When a recipe calls for chicken, beef or vegetable stock (often referred to as broth or bone broth), where do you usually turn? Canned stock? Boxed stock? Water?

Now having experienced a variety of stocks, these liquid concoctions can make or break a meal, if you ask me.  If you’ve never tried making your own stock, let me try and convince you to give it a try. Not only does it boost the flavor of your meals considerably, but it’s more nutritious and lower in sodium than its store-bought counterparts. And … it’s e-a-s-y. All you need are some leftover bones (for meat stocks) and random vegetables bits, maybe a few herbs, a whole-lotta water, and boil away. The result is strangely satisfying; a giant steaming pot of deeply colored aromatic liquid. Then just divvy up the goods into 2- or 4-cup containers and freeze. Convinced yet?

If not, ok, let’s talk nutrition. Homemade bone broths are a rich source of minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, and other trace minerals. They are also a source of glucosamine and chondroitin which people often ingest in supplement form to help with joint pain or arthritis. Vegetable broths are healthy too, but many of the delicate vitamins can be destroyed by the long cooking process involved. To help overcome this, keep the cooking time to about an hour or less and chock it FULL of vegetable bits to get the most nutrition you can out of your leftover plant-matter. Now all this is not to say that store-bought stocks do not have similar healthy benefits, but do realize that they often use leftover products in their processes and are not likely throwing the best quality bone pieces and fresh vegetables into the mix. Then there is the sodium. Unless you seek out and purchase “low-sodium” broths, the sodium content is usually through the roof. Anyone watching their blood pressure should take careful measures to avoid high-sodium broths. Organic and “natural” products are likely better (although usually similar in sodium), but that does not guarantee ideal flavor. Check out this quick review of some organic broth products, many of which I have tried:

http://thedailygrindchopandfry.com/2011/02/28/store-bought-vegetable-stock-taste-test/

And if you still aren’t convinced, let’s talk cost. Homemade broth provides considerable savings, especially over the organic brands now in the stores. When you make use of leftover chicken or roast carcasses and random vegetables you pull out of the fridge or your garden (including the typically unused or inedible parts), you make good use of typically discarded products. It’s like pulling out all the last bits of nutrient goodness before they end up in the food waste bin, which maybe is the reason I find this process so satisfying – nutrient scavenging that saves money. I always love a bargain.

To get you started on your path to broth freedom, here are a few links to recipes you can try.

http://nourishedkitchen.com/fresh-chicken-broth/
http://nourishedkitchen.com/beef-stock-recipe/
http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/how-to/basic-techniques-how-to-make-homemade-vegetable-stock-

Good luck and enjoy!

About Danielle VenHuizen

Registered Dietitian, Certified LEAP Therapist