Can you still call something a “food craze” if it has been around since the Stone Age?
Bone broth, which is all the rage in Hollywood and is catching on in the UAE, is essentially the same homemade soup your grandma – and generations before her – might have made from marrow bones, with assorted vegetables and herbs, although this latest variation simmers on the hob for a little longer (up to 48 hours).
Doctors and celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Kobe Bryant and Salma Hayek, tout it as a cure-all to help you attain radiant skin, weight loss and shiny hair.
Now, The Clean Living Company, launched this year by Britons George Ball and Dean Henry, is cooking up bone broth commercially in Dubai.The pair have enlisted the services of chefs from the Maine Oyster Bar & Grill in JBR to prepare batches in their kitchen.
I point out to Henry that his concoction looks like something my Dad makes. “Mine too,” he says, to my surprise. “I’m from Caribbean heritage, and my dad used to cook us a lot of goat stew. The bones were left in the stew and cooked over a long time, and that does offer amazing benefits.
“The difference is that with bone broth, you’re really focused on dense, thick bones and also bone joints that contain the collagen and other nutrients we’re targeting.”
Bone broth is 90 per cent water, which is simmered on a low heat. For maximum benefits, says Henry, it should not be boiled at all. He admits he is not a nutritional expert but has been nurturing a passion for healthy products since his daughter, Evie, now 8, was born with a severe nut allergy.
“Everybody was telling me that she couldn’t be cured, which I found very hard to swallow,” he says. “I became interested in researching what goes into food. I went back to the UK last summer and noticed a lot of information on bone broth and its benefits, and I started drinking quite a lot of it. Then I came back to Dubai and realised that we just couldn’t get it anywhere here, so that’s when I decided to start making it.”
To start to see benefits quickly, Henry recommends a 21-day bone broth diet. This consists of following a healthy Paleo menu, with two semi-fasting days each week, on which you drink four to six servings of bone broth.
American doctor Kaayla T Daniel, co-author of the book Nourishing Broth: An Old-Fashioned Remedy for the Modern World, published in 2014, says humans have been making bone broth since before making pots to cook in.
“They cooked up their first soups in animal skins and turtle shells,” she says. “It’s true that broth went out of fashion for a while with the advent of processed, packaged and fast foods, but now it’s coming back.”
Today, broth is a part of the “real food”, “whole food” and “slow food” movements and also of “nose-to-tail eating”, an idea popularised by chef Fergus Henderson in London.
“Many of those people think it’s ‘Paleo’ to focus on steaks, chops and muscle meats but, in truth, our ancestors ate all parts of animals, including organ meats, like liver, and broth made from the carcass,” says Daniel.
Dubai-based Yolande Gabriel, an Australian flight attendant and fashion designer, is a big fan of bone broth. “My friend’s child suffers from autism and she put her son on the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet, which is a Paleo diet including bone broth,” she says. “His results were astounding and the whole family lost an incredible amount of weight, and their sleep and skin had never been better.” She now takes at least one cup every day. “I notice huge benefits,” she says. “I’m not hungry when I have my cup of bone broth; my digestion is so much better and also my skin is a lot more hydrated.”
Henry says he hopes to step up production of bone broth to meet the demand he anticipates during the new year dieting season. Delivery is limited to Dubai initially, but he hopes to expand to Abu Dhabi soon.
For those living in the capital, health-conscious eatery Nolu’s Cafe also serves up bone broth at branches in Galleria Mall at Al Maryah Island and Al Bandar, with prices from Dh20 a bowl.
Henry and Ball are approaching companies to ask staff to take part in a “21-day biggest loser challenge”.
“We’re asking companies with a minimum of 10 employees to have a competition between them and see who can lose the most weight, through a clean bone-broth diet,” Henry says.
Elisha Udoh from Abu Dhabi, a Briton who writes the health blog The Happy Place Journal and who works as fitness manager at The Club, is looking forward to trying bone broth. She is a firm believer in the healing power of food. After recently suffering a second-degree burn, she changed her diet to get the key ingredients to help her skin recover.
“This included vitamin C, high protein and foods high in antioxidants,” she explains. “My consultant was amazed with the healing. The benefits of bone broth are fantastic, especially for busy people with busy schedules that need support through their diet. It’s not one to serve your family every day, as variety is key when it comes to a healthy, balanced diet. But it will for sure be up there on my weekly meal planner.”
What’s the cost?
500ml portions are Dh55, or the Bone Broth 21-day lifestyle package costs Dh870. Buy this package during January and you will get the book Bone Broth Diet by Dr Kellyann Petrucci.
How do you make it?
There are many ways to make bone broth, but The Clean Living Company makes its version with marrow bones from organically-raised, 100 per cent grass-fed cows or organic free-range chicken bones.
It adds organic ingredients such as carrots, celery, onions, rosemary, garlic, apple cider vinegar, Himalayan rock salt, peppercorns and distilled water. It is all left to simmer for about 24 hours.
What’s so special about it?
It is claimed that a leaky gut is the root of many health problems, especially allergies, autoimmune disease and neurological disorders. The collagen found in bone broth is said to act like a soothing balm to heal and seal your gut lining.
The broth is a fundamental component of the Gut and Psychology Syndrome diet, which was developed by Russian neurologist Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride. It is often used to treat children with autism or disorders rooted in gut dysfunction, but its proponents claim just about anyone with suboptimal gut health can benefit.
What’s more, according to Dr Kaayla T Daniel, cartilage and other components found in bone broth can help to prevent and even reverse chronic illnesses such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, digestive distress, mental illness and cancer. “Broth belongs in state-of-the-art athletic programmes and anti-ageing therapies,” says Daniel.
If I drink bone broth every day, how soon might I notice an improvement in my health?
According to Daniel, it depends on the individual, the rest of their diet, their lifestyle and any health challenges. “Some people report they start feeling happier and well-nourished right away,” she says. “In terms of restoring health and reversing disease, people tend to start noticing a difference in a few months. It’s not a quick fix or a cure-all, so people should expect to continue on a nourishing real-foods diet that includes broth, soups and stews.”
Are there any potential risks or downsides?
Some people have extreme sensitivity to glutamine, an amino acid that we all need for good health. Daniel recommends that those who are sensitive start out slowly and eat a short-cooked, rather than long-cooked, broth. “The short-cooked broth is lower in glutamine, but also lower in all the other valuable nutrients,” she says.