The Health Benefits of Using a Pressure Cooker
What if I told you that there was a way to cook your food with the following results:
- Up to 90 percent less cooking time
- 90 percent nutrient retention
- Greater digestibility
- Fewer harmful cooking byproducts
And what if I told you that this method will also produce some of the most succulent, flavorful and easy-to-make meals that you have ever set on the table?
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it’s not! In fact, this unique way of cooking has been around for more than 300 years, since its invention by a French physician in 1679.
What is this cooking method? Pressure cooking!
You’ve probably tasted foods prepared in a pressure cooker before, perhaps from your mother or grandmother. But you may have shied away from using one due to their “dangerous” reputation. The truth is that while there are some stories about “exploding” pressure cookers, these stories almost invariably relate to the early-generation models used in the 1940s and 50s. Today’s pressure cookers (Amazon link) are virtually foolproof and are no less safe than any other kitchen tool when used properly.
So, let’s take a look at the many benefits of using a pressure cooker:
#1 – Using a Pressure Cooker Provides Superior Nutrient Retention and Bioavailability
Researchers estimate the nutrients in our foods have declined dramatically (up to 50 percent in some foods) due to the depletion of nutrients in the soil. When you combine that with many cooking methods, which destroy or drain nutrients away from your food, the result is meals that just don’t provide the nutritional value your body needs.
A pressure cooker can greatly reduce the time it takes to cook your food. This directly correlates with the loss of fewer heat-sensitive nutrients. Let’s take a look at the research:
- In Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, researchers found that pressure cooking was the best method for retaining both vitamin C and beta-carotene in spinach and amaranth
- A study published in The Journal of Food Science found that pressure cooked broccoli retained 90 percent of its vitamin C content. Compare this to boiling (66 percent retention) or steaming (78 percent).
- A study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology found that pressure cooking increased the amount of beneficial phenolics in bananas. Researchers believe that the high pressure broke the banana’s cell walls, making the nutrients more bioavailable.
But using a pressure cooker won’t just help boost the levels of nutrients you get from your food… it can also help reduce health harming compounds, as well.
#2 – Use a Pressure Cooker Helps to Reduce Health-Harming Compounds (Including Acrylamide, HCA’s, Lectins and Phytic Acid)
Because a pressure cooker basically uses “steam under pressure”, foods stay moist. They are literally bathed in steam as they cook. This translates to juicier, better tasting food. It also helps eliminate two cancer-causing compounds (acrylamide and heterocyclic amines) which are often produced by other high-heat cooking methods.
And if you’re concerned about lectins and phytic acid – two anti-nutrients in grains, legumes and pseudograins like quinoa which can bind to minerals and make them indigestible – the pressure cooker can help there too.
In fact, another study published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition showed that when peas were soaked overnight and then boiled, their phytic acid content was reduced by 29 percent. On the other hand, when they were soaked overnight and then pressure cooked, the reduction in this unhealthy anti-nutrient was almost double (54 percent).
Similar results were found with lectins in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
#3 – Pressure Cooking Helps Boost Digestibility
As you may have heard before, you’re not what you eat… but rather, what you absorb.
Boosting the digestibility of your food is a key to maximizing the potential nutritional value of every bite.
And the pressure cooker can help you accomplish this too.
The combination of steam and pressure can make even the toughest meats succulent and tender. And tenderness is a key sign that a food is easy for your body to digest.
In the case of the hard-to-break-down protein in legumes, the pressure cooker has been found to increase the digestibility by as much as 84 percent.
#4 – Save Time and Money with a Pressure Cooker
If all of these benefits aren’t enough to get you pressure cooking, consider this: You’ll also save time and money.
You can cook a whole chicken to fall-off-the-bone tender in just half an hour… make butter-knife tender shredded pork or beef in less than 2 hours… make gelatin-rich bone broth in 30 minutes… cook a large winter squash in 10 minutes… as well as Brussels sprouts and most other veggies in less than five!
If you don’t have a pressure cooker yet, there are many high-quality, inexpensive options available. The third-generation Instant Pot is the one I use. The vessel is made of stainless steel, which is another benefit if you are concerned about the leaching that can occur in ceramic slow-cookers or the chemicals in non-stick coatings. The cost is about $115 and it comes with a variety of safety features and ease-of-use benefits.
Once you start cooking these fast, nutrient-rich, fork-tender meals with your pressure cooker, you’ll never want to use anything else!
We want to hear from you! Do you use a pressure cooker? If so, what kind do you use and what is your favorite dish to make?