Grandma’s chicken broth has long been a cure for what ails you. But now, at many restaurants, it’s going from recipe base to the main attraction.
Step inside some of the country’s swankiest eateries and you’ll find it standing alone on menus, served as a palate cleanser or as a coffee substitute, all thanks to the paleo diet trend.
“The idea for the cocktail came through my love for scotch and my love for savory cocktails. I also wanted to bend the rules a little bit and twist people's perception of what a cocktail is and could be.”
Paleo proponents believe in eating like our ancestors — eschewing grains, refined sugars, dairy and all processed foods and chowing down instead on plenty of meat, fresh vegetables, organic nuts, seeds ... and bone broths, which are thought to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system and even provide beauty benefits such as glowing skin and stronger nails. The diet was one of Google’s most searched food terms in 2014.
Coffee and tea are forbidden — cavemen never enjoyed a steaming macchiato from Starbucks — so many turn to a different source of energy: nourishing bone broth.
Self-ordained lifestyle guru Gwenyth Paltrow and Lakers star Kobe Bryant are reportedly big fans of bone broths. Health-centric restaurants like Hu Kitchen in New York City and Halsa in Washington have begun offering shots of broth. In New York’s trendy East Village, a broth-only storefront window called Brodo offers cups of steaming broth that, like an artisan coffee, can be customized with flavor add-ins, such as chili oil, bone marrow and paleo-friendly seasonings.
At Pistola in Los Angeles, bar manager and cocktail connoisseur Aaron Melendrez has created a scotch cocktail made with Glenlivet 15 and a lamb consommé base.
“I have been really into bone broth for some time now upon reading and researching all the major health benefits,” Melendrez said. “The idea for the cocktail came through my love for scotch and my love for savory cocktails. I also wanted to bend the rules a little bit and twist people's perception of what a cocktail is and could be.”
Traditionally, broths and stocks are made in a similar way, by simmering vegetables, meat scraps and bones for a long time. Stock usually contains more bones and no seasoning, but today the terms are used interchangeably. To paleo followers, what matters most is that it’s bone-rich. Bones contain collagen, amino acids and minerals, including calcium and magnesium, that can be extracted by cooking with a chemical agent, such as a bit of wine or vinegar.
Peter Servold, who runs Pete’s Paleo, a paleo-centric meal delivery service, said customer interest in broth has skyrocketed over the past several months. Not only is it is delicious, he says, but the supposed health benefits are drawing people in droves.
“Bone broth provides micronutrients not found in meat that allow consumers to digest effectively and restore gut health,” Servold said. “It contains collagen and gelatin, which strengthen our bones, ligaments and tendons. It also boosts the immune system, decreases inflammation, improves the skin and detoxifies the body.”
Sure, it’s tasty. But are broth-heads shelling out extra dough for artisanal soups really getting nutritional benefits?
Lisa Moskovitz, a registered dietitian and CEO of NY Nutrition Group in Manhattan, has seen many health fads come and go. While she supports the paleo tenets of avoiding processed foods and refined sugars in favor of nutritious fruits and vegetables, she cautions that any diet that eliminates entire food groups — such as dairy and carbohydrates — can lead to intense cravings and overeating.
She said there is little research on broth, but there are tangible benefits to be gleaned from the nutrients it provides.
“The protein collagen is linked to healthier joints and potentially reducing joint pain,” Moskovitz said. “Calcium and potassium that are found in bone broth are important for a healthy heart and bones.”
But at just 90 calories per 8-ounce serving, broth should not be considered a meal replacement, she said. And she cautioned that over-consumption of this “super food” has been linked to lead poisoning after it has been extracted from the bone during the cooking process. She advises young children and pregnant women to avoid consuming too much broth.
So sip wisely. Broth is flavorful, it’s nutritious, it’s been around for centuries … and now it’s made the leap to gourmet food. As grandma used to say, it couldn’t hurt.