This is the perfect time of year to incorporate grounding and immune-supportive foods. As the weather begins to fluctuate between Summer’s heat and the cooler Autumn months our bodies benefit from slow-cooked meals, herbs that support digestion, and mineral-dense ingredients.
Bone broth is a traditional food that has been enjoyed since the dawn of cooking. Bone broth is touted to be beneficial for the gut, skin, and immune system. Those are huge claims for something as simple as simmering bones in water.
Bone broth’s magic lies in what is released from the complex bone matrix and joints. Collagen is a protein found in bones that turns into gelatin once cooked. A report published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology indicates that gelatin effectively supports intestinal health and integrity. Plus, it displays anti-inflammatory effects and is able to inhibit cytokines (proteins that are produced by the immune system that can cause inflammation).
Bone broth is one of the most versatile ingredients that should be found in any kitchen. It’s easy to use when making rice, quinoa, chili, soups, stews, or sauteing vegetables you can even add it to store-bought pasta sauce or a small splash to scrambled eggs. Bone broth adds a depth of flavor to dishes and can be easy to sneak into your kiddo’s meals if they’re not soup fans. I’ve gotten into the habit of making a batch of broth every couple of weeks so I can utilize it in our meals on a daily basis.
Recently, I have started to add medicinal mushrooms to the cooking process for their immune-loving benefits. Medicinal mushrooms, such as turkey tail, cordycep, shiitake, reishi, and agaricus blazei murrill are some of the most powerful foods on the planet. They contain both beta-glucans that modulate the immune response and triterpenes that are antiviral and anti-inflammatory.
Herbs like elderberry and echinacea are wonderful in supporting the immune system by acting as immuno-stimulators. It’s like pushing a button saying “immune system, we need your best at the front lines now!” This isn’t a bad thing and may be helpful in the acute stages of an illness. In a double-blind study, elderberry has been shown to improve influenza symptoms in the first 48 hours of illness compared to the 6 days of the placebo group.
But we don’t need to have our immune system on high alert at all times (hey there: allergies, inflammation). Autoimmune disorders make things even trickier and often don’t need any more immune stimulation since the immune system is already going haywire. Using mushrooms that are immuno-modulating, meaning they have the ability to regulate the immune response, maybe a helpful alternative. They often fall into the class of “adaptogenic” herbs and either calm down an overactive immune response to baseline or rev up a sluggish immune system depending on exactly what the body needs.
I want to encourage you to investigate mushrooms for yourself, the book Medicinal Mushrooms by Christopher Hobbs is a great place to start. Of course, talk to your local herbalist or functional MD before incorporating these into your diet.
Useful in supporting the upper respiratory and digestive tracts. It provides an immuno-modulatory response during times of infection.
An adaptogen, very helpful during times of stress or sleep deprivation, or fatigue. It supports cellular ATP (energy) production, is considered a lung and kidney tonic, and can support healthy cholesterol levels.
Has immune-regulating, anti-viral, and antibacterial benefits. It can also be helpful during times of frequent colds or flu, and seasonal allergies, and can aid the body during times of overwork, stress, and exhaustion.
Traditionally used for inducing sound sleep and increasing resistance to infections as well as mediating the allergic response by supporting the body’s macrophages/T-cell production.
Agaricus Blazei Murrill
Supports liver function, and balanced blood sugar levels by assisting a healthy insulin response, and contains beta-glucans that have the ability to bind to heavy metals.
I purchase my mushrooms from Oregon Mushrooms. Their mushrooms are harvested seasonally and responsibly from the forest where they grow in abundance. Because they are wild harvested, the mushrooms are not sprayed and are grown in clean soil. I’m not affiliated with this company but I am a fan of their quality.
Your Kitchen Scraps:
If you cook with organic onions, garlic, and shallots be sure to save the skins by tossing them into a plastic bag and saving them in your freezer. Onion skins are high in the antioxidant, quercetin. Quercetin offers a wide range of anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and antiviral benefits in addition to making your broth taste hella delicious.
You can also save any vegetable scraps from carrots (including the greens), kale stems, celery ends, and beet tops to bring additional flavoring and mineral content to the broth. Surprisingly, bone broth is not naturally mineral dense even though it’s commonly marketed as such. The minerals found in the bone matrix are not easily released into the water but you can easily increase the mineral content with the addition of vegetables.
As a working mother, I understand that eating healthy has to be convenient. Here are my tips to ease you into the world of broth-making.
- You can make a large batch and then freeze it into portions that you can use for a quick batch of mashed potatoes or enough to make a soup. These molds are fantastic and larger ones are great for soups or chilis.
- This is the glass jar that I use for fridge storage.
- Be sure to use a cookie sheet under the jar when straining. It’ll catch drips and you can pour it back into a mold or the jar (watch the video below).
- Get yourself a kitchen scale to measure your medicinal mushrooms.
I use the instant pot for our bone broth, it doesn’t stink up the kitchen and it’s very timely. You can also use a stockpot on the stove or a crockpot on high. The vegetables and herbs I use in my broth changes depending on what I have in my fridge, what flavor profile I’m trying to achieve, or what I think the family needs that week. Broth making is meant to be fluid so feel free to use your intuition.
2 1/2 pounds of assorted grass-fed or pasture-raised bones
2 carrots (chopped medium)
2 celery stalks (chopped medium)
1 onion (halved, skin left on)
1 head of garlic (skin left on)
Assortment of dried or fresh herbs:
Rosemary, nettle leaf, sage, basil, cilantro, parsley, thyme, ginger, turmeric
30 grams/1 ounce total of one or all of the following mushrooms: turkey tail, cordyceps, shiitake, reishi, and agaricus blazei murrill. Note: 1 ounce of dried mushrooms is the equivalent of 1 pound of fresh
Generous pinch of whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon sea salt or Redmond’s Real Salt
8 cups of water (enough water to come to 1-inch below MAX fill line)
Place the bones, vegetables (including the mushrooms), salt, and water in the instant pot and set to 3 hours on manual low pressure or on slow cook (high) overnight. Wait 15 minutes before releasing the steam, once steam is released, add in the mushrooms. Cover and set to slow cook, on high, for 40 minutes to an hour.
After the broth is cooked, pull it out of the instant pot and allow it to cool on the stovetop or a trivet for 45-60 minutes (stirring occasionally). Carefully strain broth and store in your desired bottle. Store in the fridge for up to 7 days or freeze for up to 6 months.
Remember to always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or supplements. The information shared is not to be considered medical advice.