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Everything you need to know about choosing an all-natural stock

A winter staple, stocks are a brilliant way to add flavour to a dish. Whether you’re using it as a base for a soup, flavouring a casserole or making a risotto, there are countless ways we can use them. There are 3 main types of stocks, liquid stock, stock powders and stock cubes. Like with all things, there are healthier options than others. In this blog post we’ll be diving deep into how to choose the most natural and nutritious stocks on the market.

Stocks can also be referred to as broths, but they’re not to be confused with bone broth which is generally cooked for many hours and designed to help us get the most out of the nutrients in animal bones. Bone broth has gained popularity in recent times thanks to the benefits it has towards our gut health, intestinal lining and skin integrity. Bone broths can be used in all of the same ways that stocks can and are a great way to add even more benefits to our real food recipes.

 

What makes it difficult to find a healthy stock in the supermarket?

Unfortunately stocks and broths available on the supermarket shelves tend to prioritise taste over nutrition. Among the ingredients, it’s not unlikely to see flavour enhancers, artificial flavours and even sugar, all of which are designed to make the stock taste so good that we can’t resist.

Another common thing we see in conventional stocks (particularly the powders) is that they contain cheap fillers. These fillers are generally highly refined ingredients that lack nutritional value and are simply there to add bulk.

 

Ingredients we like to see in a healthy stock or broth:

Unlike the stocks filled with artificial ingredients and various sweeteners, a healthy stock is one that’s made up of just real foods. Some of the ingredients that are great to see in a stock include an assortment of vegetables, along with any real herbs and spices for flavour. Many stocks also contain either chicken, beef or fish, depending on the flavour and nutrition profile we’re looking for. Ultimately what we want to choose is a stock containing real foods, with none of the additives. Bonus points if the ingredients are organic and sustainably sourced.

 

What are the healthiest stocks and broths available?

Something we’re excited to see is a growing range of healthy stocks and broths. It’s no longer necessary to make a homemade batch as the only healthy option. These days we have many great options to choose from and a whole range of delicious stocks available on the GoodnessMe shop. Here are some that we’re loving at the moment:

 

Urban Forager Beef Stock

Ingredients: Grass fed, organic Beef (19%), Vegetables (carrot, celery, onion, tomato, parsley, garlic, herbs), Spices, WA Lake Salt, Apple Cider Vinegar

Review: NATURALLY FLAVOUR YOUR DISHES By Shahna S.
A good quality stock can take a dish to another level. They bring an incredible flavour and of course add to the nutritional profile. I love using stocks as the base for soups, stews, curries and more. But of course they can also be enjoyed as a cup of soup, something I love sipping on during the colder months. This Urban Forager Beef Stock uses grass fed, organic beef and real vegetables/seasoning. Ditch the classic supermarket stocks that can sometimes contain fillers, additives, flavour enhancers and preservatives, and choose a trusted brand instead.

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The Broth Sisters Superfood Mushroom Stock

Ingredients: Mushrooms (69%) (portobello, shiitake, lion’s mane), Mount Zero Pink Lake salt, onion, balsamic vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, garlic, thyme, extra virgin olive oil.
Review: WINTER STAPLE By Shahna S.
There’s something so warming about a hot broth and I believe it’s an absolute staple in the winter months. The Broth Sisters have nailed their broths and stocks, bringing us all of the flavour, with none of the nasties. They use real food ingredients and plenty of naturally flavoursome foods. Like other broths or stocks, they can be enjoyed as a cup of soup, or used as a base for many warming dishes. This Superfood Mushroom Stock incorporates some medicinal mushrooms, giving us all of the amazing nutritional properties of these fungi. I love to see the use of extra-virgin olive oil, instead of any of the inflammatory vegetable oils. This one gets a big tick from me.
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Undivided Food Co Good Bones Chicken Broth

Ingredients: Certified Organic Chicken Bones and frames from Inglewood Farms, free from hormones and antibiotics, Filtered water, free from added chemicals like fluoride and chlorine, Certified Organic, Australian-grown vegetables and herbs including carrot, onion, garlic and seasonal herbs, Bio-dynamic apple cider vinegar, Olsson’s 100% sea salt.

Review: GUT NOURISHING BONE BROTH By Malissa F.
Personally, bone broth is something that I have been having in my diet for some time now. The benefits from a good quality bone broth is endless and being so rich in protein, collagen, zinc, B vitamins & vitamin D to support immunity, energy and gut wellbeing it really is a superfood. I like to have a bone broth in the morning and I find that not only is is a super comforting and warming way to start my day but this really has supported my gut health as well as the strength of my hair and nails. Before discovering these amazing quality powders which are so easy and convenient (just add water). I would spend hours and hours trying to make my own. This takes out all the hard work and with the high quality ingredients used to make this, I know I am having a great quality bone broth that my body loves.
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Nutraorganics Beef Bone Broth - Turmeric

Ingredients: Grass Fed Beef Bone Broth Powder (Beef Bones, Filtered Water, Apple Cider Vinegar*, Himalayan Salt, Hydrolysed Collaged) (90%), Tapioca Starch*, Deactivated Savoury Flakes, Turmeric Powder* (2%), Black Pepper.
Review: GUT LOVING GOODNESS By Shelley M.
Bone broth is such a nourishing addition to ones diet. Bone broth protein is made by cooking beef bones, ligaments, tendons, and water under high pressure and sustained high heat. This allows the broth to be cooked for a shorter time to help retain its nutrients. The broth is then dehydrated at a low temperature and concentrated into powder.

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In terms of nutrients bone broth is rich in protein, glycine, glucosamine, glutamine and more. Because of these nutrients bone broth is thought to enhance gut health, improve skin health, improve sleep quality, and decrease inflammation in the body. Enjoy this Nutra Organics Bone Broth Beef Turmeric as a hot tea or add it to your cooking as a stock.

 

What to look for on the nutritional panel & ingredients list:

Using an example vegetable stock, let’s dive into some of the best things you can find on the nutrition panel and ingredients list.

 

The Broth Sisters Vegetable Stock Concentrate

Ingredients: Celery, carrot, tomato, zucchini, Mount Zero Pink Lake salt, extra virgin olive oil, bay leaf, sage, rosemary, parsley, chives (green tips only).
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We always recommend looking at the ingredients list of a stock first, because this will determine whether or not it’s worth even looking at the nutrition panel. We can see here that the stock is made up of numerous vegetables, seasoned with salt and flavoured with herbs. It also contains extra-virgin olive oil, which is one of the best types of oils we can see on the ingredients list. Based on the ingredients, it's an example of a healthy and nutritious stock that would make it into our cart.
After determining if the ingredients pass the test, we can take a look at the nutrition panel. The macronutrient values are going to be quite low for a product like a stock, which means we can skip past those. However, we do want to take a look at the sodium content. Stocks can be extremely high in sodium, so choosing one that is lower in salt is going to be a better option. Keep in mind that in some cases you may be having more than one serve.

Other things to consider when choosing a healthy stock or broth:

Aside from ingredients, one of the main things to consider is the sodium (also known as salt) content of a stock or broth. According to the Australian Government, the recommended intake is up to 2,000mg of salt per day. This can be a helpful thing to keep in mind when choosing a stock. If it has a high amount of sodium per serve, then it’s going to throw us over our daily limit pretty quickly.
It’s important to consider the source of the sodium too. For example, if the stock has added sea salt or Himalayan rock salt, this would be better than a traditional table salt because it’s less processed and contains more of the trace minerals originally found in salt. We still want to consume salt in moderation, however it’s important not to overlook the type.

How to spot hidden ingredients in stocks and broths:

Looking for words like ‘flavours’ or ‘spices’ is a great way to spot hidden ingredients because they’re literally hiding any number of ingredients under these umbrella terms.
We recommend choosing options that specify exactly where the flavour is coming from (e.g. which herbs and spices) and naming each specific spice that they use, rather than lumping them under a vague term.

What are flavour enhancers and why should we avoid them in this product

Flavour enhancers are ingredients that enhance the flavour of a product or meal (as the name suggests). One of the problems with these ingredients are that they train our taste buds to desire more intense flavours and can contribute to overeating. Additionally, they’re generally artificial or highly refined ingredients, which don’t meet our real food philosophy. As they’re only something we’ve introduced since food production began, we don’t know the full extent of the long term health effects from consuming them. Flavour enhancers include monosodium glutamate (MSG), yeast extract, hydrolysed vegetable protein and more - keep an eye out for these words when looking at an ingredients list.

What does an unhealthy stock or broth look like?

Now we know what a healthy stock looks like, lets look at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Oxo Chicken Stock Cubes

Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Salt, Dried Glucose Syrup, Flavour Enhancer (621),Chicken Fat (3.4%), Potato Starch, Sugar, Chicken Extract (2%), Onion Extract, Colour (150c).
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Looking at this ingredients list, we can see the first 3 ingredients are wheat, salt and sugar. Sugar appears in two forms on this ingredients list, along with a flavour enhancer. This may be a chicken stock, but there’s only 5.4% chicken in the product. Based on what we’ve outlined above, there’s a few red flags here.

Our top 3 stocks and broths to avoid and why:

While there are plenty of stocks that we’d recommend steering clear of, here are 3 examples of what to avoid and our reasoning behind it:

Vegeta Vegetable Gourmet Stock Powder

Ingredients: Salt, Dehydrated Vegetables 15.5% (Carrot, Parsnip, Potato, Onion, Celery, Parsley Leaves), Flavour Enhancers (Monosodium Glutamate, Disodium Inosinate), Sugar, Spices, Maize Starch, Colour (Riboflavin)
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A popular stock powder that may not look too bad upon first glance, when we take a closer look we see a few of the main red flags of things to look out for in stocks. Among the worst is the flavour enhancers, which we’ve spoken a bit about above.
Other ingredients that aren’t welcome on this list include added sugar, the umbrella term ‘spices’, maize starch and colour. Maize starch is an example of a filler ingredient, which also has thickening properties but is quite refined.
The sodium content of this product is 341mg per serve, which isn’t that high for a stock. However, we can see that it’s from a poorer quality salt by it being labelled simply as ‘salt’, which generally points to a more refined option.

Woolworths Chicken Liquid Stock

Ingredients: Reconstituted Chicken Stock (95%) [Water, Chicken Bones, Onion,
Carrot, Celery, Bay Leaf], Chicken Pre-Mix [Maltodextrin (From Tapioca or Corn), Natural Roast Chicken Flavours (Salt, Yeast Extracts,Maltodextrin (from Potato), Lactic Acid (270), Anticaking Agent (551), Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavours), Salt, Sugar, vegetable Powders (Onion, Garlic, Sweet Corn), Wheat Fibre, Black Pepper, Vegetable Extract Powder (Chinese Cabbage), Yeast Extract Natural Celery Flavour].
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A long ingredients list like this is an automatic red flag. While the first few ingredients qualify as real foods, it starts to get a bit sketchy from there. Maltodextrin (a highly processed ingredient) appears a couple of times, as does yeast extract, which has flavour enhancing properties. We can also see lactic acid and an anti-caking agent - when there’s a number involved it’s better to be avoided. Then there’s the sunflower oil, which can be inflammatory. Lastly, it contains added sugar and while it’s not much, it still doesn’t really need to be in there.
This stock also has 1037.5mg sodium per serve, which is half of our daily recommended intake. Choosing an option with a lower sodium content, from a less refined type of salt would be our recommendation.

Massel Stock Powder Chicken Style

Ingredients: Sea Salt from the Southern Ocean, Low Sugar Maize Maltodextrin, Natural Vegetable Flavour, Yeast Extract, Cane Sugar, Turmeric Ground Madras, Canola Oil, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Potassium Chloride, Parsley.

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The most interesting thing about this stock powder is that it down’t actually contain any vegetables. Instead, it has ‘natural vegetable flavour’, which doesn’t specify where the flavours are coming from. It also has added sugar, inflammatory canola oil, highly refined maltodextrin and the flavour enhancing properties of yeast extract.
One good thing about this stock is that it uses sea salt as opposed to a more refined salt and the sodium per cup of liquid is on the lower side for a stock, with 357mg per serve. Additionally, they use a small amount of extra-virgin olive oil which is great to see. Unfortunately though, the cons outweigh the pros for this particular stock.
As we can see, there’s a few things to take into consideration when enjoying one of our favourite winter warmers - a good quality stock or broth. The great thing is that it’s as simple as coming back to basics and looking for real food ingredients. We get the most out of this nutritionally, they naturally taste delicious and we know we’re supporting our body through this choice.
Did you know that it’s also easy to make your own bone broth at home? Which can then be used as a homemade stock. Simply buy some animal bones of your choice, add some vegetables (our go-to veg for a stock are onion, carrot and celery) and cover it with water. Pour in a splash of apple cider vinegar to help extract the minerals and other goodness from the bones, then cook for a few hours. It’s that easy! We love a good homemade broth, but we also love the convenience of having a stock concentrate or ready-made stock on hand. And to that we say - why not have both!

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GoodnessMeAbout the author: Shahna Sarpi is a qualified nutritionist that is on a mission to help people live a nourished life through real food and healthy habits. She loves simplifying food labels and helping people make healthier food choices. Shahna is passionate about spreading the real food message and supporting people in living a healthy life.
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