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Sold on Slow Cooking?

I have purchased a slow cooker (low or high heat for 4 - 6 hours) and use it for cooking vegetables. Does slow cooking destroy more nutrients than stove top cooking?

Answer (Published 12/5/2008)

Slow cooking does not destroy more nutrients. In fact, the lower temperatures may help preserve nutrients that can be lost when food is cooked rapidly at high heat. What’s more, food cooked slowly often tastes better. I recommend slow cooking (in what used to be called crock pots) to those who say that the biggest barrier to healthful meals is lack of time. New versions of the crock pot have programmable functions that allow you to put fresh, healthy, organic ingredients into them in the morning and have a delicious soup or stew ready to eat when you get home. The cookers can keep the food hot and fresh even if family members have to eat at different times. Slow cooking can even help you cut grocery bills (and is much more economical than take-out) because you can use inexpensive ingredients such as dried beans that have been soaked overnight rather than more costly canned beans. There is no end of healthy recipes that lend themselves to slow cooking.

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Another advantage of slow cooking is that it is less likely to expose you to advanced glycation end products (AGEs), toxins the body absorbs when we consume grilled, fried or broiled meats, cheeses and other foods of animal origin and any foods cooked at high temperatures. AGEs may give food appetizing tastes and smells but in the body have been linked to inflammation, insulin resistance, diabetes, vascular and kidney disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

The only way you can reduce your intake of AGEs is by steaming or boiling foods or by making stews – the key is to cook at low heat and to maintain the water content of food. In animal studies, cutting AGEs intake in half without changing the content of the diet increased the lifespan of the animals, compared to those who were fed the same diet prepared in the usual manner.

Enjoy your new slow cooker! It should give you and your family lots of healthy eating pleasure.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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