Originally published August 18, 2016
You might have seen a lot and heard a lot about Bone Broth and its “gut healing” properties in the news and media, as it seems to be a health trend at the moment.
So, in addition to creating a vegan bone broth alternative (recipe below) I decided to look into what exactly it is about bone broth is apparently so fascinating… and was very underwhelmed.
I’m not a health expert and this article is simply a pool of resources I have combined. Always do your own research.
I’d like to provide my thoughts as well as an alternative recipe…
Why Bone Broth is Nothing Special
Turns out, the most beneficial nutrients and electrolytes in bone broth can be found in vegan-friendly sources and the one thing that sets itself apart, the thing that is impossible for vegans to find a veggie replacement for is the collagen.
Collagen? I’ll make my own, thanks
Our bodies can’t even digest collagen whole. We simply absorb the nutrients from our food which provides our bodies with the building blocks it needs to naturally create collagen, if and when it needs it.
There is no evidence that there is an advantage to consuming these amino acids and minerals from bone broth over other foods.
Eating collagen does not equal having more collagen. As put in this article from TIME magazine, “Just as the dietary fat you swallow doesn’t directly translate to body fat, swallowing collagen doesn’t become collagen in or between your bones.”
Kantha Shelke, a food scientist and clinical nutritionist, says “Eating a diet rich in leafy green vegetables is ideal. Plants offer richer sources in collagen building blocks and, in addition, provide nutrients not found in sufficient quantities in meats or broth.”
Healing the stomach lining
And as for it being healing for the stomach lining, particularly from the gelatin, there are some great plant-based alternatives for that too. Particularly fermented foods.
There are many other foods that have been shown to contribute towards healing the stomach lining and digestive tract, such as seaweed, aloe vera, healthy fats and turmeric.
Vitamins and minerals
Obviously, all the calcium, potassium and other minerals found in bone broth are more than easy to find in plant-based foods plus they contain much, much more goodness. Not to mention you’ll be avoiding lead and other harmful heavy metals.
So the animal product-reliant parts are not necessary and are over-hyped. It’s all in aid of making what our bodies already naturally produce and plant-sourced vitamins and minerals are the best option to actually help it do that.
A Plant-Based Option Works The Same (If Not Better)
So now we’ve established that the bones in this healing broth are not only unnecessary but also not as nutritious as plant-based sources, it seems pretty clear that using a bunch of wholesome plant-based ingredients is going to be healing. And way more appealing, too.
Drinking broth has been a go-to, for centuries, as a healing food for when we’re sick. This study suggests that it’s more the effect of hot liquid that is beneficial, and not necessarily the minerals or nutrients in the liquid.
Plus soup and hot liquids just feel good. They’re warming, comforting and can taste good.
The bottom line though is that we shouldn’t be relying on a broth to “heal” our guts! Because that’s silly.
Vegan Bone Broth Alternative Ingredients
My version contains lot’s of nutritional goodness that is great for overall health but particularly focuses on plenty of gut-healing properties. Feel free to switch up, leave out or add in any ingredients you like, to suit your diet and taste.
The main stars are:
- Wakame seaweed:
Great source of omega 3 – one of the best for vegans, act as preobiotics which are great for intestinal health, full of vitamins and minerals (particularly good source of iron, calcium, magnesium and iodine). Not suitable for SCD diets, leave out as necessary.
- Shiitake mushrooms:
Aside from giving the most amazing flavour, these mushrooms have been shown to inhibit inflammation in the gut. They’re also full of amino acids, vitamin D, zinc and B vitamins.
- Coconut oil or olive oil:
Mainly to aid in absorbing nutrients but coconut oil also has other properties that help destroy bad bacteria, yeast and lower stomach acid.
Powerful anti-inflammatory to help with gut inflammation and gut permeability, plus adds delicious flavour and a beautiful colour.
- Spinach or kale:
Full of vitamins and fibre. Spinach has also been found to contain a sulfosugar that lowers gut inflammation.
- Coconut aminos:
To add flavour, amino acids and the benefit of probiotics that comes with fermented foods. May not be suitable for some diets as it’s considered a sugar, so leave out if necessary. You can find it in health food stores or on amazon.
I was worried the seaweed might be overwhelming, as I don’t like sea flavours, but it wasn’t really noticeable and the little bit that was noticeable was actually delicious.
It paired wonderfully with the mushrooms, ginger, chilli and coconut aminos for an Asian-style flavour. SO good and wonderfully comforting.
Do I have to strain the vegetables?
No. I created a broth so it would be completely gentle on the stomach, since a lot of people trying this are experiencing gut issues.
However, keeping the vegetables in the broth or blending it will make a delicious soup, if you prefer.
Do you have nutritional information for this broth?
It is too difficult to try and calculate the nutritional information for broths as the amount of nutrients are too variable.
Adding all the ingredients won’t work because the vegetables are strained and therefore difficult to tell how much of the nutrients remain in the broth.
If you want to know for dieting purposes, I can tell you it’s very low calorie and the only fat is the small amount of oil that is optional to include.
To add it to your food diary, I would just input it as “vegetable broth” with a small amount of oil. It is likely to be under 50 calories.
How long does the broth keep for? Can it be frozen?
Once made, allow to cool slightly and keep in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also freeze it.
- 12 cups / 2 3/4 litres filtered water
- 1 tbsp coconut oil , or extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 red onion, quartered (with skins)
- 1 garlic bulb, smashed
- 1 chilli pepper, roughly chopped (with seeds) - avoid if you have a very sensitive stomach
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, roughly chopped (with skin)
- 1 cup greens, such as kale or spinach
- 3-4 cup mixed chopped vegetables and peelings, I used carrot peelings, red cabbage, fresh mushrooms, leeks and celery
- 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
- 30 g dried wakame seaweed
- 1 tbsp peppercorns
- 1 - 2 tbsp ground turmeric (use less for a milder taste)
- 1 tbsp coconut aminos, (see notes)
- A bunch of fresh corriander, or other herb of your choice
- (optional) 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes, for extra flavour and vitamins
- Simply add everything to a large pot. Bring to a boil then simmer, with the lid on, for about an hour.
- Once everything has been cooked down, strain the liquid into a large bowl.
- Serve immediately with some fresh herbs, for decoration or cool for later. It also freezes well.
*Coconut aminos can be very salty, depending on what brand you use so taste before adding any additional salt.
References and resources
- The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets
- Essential and toxic metals in animal bone broths
- Effects of drinking hot water, cold water, and chicken soup on nasal mucus velocity and nasal airflow resistance
- Shiitake Culinary-Medicinal Mushroom, Lentinus edodes (Agaricomycetes), Supplementation Alters Gut Microbiome and Corrects Dyslipidemia (animal study)
- Efficacy and safety of Ayurvedic herbs in diarrhoea-predominant irritable bowel syndrome: A randomised controlled crossover trial
- Sulfoquinovose is a select nutrient of prominent bacteria and a source of hydrogen sulfide in the human gut