Anyone who has chronically neglected a plant and watched its leaves curl and its colour fade knows that proper care and feeding can have dramatic, restorative effects. The same applies to our genes and our epigenetic programming. When we take the time to nourish ourselves, not only do we benefit from improved health, normalisation of fat distribution and remission of chronic disease, but our children benefit because this information is passed on through our genes.
Eating collagen-rich cuts of meat such as shanks with the tendons or using bone broths in soups, stews and sauces floods the bloodstream with glycosaminoglycans, which go directly to the parts of the body that need collagen most. These extraordinary molecules attract large amounts of water – up to 1000 times their own weight – that coat joint tissues in tiny, electrically charged clouds, transforming ordinary water molecules into a protective layer of super-lubricating fluid.
Glycosaminoglycans will naturally adhere to collagen anywhere in your body, moistening dry skin, helping tendons and ligaments stay supple, and generally making you look and feel younger.
Eating homemade bone stock in childhood has fantastic joint-strengthening and collagen-fortifying effects that can last a lifetime. Those who still eat a traditional cuisine with meat stocks and rich bone broths on a regular basis tend to enjoy all the hallmarks of well-built bones and connective tissue, no matter their age. Skin is smoother, with tighter pores and smaller hair follicle openings, reflecting greater tensile strength.
Even if you didn’t get traditional soups as a child, regular infusions of stock convey bone-strengthening benefits throughout your life. When we have injuries to joint cartilage, the cells that build cartilage (called chondrocytes) have a tendency to undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death). Over time, with repeated injuries, the collagen layer thins and weakens, which usually leads to arthritis. Fortunately, there is something that will curb the chondrocytes from undergoing apoptosis – bone broth. You can add broth almost anywhere you would add water in cooking: braising vegetables, vegetable purées, soups or as a hot drink. Bone broth powders are also now readily available in supermarkets so can be an easy option if travelling or while you learn how to make it.