In simple terms, collagen is a protein found in our bodies. It’s fairly important because it acts as the glue that sort of holds everything together. This makes sense since the word collagen comes from the Greek words “kólla,” which means glue, and “gen” which means producing.
Fun fact: Historically, glue was actually created by a process of boiling the skin and tendons of animals, typically cattle hooves, horse hooves, as well as fish and hides. Nowadays, most commercial glues are chemical-based.
For our purposes, when I say collagen holds everything together (like glue), I mean bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. What’s left except blood, right? Well, collagen plays a role in helping your blood clot, so it literally plays a part in everything.
We need collagen because without it, our bodies would literally fall apart as we get older. Collagen is a crucial element of bone, skin, hair, nails, joints, and connective tissue. Thus, making sure your body has enough collagen is vital for healthy aging, enjoying a more youthful appearance, and looking, feeling, and performing your best daily. So, rather than asking, “What are the health benefits of collagen?” a better question may be, “What isn’t collagen good for?”
Unfortunately, due to a variety of factors (including less-than-stellar nutrition and a less-than-perfect lifestyle), collagen production decreases markedly as we age. Even more, there are very, very few food sources of collagen. Enter Grandma’s secret weapon: BONE BROTH.
The Health Benefits of Collagen
According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, “Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulfur, and trace minerals. It contains the broken-down material from cartilage and tendons—stuff like chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, now sold as supplements.”
In addition to helping fight off the common cold, a well-crafted bone broth is one of the best (and one of the few) natural sources of collagen. Actually, bone broth contains gelatin, which is the cooked form of the collagen found in the connective tissue of animals. In fact, if you’ve ever made bone broth, which is also called soup stock, you might have noticed it congeals when you stick it in the fridge—that’s because of the gelatin.
While there are some key differences between gelatin and collagen, for our purposes of looking and feeling awesome, you can expect the same laundry list of health benefits of collagen:
- Skin health (that youthful glow)
- Hair and nail health
- Bone and tendon strength
- Joint and cartilage health
- Repair, recovery, and healing
- Immune support and detoxification
- Gut health and digestion
- Sports performance, recovery, and injury prevention
- And more!
The gelatin in bone broth is abundant in the amino acids proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline (unique to collagen protein), which stimulate the body’s production of collagen and hyaluronic acid. What’s more, bone broth contains other important nutrients, including glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and glycosaminoglycans, namely hyaluronic acid, which helps cushion joints and contributes to a youthful skin appearance.
You see, just like our hunter-gatherer ancestors and cultures around the world, which have been making bone broth for thousands of years due to its utility and health benefits, Grandma (once again) was right.
Homemade Bone Broth Recipe
Here’s how I make a basic bone broth to maximize the benefits of collagen:
- Select the bones. How long it takes is usually an important consideration. Poultry bones simmer for 6 to 12 hours; beef, lamb, or pork bones take at least 12 to 24 hours. As always, we recommend organic, smartly sourced animal products.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Lay the bones on a baking tray, and roast in the oven for roughly 20 – 30 minutes. This step will give your broth a richer taste and produce a darker color; however, it will not alter the nutrition content.
- Transfer the bones to a pot with water. You will want to put enough water to cover the bones and then add another 2 – 3 inches.
- Bring the water to a gradual simmer. I prefer to cover my pot while it is simmering; however, others prefer to leave it uncovered. Regardless of which method you decide to use, be mindful of checking the pot every so often and replacing any water that evaporates from cooking.
- Once your broth is ready, remove the bones, or pour the broth through a strainer.
- Add seasonings, herbs, and spices to add dimension and flavor to your bone broth.
- If using for a stew or soup, this is when you would begin to add vegetables or meats, etc.
- Enjoy the amazing benefits of collagen with this delicious bone broth.
Chef Tip #1: To keep bone broth longer, store in the freezer in ice cube trays. Heat frozen cubes of broth on the stovetop as desired.
Chef Tip #2: Adding 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar helps leach out the minerals from the bones. This helps to reduce cooking time as well.