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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

More by this author

Jamie Logie

Jamie is a personal trainer and health coach with a degree in Kinesiology and Food and Nutrition.

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Last Updated on October 14, 2019

10 Simple Ways To Increase Metabolism Without Working Out

10 Simple Ways To Increase Metabolism Without Working Out

When it comes to increasing your metabolism, getting a good workout a couple of times a week is only one of many players. If you’re not a fan of lifting heavy stuff, then you’re only expending extra energy for that, say, one hour of that specific day. But what about the remaining 23 hours? How can you make sure you’re burning blubber all throughout the day? Here are 10 simple ways to increase your metabolism without working out.

1. Stand More

Many health practitioners claim that sitting is the new smoking. We sit in the office, we sit in the car, we sit when we get home. It’s not only terrible for your health and posture, but you require a lot less energy when seated. So, a good way to ignite the furnace a bit is to stand as much as possible through out the day. You work in an office? Put two boxes under your keyboard or laptop. There are many free solutions to making a standing desk—so you have no excuses. When you’ve gotten used to standing while working you will quickly find that it’s easier to stay engaged as well—you’re less inclined to drift away mentally. In fact, this post was written standing.

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2. Gamify Your Life

Toys such as the Fitbit or Nike Fuelband, or apps like Argus, can help you increase your metabolism by giving you an incentive to walk more. Argus, and other apps like it, use the accelerometer in your smartphone to measure your steps and let you know when you’ve hit your daily goal. Fitbit and the Nike Fuelband do the same, but have a host of other functions to make being healthy a tad more fun.

3. Eat Your Veggies

Fibrous vegetables like cauliflower and broccoli increase your metabolism by putting your digestive system on overdrive. It just simply requires more energy to break down the tough fiber of these nutritional powerhouses. You’ll also start feeling like a rock star from the overload of vitamins and minerals from eating more vegetables.

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4. Eat Protein

This is one of those rules that’s not to be misunderstood. While it does boost your metabolism to eat more protein, it should be instead of other foods, not on top of other foods. If you’re stuffing your face with a chicken breast when you’re not hungry just to boost your metabolism, you’re doing it wrong. Of the three macro-nutrients—fats, carbs and protein—protein is the one that requires the most energy to break down. So, if you switch out some of those cheese sandwiches with a few hardboiled eggs you’re on the right path.

5. Drink Loads Of Cold Water

Drinking a few glasses of ice-cold water in the morning can boost your metabolism quite effectively. Your body expends energy on constantly staying in homeostasis when it comes to temperature, so if you chug a bunch of icy water you’re making your body expend more energy on keeping itself at the same temperature. Using temperature to expend more energy is called thermogenesis and it’s one of the most efficient ways of cranking up your calorie burning—more on this further down.

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6. Spice Up Your Meals

Spices like cayenne, chilli, ginger and turmeric ignite your metabolism and make your meals a bit more exciting. If you make it a habit to add a little bit of spice to each of your meals it can be a habit that turns you into a fat-burning furnace.

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    7. Drink Caffeine

    No, drinking loads of coffee is not bad for you. The sugar and heavy cream you could be inclined to chase it down with might be though. Caffeine helps mobilize—that is, get rid of—adipose tissue, or fat. It also helps athletic performance, and some individuals report it to have appetite-curbing effects. If you’re very sensitive to stimulants, try not to have caffeine too close to bedtime though, as it can mess with your sleep.

    8. Plan Your Meals Around Exercise

    I know the title of this post says “…Without Working Out” but this trick technically is more a nutritional trick than an exercise-related one. When you’ve exerted yourself and, hopefully, broken down some muscle fibers, your protein synthesis, or the rate at which you build muscle, increases. So, having heavy meals after a workout will make sure those calories get stored in the right places. This is one of the reasons it’s a good idea to get a heavy session in before the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

    9. Do Intermittent Fasting

    It’s long been said you should always eat a heavy breakfast as it kick starts your metabolic rate. There hasn’t been any study proving this though. There have only been behavioral studies correlating obesity with breakfast skippers, but it’s always been a case of confusing correlation with causation. It’s not the fact that you skip breakfast that makes you fat; it’s the poor food choices you make throughout the rest of your day. Studies have shown that fat burning increases the longer you get into a fast, obviously depending on the body fat level of the individual. In fact, in one study lowered metabolic rate did not occur until 60 hours into a fast. Intermittent fasting is very much one of the bigger wins when it comes to increasing your metabolism.

    10. Use Cold Exposure

    For some reason it’s been common knowledge for a while that sweating increases metabolic rate. Scientist have known for a while though that the opposite is actually true; exposing yourself to cold temperatures increase your calorie burn significantly. Just slight shifts in your home temperature can mean pounds lost or gained when you gather the numbers yearly. How else do you think swimmer Michael Phelps is able to eat 12,000 calories a day? Obviously, he swims hours each day, but it’s not just the exercise he gets from swimming that allows him to consume such quantities of food, it’s also the amount of energy the body has to expend to keep itself at its baseline temperature in the cold water. So, taking ice-cold showers, decreasing the temperature of your home, or swimming in cool pools will help you burn a lot more calories.

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