Pregnancy or the desire to become pregnant can be great inspiration for many men and women to clean up their diets and lifestyle choices. It is an opportunity for a woman to connect with life on a deeper level, and to embrace the primal need to nourish the womb that will give her baby the best foundation for a healthy life.
Fertility, pregnancy, and healing after birth require specific nutrients, like fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K, to ensure the optimal development of the womb, the baby, and ease of maternal discomforts. However, if you have weak digestion and an unhealthy gut, you can’t properly absorb nutrients, even if you have the healthiest diet.
Make every good choice count! We can never heal deeply without going to the root cause, so let’s go there!
It all begins in the gut.
Until recently, the importance of our gut health was underestimated. Now we know that the gut microbiome is the center of our immune system: 80% percent of our immune cells live in our gut! It contains trillions of bacteria (more than the number of cells in the rest of the body!!) that play a vital role in helping the body assimilate essential nutrients from food, directly impacting the digestive system, the immune system, and even brain function.
The overuse of antibiotics in our food and water supply, doctors over-medicating their patients, and toxins in our environment, have weakened our bodies’ ability to function properly.
Leaky Gut Syndrome -when the mucosal lining of the digestive tract is weak, allowing undigested food, toxins, and bacteria to leak into the bloodstream, causing inflammation, illness, and skin eruptions, like eczema.
This condition is becoming increasingly common since the advent of sugary & acidic processed foods, harsh medications, and antibiotics. Chronic inflammation has been linked to Endometriosis, PCOS, uterine fibroids, painful menstruation, and autoimmune conditions- today’s most common sources of infertility. We live in an acidic environment, but have no fear! When we heal the source, we can heal the whole body.
What makes this healing food perfect for mamas and mamas-to-be?
- Collagen & Gelatin
Essential for the formation and repair of cartilage and bone- in other words, it helps build your baby!
It also helps in soft tissue and wound healing, and aids in digestion and the assimilation of proteins (the building blocks of life!) by coating the mucus membranes of the gut.
Essential amino acid that is vital to the production of heme, the part of the blood that carries oxygen. This of course is important during pregnancy, as your blood carries nutrients to your baby; more oxygen=more nutrients delivered to the baby!
Two sources of discomfort during the postpartum shift, slow digestion and wound healing, can also be relieved and supported by this amino acid.
Another very important amino acid that is essential to the formation of collagen, and therefore necessary for healthy bones, skin, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.
It has even been shown to have a positive effect on preventing depression. Postpartum depression has unfortunately become quite common with the lack of physical and emotional support for new moms, as they feel rushed to return to what was once “normal” for them and their partner. Without this support, a healthy diet is especially important and the most accessible place to start in order to heal deeply.
- Bone Marrow
An important source of immune support factors, such as myeloid and lymphoid stem cells. Myeloid stem cells form red blood cells, which carry oxygen and nutrients to other cells in the body, and to your baby during pregnancy.
Lymphoid stem cells form white blood cells, which are essential for a strong immune system.
Bone marrow is also a great addition to your baby’s diet when starting solid foods, as it is a wonderful source of healthy fat and has been shown to benefit brain development.
Minerals are essential for overall wellness. Many people in the U.S. are deficient in most minerals- a reflection of our soil’s deficiency after many years of farming one crop in one area, an unsustainable practice of industrial agriculture called monoculture. Just as the Earth needs variety, our bodies need variety.
Bone broth is an excellent source of absorbable calcium and phosphorus, as well as magnesium, sodium, and potassium.
Pregnant and nursing mothers are especially prone to deficiencies, so mineral-rich broth in a digestible form is a quick and easy way to replenish nutrients.
How to make good broth
Making bone broth might seem intimidating when you only focus on the long cooking time, but it’s actually hands-off for the most part and quite easy. It seems like a lot of instructions, but after you make it once, you will be a pro!
- Source your ingredients: If you don’t already visit your local farmers market on the regular, this is a great reason to start! It is also empowering to ask questions and know where your food is grown/raised. For good broth, you want bones from healthy, pastured animals. You can find a local market at localharvest.org. A trusted supermarket or butcher is another place to look. I have found that a buyers club organized by a local farm offers the best quality for the best price. If possible, have your bones chopped into smaller pieces, which will yield more gelatin and minerals into your broth.
- The amount of bones you need depends on the size of your pot. I have a 12 quart stainless steel pot (never use aluminum to avoid leaching toxic metal into your food), so I use 5-7 lbs of bones, a combination of knuckle bones, ribs, soup/boney bones, marrow bones…the more variety, the more flavorful and array of nutrients you will have in your broth. For chicken, use carcasses, drumsticks, necks, backs, wings, and especially feet! For pork, throw in some trotters! They are great for skin health and wrinkle prevention, and lactation if you are nursing a baby! ***A slow cooker is also great to have, as it will use less energy than the stove and you can set the timer if you worry about burning down your home while the broth cooks as you sleep! My pot retains heat really well, so I actually turn off the heat late at night and it’s still very warm when I turn it back on in the early morning. This way you also don’t have to worry about your broth boiling and breaking down the delicate collagen.
- Rinse your bones. For beef and lamb broth with a deeper flavor, roast your bones first @ 400(F) for 40-60 minutes. Place your bones in the pot, covering just above with cold water with ¼ cup apple cider vinegar (Braggs is the best). Allow the bones to rest for an hour before turning on the heat. This is a very important step, as the vinegar will help draw minerals out of the bones and into your broth.Turn on your heat source, bring the pot to a gentle boil, and reduce the heat to barely simmering- the lowest setting possible is best because high heat will break down the collagen and your broth won’t gel as well.
- With a small mesh strainer or slotted spoon, skim off any foam that floats to the top of your broth. These impurities can make broth taste funky, so skimming it off at the beginning will result in a cleaner tasting broth. When you have skimmed your broth, now you can add veggies and herbs of your choice. I keep it simple with onion (you can add a whole onion or just peels you have saved from other recipes); other options are carrot and celery, black peppercorns, bay leaf, garlic, etc.
- The length of cooking time depends on what kind of bones you are using. The larger the bones, the longer the cooking time. For beef and lamb- 30-48 hours, for pork- 24 hours, for chicken- 20-24 hours, and for fish (use only non-oily fish heads, like snapper)- 6 hours.
- To add iron to your broth, add a bunch of parsley during the last 15 minutes of cooking. This is especially good for those who are anemic and for postpartum healing, especially for cesarean births in which women lose more blood and are more prone to anemia.
- Your broth is done cooking, you made it! Now it’s time to strain your broth. I prefer storing my hot broth in glass to avoid chemicals in plastic containers leaching into the broth. If you choose to store it in plastic, make sure it is BPA- and BPS-free, and pour it into these containers only after your broth has cooled. I use a fine mesh strainer fitted with a nut milk bag to strain broth, as it filters out all little pieces and scum, resulting in a cleaner tasting broth. Instead of a nut milk bag, you can also use cheese cloth or a reusable coffee filter. If freezing in glass, leave plenty of head space, as the liquid expands and broken glass isn’t fun to clean up!
- Pick off any meat that is floating in your broth to save for stews or stir-frys. I usually give the tendons and cartilage to my dog since I haven’t found a use for it, although I’m sure there are many. Throw away your spent bones and vegetable scraps.
- Allow your broth to cool before placing in the refrigerator, and when it has chilled completely in the refrigerator you can transfer to the freezer if you choose. A layer of fat will form at the top. You can take this off and save for cooking, and keep a little in the broth for added flavor and healthy fat.
- Your broth will last for 7 days in the refrigerator, or 6 months in the freezer. Use it as the base in soups, stews, sauces, cooking grains & legumes…or just warm it up, salt to taste, and drink it straight! Enjoy!