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Why You Need To Start Using A Slow Cooker

Why You Need To Start Using A Slow Cooker

You may know what you should be eating to be healthy and why you need to eat it but what trips most people up is how do you put it all together? Like a Rubix cube to Kim Kardashian, the kitchen is something that throws most people off.

Cooking is a skill that definitely takes some time to master but there’s a secret shortcut that can help you make meals easier, faster and, just like me, cheaper than ever. It’s called the slow cooker or crock pot and I’ll show you the benefits that come from it.

What Is A Slow Cooker?

Slow cookers are often called crock pots, which are actually a brand name that has been associated with slow cookers the same way Kleenex is with facial tissue. A slow cooker is a lidded round or oval cooking pot usually made of ceramic or porcelain and surrounded by a metal housing and has a glass top. It has an electric outlet to it that the pot or “crock” is cooking container and heat reservoir that usually has a low, medium and high setting. With the selected temperature the crock’s contents are at atmospheric pressure and the cooking process is slow and gentle that can take anywhere from 4-8 hours

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Benefits Of Cooking At Low Heat

Food that is cooked at too high a temperature is prone to losing a majority of its nutrients and the potential for burning can cause a host of problems as well. High temperature cooking such as frying and barbecuing can create harmful chemicals in the foods that can lead to certain types of cancers. Meat, in particular, can develop polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heterocyclic amines that can change your DNA and also cause cancer.

Cooking at a more gentle temperature is not only more beneficial for the nutrients in the food but for your overall health. Slow cooking, along with steaming and poaching, are the most ideal ways to cook food.

Using A Slow Cooker To Save Money

Since I tend to lose all my money betting on March Madness a slow cooker can be your best friend to keep costs down. Since the cooking process is gradual even tough cuts of “undesirable” meat can turn into a super tender dish. These tougher cuts of meat also tend to be the cheapest so opt for:

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  • Pork belly
  • Pork hawk or shank
  • Pork shoulder
  • Flank steak
  • Skirt or hanger steak
  • Brisket
  • Top rump
  • Chuck and blade
  • Oxtail
  • Lamb shank
  • Lamb neck and shoulder

When you combine these cuts with vegetables and potatoes you are looking at meals that work out to only a few dollars that provide a good amount of portions.

How A Slow Cooker Improves Your Nutrition & Health

You already have the health benefits of cooking at a lower temperature but also the more tender the meat the easier it is to digest and absorb. The best slow cooker meals are usually traditional and tend to contain real whole foods. The sooner you can get these real foods into your diet the better your health will be. After you have your choice of meat the next main ingredient in a slow cooker recipe is usually some form of broth or stock. Bone broth or stock have some tremendous health benefits including:

  • Heals your gut and promotes good digestion
  • Inhibits infection (the reason everyone turns to chicken soup when sick)
  • Reduces joint pain and inflammation
  • Promotes strong bones
  • Promotes healthy hair and nails

Now when you start adding in vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, potato or sweet potatoes, onion and lots of herbs you are getting one of the best meals you can eat. You get a great combination of protein, soluble fiber, antioxidants and micronutrients all in one shot.

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How To Put This All Together

This is where it gets really easy, there’s really no wrong way to combine different ingredients like I listed above but here’s a good go to recipe to get you started:

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds of beef chuck cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound small potatoes halved
  • 3 medium carrots cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme and 1/2 cup chopped parsley leaves

Directions:

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  1. Toss the beef with paprika, salt and pepper and coat in flour shaking off excess. Heat oil on medium-high heat in a skillet and cook until all sides are brown, around 3 minutes. Put the beef, potatoes, carrots and onions into slow cooker pot and stir together.
  2. Heat some more oil in a skillet on medium heat, stir in tomato paste for one minute, and wine and flour and whisk together. Add in beef broth and thyme and whisk together until thick or for around 4 minutes making a gravy.
  3. Pour the gravy into the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. Season with salt and pepper, stir in parsley and can be served in bowls with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle of paprika.
  4. Feel like a hero

Wrapping It Up

A slow cooker is easy, fast and cheap, just like me. You can get them anywhere and they can really help you in the kitchen while at the same time improving your nutrition. Like I mentioned before if you’re looking to save money on food costs this little beauty will be your best friend. If you want to learn more about nutrition, the foods you should look to include in your diet and some more recipes you can get my Healthy Eating Starter Kit as a free download to get you up and running!

Featured photo credit: Janine via flickr.com

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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

Video Summary

Why is it important to train up our core strength?

There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

One Exercise, multiple benefits

There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

What will happen when you start doing planks every day

    1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

    Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

    • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
    • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
    • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
    • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

    2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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      Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

      Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

      3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

        Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

        4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

          Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

          A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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          A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

          On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

          5. You’ll improve overall balance

            Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

            6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

              Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

              7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                How to hold a plank position

                1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                  How to improve your plank time gradually

                  1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                  2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                  3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                  Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                  Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                  You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                  • Prolapse
                  • After prolapse surgery
                  • Pelvic pain conditions
                  • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                  • Previous childbirth
                  • Overweight

                  Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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