Slow-cookers are definitely having a moment, and it’s not hard to see why. They maximize flavor and minimize effort, making it easy to enjoy a delicious, home-cooked meal. Plus, they’re safe to use and easy to clean. What’s not to love?
Well, some slow cookers can actually harm you. And to make sure your slow cooker meals aren’t full of toxins, please keep reading.
Slow cooking, or crock-potting, is a cooking method that’s been used for thousands of years. It’s a great way to get absolute nutritional extraction while allowing you to save on both time and effort.
But depending on your slow cooker and the foods you’re cooking in it, you can actually increase your risk for consuming toxins.
Watch out for BPA
BPA, or bisphenol-A, is a chemical added both to food and food containers, like canned goods and plastic containers.
Unfortunately, BPA can break free from the container and mix with the food, which you then eat.
Why is BPA bad for you? It’s said to imitate the hormone estrogen. And when it enters the body, it can influence the reproductive system and body weight. It can also lead to more serious conditions like a pre-diabetic state and even certain cancers.
Therefore, if you are using canned foods in your crockpot, be sure they are packaged in BPA-free containers. Otherwise, you could be consuming high amounts of BPA in your diet, and consuming estrogen-like compounds that can disrupt hormonal and overall health.
Phytic acid is naturally occurring in certain grains, beans, and legumes. The only trouble is phytic acid is an anti-nutrient compound and when we eat it, it blocks the absorption of nutrients.
It doesn’t take long to realize that many popular crockpot recipes rely on phytic acid-rich foods like grains, beans, and legumes. Think chili, rice puddings, baked beans and more.
How can you make sure the phytic acid in the crockpot ingredients doesn’t prevent you from obtaining all the nutrients in your meal?
Before you put grains, beans or legumes in the crockpot, soak and sprout them first. If you don’t have time to do that, you can also buy pre-sprouted beans and grains to make life easier.
You may have heard that red kidney beans are toxic because of the lectin within them. But here’s what you need to know. Lectin is a natural compound in food.
What’s more, many lectins are non-toxic, such as those from tomatoes, lentils, peas, beans, chickpeas, fava beans, and other common foods.
So, why are people scared of red kidney beans? Well, there were some stories of people getting sick from red kidney beans, but this is because they were eaten when they were either raw or under-cooked.
To avoid lectin poisoning, it’s recommended to soak raw beans for at least five hours and then boil them in fresh water for at 10 to 15 minutes. Doing so destroys the lectins.
But if you’ve ever cooked beans this way, you know that beans aren’t really edible if they’ve only been cooked for 10 to 15 minutes. Therefore, cooking them for up to an hour, not only makes them edible but also destroys harmful lectins.
Lead exposure is a very real and dangerous concern when it comes to slow cookers. That’s because lead was commonly used in the earliest crockpots and it may still be used in current ones today.
One type of lead, called lead oxide, was used to make the inside of the crockpot vessel shiny and glossy. Lead was also used to brighten colors. Therefore, f your old crockpot is bright red, orange or yellow, it might have higher levels of lead.
In fact, as many as 20% of slow cookers may leach measurable amounts of lead in your slow-cooked meal.
When ceramic vessels are heated to 26° Celsius, they release 10 times the amount of lead as when they’re at room temperature. The typical crockpot cooks food at much higher temperatures – typically, crockpots heat to 121° Celsius. On top of this, we cook meals for much longer than 10 minutes.
In addition to high temperatures and long cooking times, acidic ingredients, like vinegar, tomatoes, and citrus juices can draw out lead from the ceramic vessel even more.
Finally, if the ceramic inside the crockpot is worn or cracking, it can induce lead leaching.
Health risks of lead
Most of us know that lead is a dangerous heavy metal to consume. However, let’s take a quick look at what the National Health Services (NHS) says about it:
“Lead poisoning can affect almost all parts of the body, including the central nervous system, kidneys, and reproductive organs. It commonly causes weakness and abdominal discomfort and less often causes abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, foo and wrist drop and anemia. In children, especially, it impairs cognitive development, which can lead to learning disabilities and behavioral problems. At very high levels, it can even result in hallucinations, coma, seizures, and death.”
How can you be sure you’re not using a lead-leaching slow cooker? First, call the manufacturer of your slow cooker, and see if the product was tested for lead.
Today, most manufacturers say their slow cookers are in compliance with government guidelines. However, even if the levels are “low”, it can still be unsafe for humans. That’s because there is no such thing as safe levels of lead in the blood.
Therefore, even if a manufacturer says their product has a 1 mcg/mL leach level, it doesn’t take into account cooking temperatures, cooking timing, and acidity levels of the food, which can lead to higher levels of lead in the food.
When in doubt about your slow cooker, it’s better to throw it away and replace it altogether. The risk of lead poisoning is just not worth it.
Safe slow cooker options
If you love slow cookers and the convenience they bring, consider trying these safer options.
- Rice cooker and yogurt maker
- Suitable for crockpot or stove top
Slow cooking is a wonderful way to enjoy healthy, nourishing meals all winter long. Just be sure your crockpot is lead-free. And remember to seek out BPA-free ingredients, and soak your ingredients whenever necessary.
Doing these things will ensure that you’re getting lots of nutrients and the least amount of toxins!