The Benefits of a Slow-cooked Meal

Slow-cooking refers to any food preparation method that relies on low heat and cooks over a long period of time. Traditionally, it was done with low-heat oven or smoker.

Slow cookerToday, slow-cooker or “crock pot” is designed specifically for this purpose. To prepare a meal with slow-cooker is simple: simply put all your ingredients in the crock pot, close the lid, switch it on, and leave it for hours. The long cooking time makes the foods extremely tender and full of flavor. The most obvious benefits of this cooking method are convenient and time-saving if well-planned.

More commonly, slow-cooking technique is used to cook meat. Can it be used to cook vegetables as well?  Will the long cooking process destroys the nutritional values of vegetables?

Actually, some vegetables prepared in slow cooker can have even more nutrients than eating them raw. Research has shown that cooked tomatoes, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, cabbage, peppers, and many vegetables supply more antioxidants than they do when raw [1].

Cooked tomatoes contain higher level of lycopene than raw tomatoes

Cooked tomatoes contain higher level of lycopene than raw tomatoes

Never the less, some vegetables, including broccoli and watercress, are better in their raw form as cooking can damage anti-cancer compounds called glucosinolates in these vegetables [2]. Therefore, the choice of vegetables used for slow cooking is important. Make sure to select heat-friendly vegetables for slow-cooking.

While it is a fact than normal cooking process can cause water-soluble nutrients such as vitamin C to leach into cooking water and escape through steam; slow-cooker, however, can trap steam with its glass lid. This prevents the escape of the leached nutrients. As long as you eat the full content including the broth, you will still consume all the nutrients from the vegetables [3].

Another benefit of slow-cooked meal is that it can be easily digested by our body. Through the slow-cooking process, the proteins are properly denatured and many of the anti-nutrients are destroyed. Nutrients become readily absorbed by our digestive tract. This process increases the number of calories in the food available to the human digestive system and reduces the energy cost of digestion [4]. Therefore, it is especially suitable for those with weak digestive system.

Try slow-cooking today!  It is particularly useful for working professionals or busy housewives. Imagine coming house from a busy day and immediately you can enjoy a bowl of nutritious hot stew!

Tips for slow-cooking success [5]

  • Cut ingredients into similar-sized pieces to cook them evenly
  • Thaw meat, poultry or frozen vegetables before cooking
  • Prepare food the night before and store in the fridge to save time
  • Fill your slow cooker between half and ¾ full for the food to cook evenly
  • Use about ½ to 1 cup less liquid than for other cooking methods
  • Soak dried legumes, such as lentils and beans, overnight before adding to your slow cooker.
  • Remove cooked food from the slow cooker before placing in the fridge.
  • Don’t reheat slow-cooked meals in your slow cooker

Recipe: Pumpkin and Black-eye Bean Slow-Cooked Stew

StewPreparation Time:15 min
Cooking Time: 3 – 6 hours
Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 200g pumpkin
  • 6 dried red dates (Jujube)
  • ¼ cup black-eye beans
  • 500ml water
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 small carrot stick
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • Himalayan salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 6 leaves of baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil

Preparation:

  1. Soak black-eye beans overnight.
  2. Cut pumpkin into 1cm x 1cm cube. Keep the skin.
  3. Cut carrot, tomato, onion, and celery into similar-size cube.
  4. Place all cut ingredients and washed jujube into slow cooker.
  5. Cook for 3 hours in “High” setting or 6 hours in “Low” setting.
  6. Stir in coconut oil before serving
  7. Garnish with baby spinach

References:

  1. Subramanian, S. (2009). “Fact or Fiction: Raw veggies are healthier than cooked ones”. Scientific America. scientificamerican.com March 31 2009
  2. Torrens, K. (n.d.). “Raw vs cooked”. BBC Good Food Magazine. bbcgoodfood.com
  3. Roizen, M. & Oz, M. (2009). “Slow-cooked vegetables can keep their nutrients, if prepared correctly: You Docs”. Northeast Ohio Medical Industry and Hospital News, cleveland.com
  4. Shaw, J. (2009). “Evolution by Fire”. Harvard Magazine, Nov-Dec 2009 p9-10
  5. Southan, M. (2011). “Complete guide to slow-cooking”. Taste.com.au. November 2011 , Page 112
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