Never Make This One Popular Food in Your Slow Cooker, FDA Warns

Eating just a few bites of this food from the slow cooker could be toxic.

Your slow cooker is probably one of the most beloved tools in your kitchen. Whether you're looking to let the flavors of your chili build all day long or you have a busy day ahead and want dinner ready to go later, your slow cooker is there to get the job done. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against making one popular food in your slow cooker because doing so could be toxic. To see what you should always prep before putting it in your slow cooker, read on.

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Never cook beans in your slow cooker without prepping them first.

crock pot silver slow cooker

Beans are an essential part of some of the best slow cooker recipes, including chilis, dips, soups, and stews. However, the FDA warns that you can't just toss dry beans into the slow cooker without properly soaking and boiling them first. In the FDA's Bad Bug Book, the agency warns people to never use slow cookers to cook beans.

"Don't use slow cookers (the kinds of pots that you plug in and that cook food at low temperatures for several hours) to cook these beans or dishes that contain them," the FDA warns. The danger lies in that slow cookers don't get hot enough to destroy lectins, toxins in beans that resist being broken down in the human digestive system, according to Harvard's School of Public Health.

Registered dietitian Jeanette Kimszal, RDN, NLC, says temperatures in the slow cooker generally don't exceed 185 degrees Fahrenheit, which is not not enough to kill the toxin. Not only will the temperature not get rid of the dangerous substance, according to Kimszal, but heat as high as 176 degrees Fahrenheit may also trigger a five-fold increase in the toxicity of certain beans.

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Red kidney beans have the highest concentration of lectins, so it's especially important to prepare them properly.

Soaking kidney and black beans

Any bean can contain enough lectins to make you sick, but the FDA says that red kidney beans have the highest concentration of lectins, which makes them the most dangerous to eat without proper preparation.

If you consume lectins in their natural state, you're bound to experience negative side effects, the experts at Harvard's School of Public Health warn. They say that this can occur after eating just a few undercooked beans.

Side effects of eating undercooked beans include nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

woman on couch with stomach pain
Milos Dimic / iStock

Kimszal warns that symptoms of lectin poisoning generally appear in just a few hours of consumption.

According to the FDA, the most common symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Nutritional therapy practitioner Makenna Hennell adds that lectins can also penetrate the gut lining, leading to autoimmune conditions and causing bloating and systemic inflammation.

While some cases of lectin poisoning have required hospitalization, most people recover within three to four hours, the FDA says.

Soak your beans for at least five hours and then boil them for 30 minutes to get rid of the toxins.

Soaking beans

In order to avoid getting sick, you need to properly prepare dry beans or purchase canned beans that have already been detoxed. Physician and researcher Terry Simpson, MD, warns that soaking beans alone is not enough to kill lectins—you also need to boil them.

The FDA cited a U.K.-based study that suggests beans should be soaked in water for at least five hours before removing the water and boiling the beans in a fresh pot of water for at least 30 minutes. Once this process is complete, you can safely add the beans to your favorite slow cooker recipe.

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