other words “mindful eating”.(4)
You have teeth covered in super-strong enamel made precisely for breaking food into smaller pieces. The smaller the bits, the more surface area you create, which gives more places for the digestive enzymes and absorption cells to access the nutrients.
Your body also needs stomach acid to help maximize absorption of minerals and other nutrients. Stomach acid helps you to:(5,6)
fight off certain bacteria that may be in your food;
trigger the activation of key digestive enzymes;
trigger your gut to get ready to start “peristalsis”, which is the muscular motion that gets food moving along;
and, it also helps your body absorb minerals.
Yup! That last point is one of the hypotheses as to why some long-term antacid users may be at higher risk for several conditions, including fractures.(7)
And several studies show that foods may be safer than supplements as a source of some minerals such as calcium.(8)
Not allowing mineral absorption to be reduced by antacids is yet another reason to try to get as many minerals from your food, rather than supplements. This is because, ironically, some mineral supplements act as antacids, which then reduce their own absorption.(9)
Note from Leesa: I’m not saying you should stop supplementing with minerals or taking antacids! I’m just suggesting that you can try to maximize the amount you get from food, which might just help to minimize the amount you need from supplements.
Maximize NUTRITION, Minimize INTERACTIONS is my logo! 🙂
Another thought is that, in addition to improving your digestion, mindful eating can also help you to reduce stress, which may also help to reduce your need for antacids – #justathought
Many mineral-rich plants contain “anti-nutrients”.
These are compounds that “chelate” their minerals, making them more difficult for our digestive tract to absorb. One chelation compound in greens is called an “oxalate”.(10,20)
Oxalates are not inherently bad for you, in fact your body makes them from vitamin C if necessary. However, if you’re trying to increase your mineral absorption (or are prone to kidney stones), you may consider reducing how much oxalate you eat.
Note from Leesa: Contrary to what you may have heard, eating raw grains and greens does not leach minerals from our bodies; what actually happens is that the minerals in those anti-nutrient-containing foods are more difficult to absorb. This means some of them will just pass right through you instead of getting into your body where it’s needed.
How to absorb the most…
The official recommended amount of calcium per day is 1,000 mg per adult.(11)
This recipe contains calcium from:(12)
Chicken – 10 mg/100g
Carrots – 42 mg/cup
Celery – 40 mg/100 g
Onions (cooked) – 3 mg/tablespoon
Spinach/Kale – 24-30 mg/cup
Apple cider vinegar & spices – negligible
Nope, not nearly close to the 300 mg/cup that milk has, but we’ve done some things to help make sure you absorb as much calcium as you can.
A cup of raw greens boils down to a tiny amount, so feel free to add lots of greens to the broth/soup.
As mentioned earlier, some of that calcium in the plants are bound up in oxalates.
In order to absorb a lot more calcium from your greens you can simply boil them (or add them to a soup, like this one!). Boiling has been shown to reduce calcium oxalate by up to 87%.(13)
One thing that is often used to try to leach more calcium from the chicken bones is apple cider vinegar. Unfortunately, this has not proven effective. I still use it because I like the flavour it adds. 🙂
Vitamin D is used to help your body absorb more calcium (and phosphorus) from your food. It’s created in the skin upon exposure to UV light, and is found in a few foods. It is needed in much, much higher amounts than found in foods, and this is why vitamin D is the most common nutrient deficiency in North America.(14)
Spoiler Alert: My soup recipe does not contain any appreciable amount of vitamin D. Nor do most other foods. There is some vitamin D3 found in fish, pork, & egg yolks. Vitamin D2 (the less effective form) is found in some UV exposed mushrooms.(15)
Of course, milk/dairy products, orange juice, cereals and many plant-based milks are often fortified with vitamin D3 (check your labels).
Many people supplement with vitamin D3; however, too much can be toxic in too-high doses, so you can get your blood levels of 25-OH vitamin D checked to make sure.
Magnesium is a mineral that has over 300 functions in our bodies!(16)
It’s also one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in North America (right behind vitamin D, and in front of calcium). Some of the reason for this is that magnesium is found in green vegetables, and most people don’t eat enough green vegetables. In fact, just as iron is central to our red blood, magnesium is central to plants’ green chlorophyll. (Now you’ll always remember that green veggies are a source of magnesium! You’re welcome!) 🙂
Adults need about 320 mg of magnesium per day,(11) and in this recipe the ingredients have:(12)
Chicken – 23 mg/100 g
Carrots – 15 mg/cup
Celery – 11 mg/100 g
Onions (cooked) – 2 mg/tablespoon
Spinach/Kale – 8-24 mg/cup
Apple cider vinegar & spices – negligible
Greens such as spinach and kale also contain iron. Just as calcium, however, the iron is bound up, so this is why we boil them with the soup.(2)
Adult women need, on average, 18 mg of iron per day (due to menstrual loss); and men only about 8 mg/day.(11)
The iron in this recipe is from:(12)
Chicken – 1 mg/100 g
Carrots – o.38 mg/cup
Celery – 0.2 mg/100 g
Onions (cooked) – 0.04 mg/tablespoon
Spinach/Kale – 0.24-0.81 mg/cup
Apple cider vinegar & spices – negligible
There is another thing that can help you absorb your iron from leafy greens (and other vegetables) – that is vitamin C.
The irony (pun intended) of this recipe is that vitamin C levels reduce upon cooking!
It’s not just that it’s a water-soluble vitamin and leaches into the broth, it also disappears from the broth the longer it’s cooked!(2)
Vitamin C is a very unstable molecule. It is this very nature of instability that makes it a great antioxidant. Basically vitamin C sacrifices itself to absorb free radicals.
This also makes vitamin C vulnerable to exposures to heat, light and long-term storage and its potency declines.
This is precisely why I add the greens into the soup for the last 30 minutes only, and don’t simmer them for 24-hours like the rest of the ingredients.
Add your greens to soup a few minutes before serving - #vitaminC #greens #spinach #kale #soup Click To Tweet
You can also increase your vitamin C intake by adding a squeeze of lemon or some chopped bell peppers to your soup right before you eat it. You can also have some berries or citrus for dessert right after finishing your bowl.
I add some kelp flakes to the recipe for iodine. Don’t add too much or it will start to taste a bit “fishy”.
The reason I add it is because I don’t eat a lot of iodized salt or processed food that contains a lot of iodized salt.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with iodized salt, but having lived on an island in the Atlantic for four years, I have come to love local (Canadian) sea salt.
And please know that the myth that Himalayan salt contains 84 trace minerals, or that it’s a good source of any of them, is just for marketing.(17)
One thing is absolutely true about Himalayan salt – it’s a great source of sodium (from far, far away).
You only need about (1,100 ug) 1.1 mg of sodium per day. So if you’re the rare person who needs more sodium in your diet, Himalayan salt is a fabulous source! (So are sea salt & mined salts, and those are almost certainly more local to you). 😉
Leesa’s Chicken Bone Broth/Soup Recipe:
Chicken bones (I use bones from an entire chicken)
Few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
Four bay leaves
Six carrots (washed & roughly chopped)
Four sticks of celery (washed & roughly chopped)
Onions – optional (I add the onions that were cooked along with the chicken)
Spices (thyme, parsley) – optional
Dash of seaweed flakes – optional
Dash of salt & pepper
Several handfuls of spinach or kale
Egg noodles or rice or potatoes – optional
I start with a whole chicken, and I roast (18) or slow cook it (19) with veggies for dinner. This is the night before I plan to serve the chicken soup.
Then I take those bones & any leftover meat and add it to the slow cooker along with the apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, carrots, celery, cooked onions, spices, seaweed flakes, salt & pepper.
Cover with water – this may be a couple of liters (I’ve never measured).
Put it on the “keep warm” setting overnight.
In the morning I turn it up to “low” to simmer all day.
About half-hour before dinner time I add several handfuls of greens (spinach or kale).
Now you can strain everything out and just drink the broth/stock, but I prefer to actually eat the meat and veggies, and not rely only on what nutrients have seeped into the water.
Also, my kids like egg noodles in it, so at this time I’ll start boiling a separate pot of water for them. You could try rice or potatoes if you like. Of course these starches are optional if you’re sensitive to gluten or grains, or if you’re limiting your carb intake.
That’s it – super easy & very yummy!
Do you want to know how you can optimize your bone health with nutrition, supplements and lifestyle? Which foods are best and how to make sure you absorb as many bone-critical nutrients as you can? Which supplements may or may not be recommended for you? How important are certain kinds of exercise or sleep (and how to get more of them)?
I am a “Science-Based Holistic Nutritionist” and I help women optimize bone health with a unique holistic perspective, based in science. I do not believe that there is one diet or supplement regimen that is best for every woman’s bone health. I embrace the best of what science has shown, and what a holistic approach offers.
If you’re a woman who wants optimal bone health, I invite you to:
Join my email list so you don’t miss any of my thoroughly-researched posts;
Comment below, or contact me here with any quick, general bone health questions (If your question is too specific I will add it to my list of blog post ideas. If your question needs a health history to answer properly, then you can book a consult with me here);
Tell me how I can best help you by answering a few questions in this survey (it may take 5-10 minutes to complete).
Thank you! I am so excited to be able to empower you to achieve optimal bone health!
How can a Science-Based Holistic Nutritionist help bones?
So, I’m now using my science degrees, as well as my holistic nutrition training to create myself a plan for optimal bone health. I’m also completing Dr. Lani Simpson’s Osteoporosis and Bone Health Certification Program (fall 2016). My bone health program incorporates a nutrient-rich diet, specific supplements, as well as weight-bearing exercise.
I want to do this because osteoporosis is a condition where nutrition and lifestyle changes can actually make a difference!
I am now determined to do what I can for my own bones. And if that allows me to help other people who want a science-based holistic approach to optimal bone health – AWESOME!
If you’re interested in optimizing your nutrition and bone health, then I’d love to hear your thoughts in a short survey linked below. 🙂
If you want to know more about my health philosophy, click here.
Leesa Klich is a science-based holistic nutritionist living at the intersection of science and holistic health (it’s really, really interesting here!) 🙂
At Nutrition Interactions she empowers women to optimize their bone health using foods, supplements and lifestyle upgrades. She also helps holistic-minded people taking medications maximize the benefits of good nutrition; as well as holistic health professionals find and understand science-based health information.
She has a MSc in Toxicology and Nutritional Science, over a decade experience in drug/supplement safety, and is also a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. For a list of free health resources, click here.
What Leesa is reading now:
I love the NutritionFacts.org site, it’s definitely one of my “go-to’s” when it comes to nutrition and health information:
How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger, MD
Part 1 includes chapters for “How not to die from:” heart/lung/brain, etc. diseases with almost 3,000 scientific references; Part 2 has Dr. Greger’s favourite recipes, kitchen gadgets, brands, etc.. I’m looking forward to reading this!
Watch the trailer here:
Buy the book here:
(affiliate link image above)