My youngest sister (Zoe) is having some problems with her hips and, whilst we don’t know exactly what the diagnosis is yet, she asked me if I could think of anything to help.
So I explained that the health of your joints depends on the health of the collagen in your ligaments, tendons and the ends of your bones. Here comes the short science bit; collagens are a family of biomolecules which includes the glycosaminoglycans – special molecules that help keep our joints healthy.
Like Zoe you’ve probably heard about glucosamine supplements (she can’t take them because of a shellfish allergy) well glucosamine is a member of the glycosaminoglycan family and it can stimulate the growth of new, healthy collagen to repair damaged joints – collagen is also in our bones, skin, arteries and hair.
When you cook bones slowly in water the minerals and other nutrients they contain leach out – these include glucosamine, chondroitin, calcium and magnesium. These same nutrients also help build healthy bones – think of it as a total bone building and joint protecting package.
Consuming bone stock has benefits over taking a supplement pill. Firstly the low heat used to simmer the bones is gentler on the nutrients than the processes involved in the production of glucosamine tablets. Secondly stock gives you the whole complex of bone building and joint health nutrients rather than just the isolated glucosamine and chondroitin components found in supplements. It’s also likely that our bodies can more readily absorb and use the nutrients from a bone stock.
There really is no comparison in terms of nutrient density and flavour. Have a look at the ingredients lists on a few commercially available stock powders and cubes – they can be high in salt and sugar and some contain flavour enhancers like MSG and vegetable proteins (maybe soya but that’s a whole other article). These all add ‘artificial’ flavouring rather than being nutrient dense and health giving.
The ingredients list of probably the most famous stock cube maker: Wheat Flour, Salt, Yeast Extract, Maize Starch, Flavour Enhancers (Monosodium Glutamate, Disodium Guanylate), Colour (E150c), Beef Fat, Autolysed Yeast Extract, Flavourings, Beef Bone Stock, Sugar, Onion Extract, Onion Powder
It’s hardly leap of imagination to think that if kids are routinely fed foods containing or cooked in homemade bone stocks then they’ll have stronger bones and joints. That certainly holds true for me, I’ve never broken a bone (despite a few trips to A&E after kick boxing incidents) or needed a tooth filling in my life. As a kid I remember our Mum making stocks and feeding us various broths and stews – however Zoe is seven years younger than me and the fourth or four kids so Mum didn’t have as much time for making stocks when Zoe was growing up and there were far more convenience foods around. Makes you wonder if it’s a factor doesn’t it.
Use your bone stock as a base for soups or to cook your rice, pasta or vegetables in. If one of your kids is lactose intolerant then try adding stock to your mashed potato as an alternative to milk and butter.