It’s often the case that once you watch a movie or read a book the second time around, you notice new things that you simply didn’t catch the first time around! It’s a crazy phenomenon, but that’s just what happened to me recently when I reread Nourishing Broth by Sally Fallon Morell and Kaayla T. Daniel. I found so much valuable information regarding cartilage, collagen, gelatin, bone, and bone marrow that I thought it wise to give you a brief description of these five incredibly essential substances. I also specifically want to discuss fish broth and its importance to your thyroid.
Cartilage: Helping Us Move
Cartilage is what most people define as gristle. It’s the blob on a T-bone and the globs on a chicken drumstick—and nearly the entire skeleton of a shark. Without cartilage, we couldn’t swallow or move our joints with ease. It’s that tough, elastic, spongy, springy substance that resides between our bones and works as a cushion and shock absorber. Many there are who suffer from knee and disc problems because their precious cartilage was damaged, making it more likely that their bones can become damaged as well.
Collagen: Holding the Body Together
Collagen is the glue that holds the body together. Cooking breaks down collagenous protein into gelatin, which provides the amino acids the body needs to make the “glue” we call connective tissue. In the form of twisted cables, collagen strengthens both the tendons that connect muscle to bone and the ligaments that connect bones together.
Gelatin is the jelly-like substance derived from bone broth that’s been prepared with oxtail bones or other animal parts that contain good amounts of cartilage (hooves, chicken feet, fish bones, and heads). After the broth has cooled in the fridge, the fat rises to the top, and what’s under that fat is gelatin. Consisting of 84–90 percent protein, gelatin nourishes the skin, hair, and nails. Sally Fallon Morell recommends combining it with vegetables in the form of a soup rather than consuming it on its own.
Bone: Living Framework
Bone is living tissue that supports the frame and protects the body with flexibility and strength. Minerals in the matrix make bones hard, but collagen keeps them resilient. The last thing we want is brittle bones. Bones also allow our bodies to deposit and withdraw minerals; produce blood cells, stem cells, and growth factors that serve to buffer our blood against excessive pH changes; and even store energy.
Bone Marrow: The Body’s Blood Bank
Bone marrow is a soft, spongy tissue found inside femur bones. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are produced in the bone marrow. With its unique fat and cholesterol composition, this substance is highly prized for its life-giving and brain-building properties. Bone marrow is considered a delicacy and is generally roasted or taken from bones that have been used in bone broth. Spread on toasted French bread rounds, it can become your daily nirvana.
After rereading some of the chapters in Nourishing Broth, I became especially enthusiastic about one of the most nutritious substances of them all—yes, fish broth! Surprised? I was too, but now that I know more about it, I plan on making and consuming fish broth on a far more regular basis.
The more I learned, I simply had to ask myself why we aren’t consuming ample amounts of this precious food? As westerners, we currently spend millions of dollars every year on treatments and remedies to get our thyroid working properly! After doing some nominal research, I was amazed at the difference a simple fish broth can make, and this is especially true when it’s prepared with fish heads. There are also tremendous health benefits from baking them, then eating the flesh and—yes—even the eyes. Here are some more of my findings:
- Because the head of the fish contains the thyroid gland, it’s one of the very best types of real food for nourishing the thyroid. One of Dr. Royal Lee’s many recommendations was to use the part of the animal that corresponds with the part of our body that is most compromised. With a little kelp added to the broth combined with the ample iodine and other nutrient dense properties that are found in just one fish head, it’s possible we could avoid all types of health disasters, including thyroid issues. And if we added a brisk one-hour walk a day, maybe—just maybe—we could lose the unwanted pounds that sometimes come with a compromised thyroid gland.
- Fish broth and stock are a staple in the Japanese diet. It’s interesting to note that people in Asian cultures, where the normal diet includes fish broth numerous times a day and is often served at breakfast, maintain their thin stature right into old age. It’s even been reported that the word menopause doesn’t exist in the Japanese language! Add to that the absence of menstrual cramps and thyroid problems, and we can safely assume that we need only start adding this precious broth to our diet to experience a heightened dimension to our health.
- Fish bones, brains, cartilage and fat are very nutritious—containing extra-high levels of vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, and calcium.
- In her guidebook The Whole Fish: How Adventurous Eating of Seafood Can Make You Healthier, Sexier, and Save the Ocean, Maria Finn points out the inherent contradiction between the world’s hunger problem and the amount of food wasted daily. Furthermore, Finn discusses the dubious habit of chucking the most nutrient-rich parts of the fish, those that provide “mega doses of omega-3s, serotonin highs, increased stamina and all sorts of other benefits to ramp up your sex life and vastly improve your health.”
- Fish eyes, especially from the mackerel family, contain a rich quantity of DHA and EPA, both very rare unsaturated fatty acids. The most beneficial property of these natural substances is their ability to stimulate human brain cells, which improves memory and thinking power. They’re also very helpful in the prevention of memory decline, high cholesterol, and hypertension diseases. It’s been suggested that eating certain parts of the animal can strengthen similar body parts in humans. And at least where fish eyes are concerned, this has been proven correct by clinical experiments: eating fish eyes can help reduce the deterioration of eyesight.
Please note that although fish from the mackerel family are beneficial in many ways, they’re considered an oily fish. According to Nourishing Broth, when oily fish is used to make stock or broth, it can become rancid during cooking. That’s why Sally Fallon Morell recommends non-oily fish such as sole, turbot, rockfish, or snapper, which are also extremely nutrient dense.
Are you ready to make your first fish broth? If yes, read on to find out how.
Rule Number One: Don’t overcook or your house will smell for days. Most people seem to think that because bone broth is cooked for long periods, so is fish broth. But once the head and bones are immersed in boiling water, 1–1½ hours at a low simmer is long enough.
Rule Number Two: Leave the lid off the pot, and shortly after immersing the fish and allowing it to boil a few minutes, skim off the scum that forms at the top—these are impurities. After skimming, place the lid on the pot slightly askew and turn to a bare simmer for the duration. Continue skimming any further scum that forms. (See recipe instructions below.)
Rule Number Three: The flesh and eyes are edible! My recent blog post, “The Yuck Factor” may help you get over your squeamishness.
Classic Fish Stock
For this stock, be sure to use only non-oily fish such as sole, turbot, rockfish, or snapper. Classic cooking texts advise against using oily fish like salmon for broth, probably because highly unsaturated fish oils become rancid as they cook. The cartilage in fish bones melts very quickly, so fish broth needs only a short cooking time. See Nourishing Broth, p. 171.
1 whole large, non-oily fish, or 2 to 3 non-oily fish heads, gills removed
2 tablespoons butter
2 onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup mushroom stems, coarsely chopped (optional)
½ cup dry white wine or vermouth
About 4 quarts cold filtered water
1 bouquet garni made with parsley sprigs, thyme sprigs, and a bay leaf tied together with kitchen string
- Wash the fish carcass or heads thoroughly with cold water.
- In a stockpot large enough to hold the fish, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add onions, carrot, and, if desired, mushroom stems. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 30 minutes.
- Add wine. Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil.
- Add carcass or heads. Fill stockpot with enough cold filtered water to cover the bones, then bring to a bare simmer. Carefully skim off any scum that rises to the top.
- Add bouquet garni. Reduce heat to low. Simmer with the lid off, or slightly askew, for about 1 hour, skimming from the top as needed. Check occasionally that the bones remain covered with water, adding more if necessary
- Remove fish carcass or heads with tongs and a slotted spoon. Drain stock through a fine mesh strainer into a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup or large heatproof bowl (see tips for straining in Nourishing Broth, p. 149).
- If not using right away, cool to room temperature, then refrigerate uncovered for several hours until the fat rises to the top and congeals. Skim fat and transfer stock to airtight containers. The fish stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and in the freezer for months.
Tip from the Traditional Cook: I’ve also made a much simpler broth with just the heads and some added kelp, which I’ve used in some Nourishing Broth recipes and some dishes that I’ve found online.
For those who haven’t joined the fish broth brigade or who cannot make it for whatever reason, I’d like to recommend a unique Standard Process supplement called Iodamere. It contains 200 mcg of iodine, and it’s gentler than some of the synthetic iodines (which should only be used under medical guidance). Iodamere is made primarily from green lipped mussel and supports healthy thyroid function and basal metabolism.
To choose your organically grown and fresh ingredients wisely, use the following criteria:
- chemical- and hormone-free meat
- wild-caught fish
- pasture-raised, organic eggs
- whole, unrefined grains
- virgin, unrefined, first-press organic oils
- whole-food, unrefined sweeteners
- pure, clean, spring water
- sea salt
- raw and/or cultured milk and cream products
Photo from iStock/lanych
Note from Maria: I am a Certified Natural Health Professional, CNHP, not a medical doctor. I do not diagnose, prescribe for, treat, or claim to prevent, mitigate, or cure any human diseases. Please see your medical doctor prior to following any recommendations I make in my blogs or on my website.