Why You Need to Be Eating Bone Broth Right Now

why you need to be eating bone broth now

Why You Need to Be Eating Bone Broth Right Now

Primer: if you’d prefer a much more intellectual take on why bone broth needs to be in you, check out this Weston A Price article.  This article is a perfect representation of why I (instantly) bowed out from the health blogging game: it’s a crowded space, I don’t do original research, and quite frankly, I consume far too much whiskey to preach an ideal diet (old fashions are my life fuel).

That said, 18 months of obsessive research has equipped me with knowledge that has undoubtedly improved the quality of my life.  I’d like to share some of these insights which I feel are underserved in the mainstream.  


If someone told you that there was a supplement that builds stronger cartilage, healthier skin, promotes muscle production (and spares muscle breakdown when catabolic), detoxifies the liver, prevents or even reverses autoimmune disorders, rebuilds the digestive tract, improves bone health, and relieves/reverses arthritis, I’m guessing you’d probably sell your first born to acquire said wonder-drug (I’ll make a great father someday).

This product exists, only it’s not a pill.  It’s not an ointment.  It’s not a nasal spray, suppository, or snake oil tincture.

It’s called bone broth, it smells like fermented death, and tastes sorta alright. 

Pound for pound, bone broth is one of the most nutritionally dense and restorative foods one can consume, and unfortunately, almost everyone indulging a SAD (standard American diet) is not.

The history of bone broth dates back to the 17th Century when a French health researcher by the name of Denis Papin discovered: “‘A jellye made of bones of beef’ was mentioned in the diary of Englishman John Evelyn (1620-1706) in 1682 when describing the results of a demonstration of the first pressure cooker.” (source)

It’s a staple in Chinese and Jewish Medicine, and is regularly consumed in several cultures around the world (Vietnamese eat the bajesus out of a bone broth based stew called Pho – pronounced “fa” because it gives pretentious people something to add to their arsenal of important facts).

It’s at the foundation of the GAPS diet, which Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride developed to successfully reverse her son’s autism.

But if you’re like me, you give almost no shits about the history.  You don’t care if everyone on earth but you is eating it.  The question that matters: “Can it make me healthier?

Answer: Yes.

And you should be eating it now.  Like right now.

Bone broth is rich in several nutrients, minerals (including electrolytes), and amino acids- most notably glycine and proline- which both play a major role in a host of essential health functions.

At the height of my illness, I was accidentally exposed to bone broth in the form of my mother’s home cooked chicken soup (she uses the whole bird in the cooking process).  At the time, it didn’t matter what I ate, nothing satiated.  I could eat, and eat, and eat, and never achieve that Thanksgiving feeling.  One small bowl of this soup scratched an itch that I couldn’t find for the better part of nine months; my body was sending an unmistakable signal of “we need to do this more often.”  I have been making my own bone broth regularly ever since.

Let’s dig a bit deeper.  Below are 6 reasons you should be consuming bone broth right now.

This is a batch I made. It tastes better than it looks and smells, which isn’t saying a lot.

1) Improved digestion

“The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid, which means that it attracts and holds liquids, it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut. ” (source)

What this means to you:  Bone broth helps to regulate stomach acid production.  If you have trouble digesting protein, you have low stomach acid.  If you get heartburn, you have low stomach acid.  If you are extra burpy, farty, or bloaty after eating, you have low stomach acid.  In other words, low stomach acid is more common than most of us know.  Incorporating bone broth into your diet can help.

2) Reduces Inflammation

Amino acids such as glycine, proline, and arginine all have anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, for example, has been found to be particularly beneficial for the treatment of sepsis (whole-body inflammation).  Glycine also has calming effects, which may help you sleep better.” (source)

What this means to you:  Bone broth is rich in amino acids that are lacking in the SAD, many of which have shown to reduce inflammation.  You’re probably already aware that inflammation leads to joint stiffness and pain, but the impact is far deeper than just shitty knees.  Inflammation makes people depressed, and depressed people are inflamed.  Bone broth can help.

3) Heals a damaged gut

“Homemade bone broth soups are effective in restoring a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach. Bone broth is rich in collagen and gelatin, which have been shown to benefit people with ulcers. It’s also high in proline, a non-essential amino acid that is an important precursor for the formation of collagen.” (source)

What this means to you:  This goes beyond just pooping correctly (see #1).  “Gut health” will be a buzz word you’ll continue to hear over the coming years.  Science is just now beginning to understanding the impact our guts play on our overall well being.  An impaired gut has been linked to autoimmune disorders, skin disorders, a slew of psychological disorders, and more.  In other words, a healthy gut is really fucking important.  Bone broth can help.

4) Hair, skin, and nails

“Collagen is a major component in hair growth, because it fights off free radicals that can affect your hair’s texture, growth and thickness. Restoring collagen in the hair shaft can improve hair growth. Collagen capsules strengthen hair and increase the diameter of individual hairs, giving your hair an overall fuller appearance.” (source)

What this means to you: Bone broth is rich in collagen and gelatin which support hair, skin and nail health.  Bone broth is good for vanity too.

5) Improved Adrenal and Thyroid Health

“Bone broths provide the adrenal glands with the much needed nutritional support to help make the shift from survive to thrive. Dr. Shanahan even suggests that the nutritional matrix in bone broths may actually help patch the holes in the kidney tissue that cause the kidneys to function less optimally.” (source)

“Fish stock, according to traditional lore, helps boys grow up into strong men, makes childbirth easy and cures fatigue. ‘Fish broth will cure anything,’ is another South American proverb. Broth and soup made with fishheads and carcasses provide iodine and thyroid-strengthening substances.” (source)

What this means to you:  Odds are, if your energy is lacking, there is more than likely an issue with your adrenal system, thyroid, or both.  Bone broth can help

6) Strong Bones

“A Japanese study reported on protein undernutrition, lowered bone mass and osteoporotic fracture. Mice were fed for ten weeks with a low-protein diet containing either 10 percent casein or a combination of 6 percent casein and 4 percent gelatin. The bone mineral content and bone mineral density of the femur were significantly higher in the group given 6 percent casein plus 4 percent gelatin. The researchers concluded, “these results suggest that gelatin has differential effects on bone mineral density and body weight in protein undernutrition.” (source)

What this means to you:  Bone broth is rich in gelatin, along with calcium and magnesium, all of which play an important role in bone health.  Additionally, you should probably be supplementing with magnesium, as 57% of the population does not receive the RDA.

The positive health claims for bone broth go on and on, but if you’re not convinced at this point, there’s no convincing.

The skeptic might think some of the claims are hyperbolic- if not flat out lies. For the sake of argument, let’s say the skeptic is right.  Even if this is the case, there nutrient profile of eating head-to-toe is superior to what’s found in the muscle protein.  Tell me the last time you ate a fish eye, calf liver, or lamb tongue.  If you did, it was probably on a bet or a one-off thing (unless you’re a dad, because dads love liver. Basic dad science).

The less sexy way of looking at it: bone broth is highly nutrient dense (including those commonly lacking from the SAD), easy to make, and improves the taste of many basic recipes (cardboard chicken stock can suck it).

But the sexy view of the world is a much more exciting place to live.  And if it’s proven to heal people to the point of reversing autism, sign me the fuck up.

Want to learn how to make bone broth?  Check out this article.

A Road Map Toward Perfect Health

…is not quite what you’re going to find here.  But I liked the way it sounded.

I’ve been projecting non-sense into the Interspace for quite some time now.  Never have I ever wrestled with a post in my head for quite so long.  Instead of trying to say everything, this post will serve as an introduction for what shall soon ensue.

Over the last few months, I’ve developed an unhealthy obsession with health.  And I don’t mean the casually perusing Yahoo!’s “7 super foods for a summer 6 pack” variety.  I mean spending weekend afternoons learning the history of how the food pyramid was born (Good Calories, Bad Caloriesread it), falling asleep to various “Paleo diet” podcasts, and waking up to 90-minute keynotes on why sugar is a delicious poison.  It began solely as means to cure my ills, and has developed into a full fledged knowledge boner-orama.

For those who know me personally, they would attest as to just how far off the deep end I’ve gone.  A conversation about Wisconsin basketball can, and will, be twisted into a rant about methylation (a word not present in Zach’s diction 6 weeks ago). I tend to get obsessive when confronted with a new topic of interest, and I am currently traveling at the speed of sound down this rabbit hole, but also realize I’ve only scratched the surface.

All that said, what I have learned, and what you already likely already believe about health, is that it’s both confusing and over-simplified, inconsistent and dogmatic.  The perfect diet is different for everyone, has many more inputs than just diet and exercise, and can change over time.  One health guru promotes a raw vegan diet, the other says steak and eggs, and both have granite abs (proof one, proof two).   Your 85 year old grandfather plays golf 4 times a week, landscapes his yard, makes frequent, awkward, wrinkly love to your grandma (sorry for the imagery), all the while eating a pound of bacon for breakfast and drinking three martinis every night.  Pappy is breaking all the health rules, yet somehow still totally HAM (Healthy As a Motherfucker).

It is this confusion that causes people to gravitate back toward conventional wisdom.  If there’s dissension on what to believe, the power in numbers becomes the most compelling piece of evidence.

Conventional Wisdom

Calories in, calories out.  One hour of cardio five times per week.  Eat mostly fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.  Avoid fat (especially saturated), sodium, and cholesterol.  That’s the recipe for good health, according to conventional wisdom.  However, through personal experimentation, I’ve come to learn that it’s an utter fucking lie, at least for me, and probably for  a larger portion of the population than we have been lead to believe.

If there’s one thing to take away from any proposed health ideology, it’s that even the best ideas are only concepts until tested.  It becomes a truth only when applied (and consequently, benefited).

Saying that [food X] is good/bad, is totally missing the point.   There are certain foods that tend to be good or bad for larger portions of the population. There are different qualities of the same food that have different reactions in the same body (grass fed beef from quality-controlled local farms vs. grain fed industrial beef factories).  Even spinach, something universally regarded as a “superfood“, can have a detrimental effect on certain individual’s health (if that person is especially histamine sensitive).  I’m not saying that spinach is unhealthy*- I consume spinach at a rate that would make Popeye blush.  The point is, when it comes to nutrition, dogma doesn’t work.

* = Editor’s note: I received the following note from my mom in an e-mail, “And by the way, food isn’t ‘healthy’  it’s ‘healthful.’  Healthy food would be a leaf of spinach running a marathon or doing push-ups.”  Maybe my spinach can do pushups, mom.

On Health

In my previous post, I announced to the world (i.e. the 16 people who read this) that the natural state of my brain was microwaved garbage.  For those who are curious, I feel substantially better today.  Although I haven’t conquered the title of “superhuman health” (still a ways to go in fact), my energy, mood, and clarity of thought are at their best since contracting West Nile virus.  At times, these markers (albeit qualitative and subjective) are better than ever.  Although other lifestyle changes have played a role, nutrition is undoubtedly a (maybe the) driving force.

And quite honestly, saying that I feel better is putting it lightly.  For the first time in a long time, I feel as if I’ve regained control of my life.  Even as of the writing of the previous post, I wasn’t fully aware of how bad my situation was.  Only through the contrast of clearing the fog and relieving the constant tension can I fully appreciate how awful it was.

I have a premonition- considering the current state of the western diet and lifestyle- that an alarming number of people go through life this way.  Not necessarily suffering to the extent that I was, but merely surviving instead of thriving

This isn’t a result of a lack of willpower or a defeatist attitude (although both play a role).  This is the result of bad information (see: conventional wisdom). 

We deserve better.

Cerebal Recalibration

Here’s the eleventy billion dollar question: HowHow was I able to fix a dilapidated brain?

That’s a two part answer.

1) Like I said, I’m not “there” yet, where ever there might be.  I’ve spent the last three months in an obsessive state of self-experimentation, research, and fine-tuning; I continue to refine.  Also, I’m human.  There are setbacks (which is code for whiskey).

2) What has worked has been largely unconventional.  The articles that will follow over the coming days, weeks, months (who knows?) will offer the full platter of unorthodox health tactics that have dug me out of the proverbial sewer.

Below is a box.  In that box is an area where you can input your e-mail address.  If you’re interested taking a trip down this rabbit hole with me, simply fill this box with the appropriate information (no, I don’t mean this).

On Health

Remember wayyyyyy back in February when I moved to San Francisco to embark in a new chapter of my existence?  Well much like the construct of Appalachian Trials, this chapter was pithy.  And now, like my favorite movie starring a golden retriever, I’m Homeward Bound (sorry Air Bud).

In many ways, the past nine months has been the most exciting, fulfilling, and surreal period of my life.  I published a book.  People didn’t hate it (including one of my idols).  I’ve crossed public speaking off the “gives violent diarrhea” list, and instead added it to the “am moderately comfortable” file.  Hell, I got to give a half hour Appalachian Trail presentation in front of Tony Hsieh (the CEO of Zappos & billionaire mastermind behind a massive rebuilding of Downtown Las Vegas).

I had the privilege of entrenching myself in a city brimming with culture, technology, ubiquitous intelligence, and world class restaurants.  And my personal favorite, I got to live in an area of the country whose beauty is second to none.  Northern California is hands down the best backpacking country I’ve ever been exposed to; Yosemite, Emigrant Wilderness, Big Sur, Big Basin, Mt. Tam State Park, John Muir Woods, Salt Point State Park….you are immaculate (AT still has a monopoly on my heart-space however).

All this being said, 2012 has been, by far and away the most challenging year of my life.  The sole cause being my health.

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The Mysterious Absence of Your Lunch Break

Missing Lunch

I have this friend…

This friend is a diligent worker.  This friend shows up to work earlier and earlier every year.  This friend leaves work later and later.  This friend  eats a very abbreviated lunch at their desk.  This friend handles urgent work e-mail on the weekend (and most e-mail is urgent).  This friend has lost touch with many friends and family.  This friend has fallen into the trap.

This friend’s name:  WAY TOO MANY FUCKING PEOPLE

I understand, you work these hours because you have to, not because you want to.  The alternative could very likely spell unemployment, Ramen, mass transit, and 1-ply toilet paper.  The few extra hours at the office are worth not wiping with wax paper.  On this, we agree.

Here’s where we might not agree: Read more

Lyme Disease on the Appalachian Trail

The follow excerpt is taken from Appalachian Trials: a psychological and emotional guide to thru-hiking the Appalchain Trail.  If you’re thinking of hiking the AT, I’ll go as far as to say, it’s a must read.

Deer Ticks are assholes.

I went into the Appalachian Trail with my share of premonitions. Most, turned out to be false.

The crazy hillbillies in the southern part of the trail, just turned out to be crazy nice.  Even if you can’t make out what they’re saying, it’s perfectly clear all they want to do is help.

That black bear that was going to leap out of tree for the sole purpose of eating my face– also turned out to be incorrect.  Black bears are big raccoons; they’re on a mission from God only to dig through trash.  They don’t seem to realize, or at the very least care about, their strength.  Watching a 300lb black bear scamper up a tree because it sees a 130lb female backpacker in the distance is one of life’s great mysteries.

My biggest fear going into the trail, however, turned out to be justified- Deer Ticks.  More specifically, the disease these micro-satans spread, Lyme Disease.

About Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease, caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States and is transmitted through the bite of one of the aforementioned micro-satans.  Symptoms include fever, headache, stiff joints, fatigue, depression, and the common “bulls-eye” rash. If left untreated, symptoms can increase in severity including permanent damage to joints, heart, and central nervous system, and eventually death.

Here’s why Lyme Disease is a big risk to Appalachian Trail thru-hikers Read more

Appalachian Trail Nutrition Guide: 7 Tips to Avoiding Post-Trail Weight Gain

how to avoid post appalachian trail weight gain

[Editors note: Although this post is geared toward those who plan on hiking the AT or who have recently finished, the truth is, this information is applicable to anyone looking to lose a couple of pounds. This is sound nutritional advice from someone who knows what they are talking about (clearly not a reference to myself).]

Remember the advice we got from Appalachian Trail legend, Miss Janet? Well in that post, we tackled the 2nd issue she brought up: Post-Appalachian Trail Depression (which I’ll be covering in more depth in the upcoming Badger Book).

Today, it’s time to confront the other:

How do thru-hikers avoid gaining weight after the Appalachian Trail?

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The War of Nutrition

You should definitely pay attention to this post if you are:

1) Planning on doing any sort of extended backing packing trip in the future, and

2) A sweaty individual

You can still pay attention if you are only one or none of these things, but you have less to gain (other than a sense of superiority over Badger).

So in the “Rolling with the Rocks” post, I lightly detailed some of the longer term physical ailments I had been battling. Admittedly, I had underplayed the degree to which I was suffering.

Starting in approximately mid to late May, when northern Virginia was hit by an unseasonable heat wave, I really learned that the Appalachian Trail is a three season sport. The temperatures during this stretch got into the mid 90’s, with the heat index (the feeling outside according to human skin) reaching into triple figures. Although it has cooled off a bit since, our average day has been in the mid to upper 80s.

A little biological background on Badger: I am a sweaty dude (I think it’s all the hair?). After going for a run, I have been questioned on multiple occasions if “I had just jumped into a pool, or something?” No. I perspire the same way I do most things in life, excessively and intensely.

So what happens when you put a 30 lb pack on a professional perspirer, tell him to walk up a mountain, and the outside temperature feels like 100 degrees? Funny you should ask- I will tell you.

Well for starters, a hospital visit.

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Health, Insurance: An Oxymoron?

First, a quick little side tangent of health care humor from one of my favorite comedians, Lewis Black. 

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black – Health Care Reform
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Spinal Tap Performance

Now that we’ve lightened the mood at little bit, let’s take a look at the more depressing reality. 

The following is a link to an interview of with Wendell Potter, a former insurance executive with CIGNA.  I won’t giveaway too much about the interview, because I think you should take some and watch it for yourself.  But there was one part part that especially grabbed my attention…

As Mr. Potter points out, these publicly traded health insurance giants have made their most important customer Wall St.  One of the measures investors most closely analyze is how much of each dollar paid by the policy holder is applied directly to providing health care.  Over the last decade and a half this number has dropped 15% and shows no real sign of changing course.  In other words, insurance companies are actively seeking ways to not spend your money on your health. 

That’s not okay.  I don’t think it makes me socialist to say so either.

Really, take the time to watch this interview.  If it you don’t find it to be eye opening then I’ll assume you’re eyes have been sewn shut:

Bill Moyers Interview with Wendell Potter