3 Super Foods to Improve Bone and Joint Health

December 6, 2011 · 37 comments

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Chicken Feet

Many people ask me for advice on natural ways to alleviate joint pain and to improve their bone health. They ask about expensive supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin for their joints and minerals like calcium, magnesium and zinc for their bones. My answer usually explains that you can take all the supplements you want but you may not be absorbing much of it. Here are three incredibly cheap super foods that will surely support your bones and joints and will relieve joint pain.

Bone Broth is a Traditional Food

Traditional cultures the world over have included bone broth in their daily diets. Perhaps your grandmother knew that “good broth will resurrect the dead,” (a South American proverb). But in our fast paced society today the art of making good bone broth has been largely forgotten and the numerous health benefits sacrificed.

I remember my mother making chicken soup with a freshly slaughtered chicken from the local butcher with all the organs and the feet. The feet are essential for a broth that will have a lot of collagen and gelatin. Homemade broth is full of the amino acids necessary for collagen production; proline, glycine and hydroxyproline. My broth never gelled until I was able to use the feet. Don’t worry, the feet are scalded and peeled at the abatoir so they are very clean.

Boullion is Made With The Neurotoxin MSG

Homemade broth has been replaced with boullion — perhaps the worst item in the market as it is full of sodium and MSG. After WW 11, dehydrated soup mixes, sauce mixes, and condiments were introduced when the food industry figured out how to hydrolyze proteins to a base containing free glutamic acid (MSG) a neurotoxin.

More recently available are tetra pak containers of “organic” broth but these also have added MSG and “natural flavorings” which are a negative. Additionally, they are certainly not cooked in the traditional way to gently extract the minerals, collagen and gelatin from real bones. These store bought stocks and mixes have very little nutritional value.

Collagen is Made From Amino Acids in Bone and Cartiledge

Collagen is the single most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. Made from proline, glycine and hydroxyproline these amino acids are abundant in the cartilage, bone and the skin of animals and fish. Biochemically, there are several different types of collagen which appear in different types of tissue from bone, tendon and ligament to mucous membranes throughout the body including the intestinal tract and the cornea of the eye.

In order for the body to make collagen from these basic building blocks, the amino acids have to be hydroxylated– simply put, water is added. With one exception, all types of collagen are triple helixes, which makes them very strong fibers. Type IV can be a flatter shape depending upon the sequence of amino acids in it’s formation.

All of these processes require vitamin C as an enzyme cofactor. That is why the disease scurvy — a deficiency of vitamin C will affect all collagen tissue whether it is in the skin, bones, joints or gums. The wrinkled skin of people who are long time smokers reflects the deficiency of vitamin C and it’s effect on collagen as smoking breaks vitamin C down.

Gelatin is Made From Collagen

Gelatin is derived from collagen. It is the protein portion of collagen. Commercially it is used for a variety of ways in the food, pharmaceutical and even the paper industry. Gelatin may be obtained as a processed food item for use in home cooking.

The most obvious place to get collagen and gelatin — so necessary for human bone, joint and membrane health — is from the bones, joint and skin tissue of animals. Learning how to make homemade stock is critical for good health. It can be included at least once a day as a small bowl or cup of broth or it can be made in to a more complex soup or gravy. Once you get over the learning curve it is simple.

Three Frugal Ways to Improve Bone and Joint Health as well as Intestinal Membrane Health

1 — Chicken stock made from the bones and leftovers of a chicken dinner. Roast a chicken (preferable pastured) and put all the leftover bones, skin, feet (and even the head if you can get it) into a crock pot with vegetables and water and simmer overnight on low. Strain and store in jars in the refrigerator for 5 -7 days and freeze the rest.

2 — Beef or lamb bones can be used — preferable knuckle bones and marrow bones. Bones are cheaply and easily obtained from your local farmer or butcher.

3 — Fish stock can be made from one large fish carcass. A fish carcass is cheaply and easily obtained from the fish monger.

You can get all three recipes from Sally Fallon-Morell for chicken stock, beef stock and fish stock here.

The difference between a stock and a broth is that the stock is made with the bones as well as vegetables and meat while the broth is only made with the meat and vegetables.

Stock or bone broth make the most nutrient dense broths as they are filled with collagen and gelatin as well as minerals which are easier to absorb and made even easier to absorb if some fat is added to the broth in the form of cream. These bone broths are essential for people recovering from leaky gut or intestinal dysbiosis and play a large role in the GAPS diet. If you don’t have access to chicken feet you may add some high quality gelatin to the broth.

Where to buy high quality gelatin for soups, sauces and jello.

Where to buy bone broth made from the Nourishing Traditions recipe.


This post is shared at: Real Food Wednesday, Sustainable Days, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Healthy 2Day, These Chicks Cooked, Full Plate Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Creative Juice Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Freaky Friday, Fight back Friday Friday Food, Sunday School, Sugar-Free Sunday, Monday Mania, Real Food 101, Barnyard Hop, Melt in Mouth Monday, Tasty Tidbits, Hearth & Soul Hop, Tasty Tuesday Naptime, Traditional Tuesday, Slightly Indulgent TuesdayTasty Tuesday 33 Shades, Made From Scratch Tuesday, Tasty Tuesday Love, What’s Cooking Wednesday

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alex Koolhof December 7, 2011 at 1:47 am

I just happened to make some chicken stock a couple of days ago with bones from two chickens, plus 5 or 6 feet.  It turned out excellent and very gelatinous!  Perfect super food for my pregnant wife.


2 Jill December 7, 2011 at 2:04 am

Hi Alex,
Sounds yummy! How lucky she is! Tomorrow I will be making mine!


3 Hhramblings December 7, 2011 at 2:18 am

I’ve been making my own stocks for quite a while, but learned some more very valuable information from this post.  Thanks so much for always giving us such useful information.  I look forward to all your posts. :0)


4 Jill December 7, 2011 at 11:12 am

Hi Hhramblings,
Thanks so much for your comments!


5 Karen December 7, 2011 at 5:11 am

i’ve also read that you can add egg shells to your broth to add calcium and other goodies that are in the egg membranes.


6 Carrie December 7, 2011 at 11:29 am

Do you know how the broth will taste or smell like by using lamb bones? Is it prepared the same way as beef bones? 


7 Jill December 7, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Hi Carrie,
Yes, you can use lamb bones the same way and it will have the smell/taste of lamb. Some sensitive people find lamb the easiest to digest.


8 Cylkev December 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm

It’s illegal to sell chicken feet here in the UK unless they’re still attached to the chicken. Mostly i can’t get hold of them :- ( 

Would it be worth adding some gelatine to my stocks?


9 Jill December 7, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Hi Cylkev,
I didn’t know that about the UK. Was that as a result of the hoof and mouth disease or the mad cow disease fears?

It would be good to add gelatin to stocks.


10 Jenna December 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I clicked on the link to find high quality gelatin but did not see it listed.  Where should I look?  Thank you!


11 Jill December 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Hi Jenna,
It is under Supplements and Super Foods (Radiant Life). Sometimes the Resource Page takes a few seconds to load.


12 Beyond The Peel December 7, 2011 at 7:01 pm

Great post Jill. I love your informative posts that explain the why and what of food and health. It was only a year ago that I realized that chicken bouillon’s first ingredient was high fructose corn syrup! How crazy is that? Now we make our own.


13 Sheena Cucina December 8, 2011 at 3:06 am

Thanks so much for this informative info! What a great post :)


14 Beth December 11, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Would it be safe to assume that any chicken feet found in the grocery stores are also scalded and peeled and ready for the crockpot?  Would it be better to have no feet at all or feet from non-organic sources?  


15 Jill December 11, 2011 at 8:38 pm

Hi Beth,
I wouldn’t assume anything — but you can see that they are peeled and clean like those in my photo. They look very scaly and yellow when they are not peeled.
I would get any feet I could and if they are not peeled I would scrub them in hot water. But any feet are better than none.


16 Maria Chamorro December 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

Wow, thanks for all this great information! I’ve been having some issues with my joints ever since my thyroid had to be removed but indent want to take more Pills if I can avoid it. So looking forward to reading more posts here! Visiting from the Heart & Soul blog hop.

Maria @ The Honest Kitchen


17 Morsels of Life December 14, 2011 at 1:52 am

I try to make stock when I can, but I learned a few useful hints here too! I’ll be adding chicken feet once I get my hands on some. :)


18 pamela December 15, 2011 at 1:25 am

Thank you for this informative post, and particularly the link to Sally Fallon’s instructions for broth making!


19 Angela Lynn February 2, 2012 at 10:22 am

Well I have seen those chicken feet at a local grocery and could never imagine eating them but now I see I will be adding them to my stock pot!


20 Hari December 3, 2012 at 1:23 pm

plenty of more appetizing vegan methods to improve bone and joint health.


21 Melanie September 7, 2013 at 5:24 pm

I love how informative this was! I have arthritis from the waist down, and lately I’ve been replacing ibuprofin with bone broth, and it’s working. I recently went to my local “bone market” as I call it, and they were out of marrow bones, so I got some cow feet instead, and the broth is the best I’ve ever made!


22 Jill September 7, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Hi Melanie,
That is great to hear! I’ve never seen cow feet — I guess hooves??


23 Juan E Sandoval October 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Love your website. Here in Mexico chicken broth, stocks and other variations are very common, and yes their healthy qualities are immense. And they are delicious. That UK ban is almost tragic :(
I just wanted to chip in with another little tirivial fact: Some people make the chicken stock with the feet, but they would never actually eat the feet. I don´t have a problem, but for those who find it eeky or such, instead of throwing them away or going to waste, they can feed them to dog pets. According to my Vet, the cooked chicken feet are a wonderful supplement for growing puppies (between 1 and 2 years old), since they contribute with collagen and calcium to the pet’s joints and are very easily methabolised during the growing phase of the dog. Better bones, joints and a tasty treat for them.


24 Walter Jeffries January 27, 2014 at 8:03 pm

You should have pork bones on your list. They’re an excellent way of getting all of this and more. Make brawn from the pig’s head. Use the trotters (feet) to thicken stock for stews and soups. Both excellent sources of nutrients for bone and joint health.


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