Why You Need Bone Broth in Your Diet

Grandma hit the nail on the head when she recommended chicken noodle soup for flu and cold, but the benefits of consuming broth or stock go much further than that.   When properly prepared, broth/stock contains a plethora of nutrients which are beneficial to our health in a multitude of ways!

Broth or stock, can be used interchangeably according to the dictionary, but there may be those who argue the definition.  I will use them interchangeably!  

Bone broth is a rich bone-building supplement containing the minerals calcium, magnesium, potassium silicon, sulfur and trace minerals.  Because it is so rich in these substances, it is especially good for growing children, those with mending bones and women who fear for their bone density or are in any stage of osteopenia or osteoporosis.  It may also be useful in the remineralization of teeth.  It also helps to contribute to body alkalinity because of its high mineral content.

It also contains gelatin, you know, the stuff that makes Jello jiggle.  Gelatin is high in the amino acids glycine,proline and arginine, as well as containing other amino acids.  It is useful as an aid to digestion and has been used to aid in the healing of disease like Crohn’s and colitis. The amino acids found in broth are needed to build connective tissue, making it beneficial for hair, skin, nails, muscle, cartilage and ligament growth.  It is good for the skin and may keep wrinkles from appearing.  If that isn’t enough these amino acids also fight inflammation in the body.

Have I sold you on the merit of bone broth yet?  It is a superfood from years gone by. This is a low budget supplement you just can’t afford to miss out on.  It is easy to make, but will take some time.

Beef/Buffalo/Venison/Lamb Broth

2 - 3 lb of meaty bones

1 lb of marrow bones

4 or more quarts of cold water

½ cup vinegar (I use apple cider)

1 or 2 large onions, coarsely chopped

3-4 carrots, coarsely chopped

3-4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1 sheet of seaweed for added minerals and iodine (optional, of course)

2-4 bay leaves

spices such as basil, thyme, etc. (your preference, in amount preferred)

2 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

Black pepper to taste

If you use a slow cooker to make stock you will find less need to babysit and you may be more comfortable leaving it unattended than if made on a stove.  Either method will work.

Using a combination of bones gives your stock more rounded characteristics; the meaty bones impart flavor and colour, while the marrow bones offer their own goodness. While the meaty bones are roasting, add the marrow bones, vinegar and some of the cold water to the slow cooker, but do not turn it on yet.  Doing this will begin to leach minerals from the bones.   Roast the meaty bones at 350C until browned, about 1 ½ hr to impart more flavor to the broth.   Place the browned bones into the slow-cooker or large pot along with vegetables and spices, topping up with water.  Deglaze the roasting pan with water, and add this to the slow cooker or soup pot.  Top pot up with water. Turn the slow cooker or pot on high, bring to a boil, skim any scum that may form on top and reduce heat to low.  Simmer the stock for at least 12 hours, and as long as 72 hours.

Allow broth to cool, until manageable, then remove the bones and strain into a large bowl or another pot.  Place strained broth in the refrigerator or outdoors (in the winter this is my favourite method) to further cool and allow fat to congeal on surface.  Remove fat and transfer to smaller containers for storage.

The broth can be kept in the fridge for 5-7 days, or placed in the freezer for long-term storage.

For Chicken Broth or Turkey Broth follow the same method, replacing the beef bones with 2-3 lb of bony chicken parts (backs, necks, wings, carcasses all work well).   Again, I like to roast these bones for added flavor in my broth.  You may want to freeze the carcasses from several roast chickens to be made into one big batch of stock at a later date.  Cook this stock for 6-24 hours.

Now that you have this rich stock, you may warm it and drink it from a mug (maybe replace your morning coffee) or make delicious soups with added nutrition.

Enjoy!






Cassoulet

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Cassoulet, according to Julia Child, is a rich combination of white beans baked with meats.  It is a hearty, budget-friendly meal easily adapted to the crockpot or baked in the oven.  While Julia’s version of cassoulet may take a few days to build, mine can be assembled the night before or just before cooking with delicious results.

Cassoulet My Way

·         1 large onion, chopped coarsely

·         4 stalks celery, chopped

·         3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

·         4 chorizo sausages, pulled from casing

·         4 cups cooked white beans (I like small lima beans)

·         24 oz (690g) jar of strained tomatoes or tomato puree

·         2 bay leaves

·         1 Tbsp smoked paprika

·         1/8 cup vinegar (your choice)

·         2 Tbsp honey

·         1 tsp sea salt

·         Black pepper to taste

In a large cast iron pan, soften onion, celery and garlic (about 5 minutes).  Remove sausage from casing and add to pan, browning the meat.  Remove ingredients to either the slow cooker or a casserole dish. Deglaze the cast iron pan with a small amount of water or wine, adding this to the casserole dish. 

To the casserole dish, add beans, tomato sauce, vinegar, honey and spices.  Stir to combine.  If using a slow cooker, set to low and cook 4-6 hours.  In the last hour or two of cooking check to see if water should be added. 

If cooking in the oven, set heat to 325F and bake 1 1/2 -2 hours, checking for moisture in the last stages of cooking.  Remove lid in the final 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

Primary Hyperoxaluria III - A Rare Disease - Zach's Journey

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Today is Rare Disease Day - a day that acknowledges over 7,000 rare diseases people around the world suffer from.  In the United States a rare disease is defined as affecting under 200,000 citizens of the US.  When a disease affects only a small portion of the population it may be more difficult to diagnose, often leads to diagnosis later in life and may mean that treatment is delayed or less effective.  Often people with these diseases feel isolated as there is little information or support for them.  Rare Disease Day has been declared to raise awareness to small populations dealing with a variety of diseases ranging from metabolic disease, rare cancers, genetic issues, etc.

Our family has dealt with rare disease on a personal level.  Zachery, our 20 year old son, has Primary Hyperoxaluria III which was diagnosed this summer, but which we have been dealing with since he was nine years old.  PH III, as it is known, was only discovered in 2010 and appears to affect about 1 person/million.

When Zach was nine years old, he passed a calcium oxalate kidney stone, very unusual for a nine year old, but not unheard of.  Because Zach was so healthy we carried on as usual until he passed another kidney stone at the age of 13.  Not fun for anyone, let alone a 13 year old.  At this point the Urologist we were seeing referred us to a Nephrologist at the Calgary Children's Hospital.  Through testing, they found that Zach had very high urinary oxalate levels.  That was the moment we recognized there was a problem.  Before Zach passed these kidney stones we had never even heard of oxalate and likely many of you haven’t either.   

A quick explanation of oxalate and hyperoxaluria here from the Oxalosis and Hyperoxaluria Foundation here: 

Oxalate is the salt form of oxalic acid, and is a natural end product of metabolism. Oxalate does not appear to be needed for any human body process and normally, more than 90% is excreted by the healthy kidney, with a small amount of excretion into the lower gut. Since oxalate and calcium are continuously excreted by the kidney into the urine, it can combine with calcium causing formations of calcium-oxalate crystals and grow into a kidney stone...

Hyperoxaluria is uncommon. In some people the cause of the excess urine oxalate is not known but may result from changes in the way kidneys handle normal amounts of body oxalate. In its many forms it can be found among all ages, from infants to people in their 70's. The highest amounts of oxalate in the urine however are seen in diseases in which the liver produces too much oxalate - this occurs in primary hyperoxaluria.

Zach doing what he loves!

Zach doing what he loves!

Because of the low solubility of oxalate, increased concentrations of oxalate in body fluids, including the urine, can lead to the deposition of calcium oxalate (oxalosis) in the kidney tissue (nephrocalcinosis) or urinary tract (urolithiasis, nephrolithiasis, kidney stones). Oxalosis occurs after the kidneys fail and the excess oxalate builds up in the blood and then deposits oxalate salts in the eyes, blood vessels, bones, muscles, heart and other major organs.

WOW!  We were stunned, our otherwise healthy son was at risk of kidney failure, but we still did not have a diagnosis. I cannot tell you the range of emotions we went through.

The Nephrologist put Zach on a low oxalate diet as oxalate is found in some foods in higher amounts; spinach, rhubarb, whole grains etc.   We found that the low oxalate diet did not affect Zach’s oxalate levels.  In fact, his oxalate increased on the diet.  I went into research mode immediately.  I found kidney stones are rarely found in primitive societies – which meant there could be a correlation between processed foods and kidney stones (beside salt content).  We started playing with Zach’s diet and found that by eliminating complex carbohydrates (all grains, no sugar and disaccharides) we could keep his oxalate levels within normal parameters on a consistent basis.  The doctors noted this and we went to the GI clinic at the Children’s Hospital, thinking there may be a gastro-intestinal issue.  Zach was tested for Cystic Fibrosis among other GI issues, but nothing was found.  He was also tested for Primary Hyperoxaluria I – negative. Still no diagnosis.

While Zach was in his teens and living at home, he was a great sport and followed the grueling diet to a letter, keeping his oxalate low.  Then he went off to college and started eating like everyone else (very hard to eat a salad when your friends are eating pizza and drinking beer).  He had another urinary oxalate test and we found his oxalate levels were again very elevated.

I, again, went into research mode wanting some kind of answer as to just what we were dealing with.  I turned to the internet again, a doctor’s nightmare, I know!  This time I found the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota was researching hyperoxaluria in a big way.  I contacted Mayo Clinic and they were amazing.  Because there are so few people with Primary Hyperoxaluria they wanted to genetically test Zach for the disorder.  Through mail, we sent back blood samples and waited.  Our answer came this summer – Zach has Primary Hyperoxaluria III. 

Primary Hyperoxaluria is a rare autosomal recessive genetic disorder passed on by both my husband and myself to Zach and our daughter is also a carrier.  Again, who knew? 

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We have since visited the Mayo Clinic where Zach took part in a research study to try and pinpoint the cause of Primary Hyperoxaluria III.  Little is known about its cause.

 What does Zach’s diagnosis mean?  Well, for starters, there are no known PH III patients who have lost kidney function to date, but there are very few diagnosed cases of PH III.  Secondly, we have found that drinking more than 3-4 liters of water daily lowers Zach’s risk of kidney stones and kidney damage immensely.  This is a disease which is still being studied by doctors who are devoting themselves to a small population and we are extremely thankful to them.

Zach’s is an ongoing journey through a little known disease, of which ironically, little is known.  We feel fortunate that Zach’s prognosis appears positive, there are others who are not as fortunate.  Rare Disease Day is a day of hope for those who are affected by rare diseases and the medical community which is working with those afflicted.  

We are very thankful!  

Secrets to Living Healthy Longer

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My husband's Grandmother passed away recently at the age of 99 years and 8 months.  She was what my Dad calls a Grand Lady, caring, thoughtful, and very loving.  Any of us could be so lucky to live our lives in good health the way Grandma did; no heart disease, cancer, arthritis, etc.  Why do some people live long healthy lives while others suffer from illness and die much earlier?  It is a question to ponder, but I think Grandma had good habits which helped extend her life.

1.  Good Genes.  Grandma was blessed with good genes - her Mother lived to be 99 + as well, but I do believe there is more to it than that.  

3.  Resilience.  Grandma was a survivor, taking life in stride and dealing with adversity head on.  She always saw her cup as half full, not half empty.  I believe this optimistic attitude is key not only in our mental health, but our physical health as well.  

3.  Stay active and strong.  Grandma was both.  I don't mean she was working out at the gym, although she did attend some exercise classes.  Well into her eighties she was able to go for a walk, help in the garden, catch a bus and shop for groceries,   Until the age of 98, she lived independently and was cleaning, cooking, baking, sewing and leading a busy social life.  She even held bake sales for the other residents of the senior's building she lived in.  She rarely sat.

4.  Eat well.  Grandma didn't eat prepared or processed foods, she made everything she ate, including her bread and cookies.  Delicious!  She had a great appetite and could clean a plate or two in a sitting, but she was trim, no weight issues there.  On the flipside, she wasn't a tea and toast girl like many elderly people become which invites nutrient deficiency.  

5.  Enjoy in moderation.  Grandma didn't have bad habits - she didn't smoke, drink coffee or drink alcohol.  

6.  Have a support network  Although Grandma lived in her own apartment, her family and friends were available for her whenever she needed them.  She had friends in her apartment building to visit, play cards with or even just greet in the hallway.

If we can incorporate some of these healthy habits into our lifestyle, we can extend our lives too.  Grandma will be missed by many, but she will be remembered as having had a life well lived.

Raw Coconut Truffles

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Chocolate is synonymous with Valentine’s Day. Why not? Unadulterated cocoa is high in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Cocoa even contains neurotransmitters which promote an overall sense of well-being and pleasure. It is the love drug.

The downside of most chocolate is that it is highly processed. It is an expensive ingredient, and as such it is often diluted with wax, hydrogenated oils, and other additives.

This recipe for raw chocolate truffles contains only nutrient dense, good-for-you ingredients. They are decadent morsels, easy to make and worth the effort!

Raw Coconut Truffles

  • 8 large medjool dates
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup raw or regular cocoa powder
  • 2 cups of shredded coconut
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tsp pure peppermint extract (optional, use only if you want mint truffles) 

In either a food processor or high-speed blender, soak the dates in the water for 15 minutes. Whip thesoaked dates and water into a paste. Add the remainder of the ingredients and process until smooth.

Refrigerate the mixture for about 30 minutes, until it is thickened.

Use a small scoop, to scoop out balls of truffle mixture and finish forming it into balls by rolling in your hands, a rather messy procedure! Roll in cocoa powder, shredded coconut or finely chopped nuts.

Best stored in the fridge.

Enjoy!