Is the Instant Pot pressure cooker healthy?

posted in: Cookware | 4

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I recently bought a pressure cooker called the Instant Pot. In this post, I’d like to share with you how I concluded that an Instant Pot pressure cooker is a good choice for people seeking a healthy lifestyle.

pressure cooker

Before I bought an Instant Pot, I looked into whether pressure cookers preserve the nutritional value of food. I also investigated the safety of the materials used in their construction.

 

How does a pressure cooker work?

 

At first, to start cooking, it takes a few minutes for a pressure cooker to get pressurized. The Instant Pot pressure cooker has a valve that releases traces of steam as the pressure increases inside the pressure cooker.

 

During the cooking process, steam does not escape, which significantly shortens the cooking time and makes the food moist and delicious.

 

The food also remains moist because under pressure, the boiling point of water is raised. You can think about it this way. At high altitudes, where air pressure is low, water reaches a boiling point at a lower temperature. In a pressure cooker, where the pressure is high, the moisture in the dish and the food gets to the boiling point at a higher temperature.

 

As you might remember, the boiling point of water is 100º C or 212º F at sea level. The working temperature inside the Instant Pot using the high-pressure setting is 115º C – 118º C (239º F – 244º F). The boiling point at the low-pressure setting is 110º C – 112º C (229º F – 233º F).

 

Does a pressure cooker destroy nutrients?

 

Before I learned how a pressure cooker works, I was concerned about the impact it has on the nutritional value of food. However, I learned that this is not a problem, for two reasons.

 

First, even though the boiling point is raised, the maximum temperature is still well below temperatures used in conventional ovens to cook foods.

 

Second, I looked into the scientific literature for answers and this is what I found.

 

This study concludes that broccoli loses 47% of its nutrition when cooked in a pressure cooker while it loses 66% when boiled, and 87% when microwaved (yet another reason to avoid microwaves).

 

This study found that “when water-soaked beans were cooked in a regular pan, the highest percentage of bioaccessible iron obtained was 8.92%, whereas when they were cooked in a pressure cooker without previous soaking, the highest percentage was 44.33%.” This means that you will absorb over 4 times more iron from beans cooked in a pressure cooker versus a regular pan.

 

This study concluded that pressure-cooking of Bathua and fenugreek leaves results in better retention of beta-carotene and vitamin C as compared with open pan cooking, meaning that pressure cooking is a good way of preserving the nutritional value of food.

 

The safety of the Instant Pot pressure cooker materials

 

There is a removable bowl inside the Instant Pot pressure cooker where the food is cooked. Pressure cooker bowls are normally made of aluminum, ceramic non-stick, or stainless steel. Out of these three, I recommend stainless steel. The Instant Pot uses stainless steel – and this is one of the main reasons I chose it.

 

Stainless Steel

 

The stainless steel used in the Instant Pot pressure cooker is 18/8 gauge. 18/8 stainless steel means that it is comprised of 18% chromium and 8% nickel; this is considered “food grade” stainless steel.  Let’s talk about the safety of stainless steel.

 

I use stainless steel as one of the safer cookware options available; however, stainless steel is not perfect. Stainless Steel leaches chromium, nickel, and iron into food during cooking. While iron and chromium are essential nutrients for which stainless steel may be useful, nickel is not needed for our health. Moreover, some people may be allergic to nickel.

 

Here is something exciting. This study determined that the amounts of chromium and nickel significantly increase with longer cooking times. Since a pressure cooker significantly shortens cooking times, the study concludes that leaching will be minimized when using a pressure cooker. To take advantage of that, I recommend using the “quick release” method described in the instructions versus a “natural release.” Which reminds me, be sure to read all instructions very carefully, including, of course, the safety instructions, before using your unit.

 

Heavy metals in the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

 

I purchased this model: Instant Pot IP-DUO60 7-in-1 Multi-Functional Pressure Cooker, 6Qt/1000W. This model was tested by Tamara Rubin, the producer and director of the movie called MisLead: America’s Secret Epidemic. Apparently, she tested it with XRF technology, which shows the amounts of heavy metals contained in the material tested.

 

These are the results of that testing, as reported by Carissa of Creative Green Living:

 

  • Stainless steel inner cooking pot: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Stainless steel lid (outside of lid): Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Inner portion of steam release valve: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Anti-Block shield: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Power Cable: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Float Valve: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Steam Release: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Steaming rack: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Plastic tools: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Exterior pot: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Heating unit disk: 1,400 PPM lead +/- 90 and 46 PPM cadmium +/- 11
  • Safety button in base of unit: 303 PPM for Lead +/- 36, Non-detect for Cadmium and Mercury

 

As you can see, all the parts that come in contact with food have been tested and were negative for lead, cadmium, and mercury.

 

Functionality of the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

 

I was pleased to see that the Instant Pot has a variety of other uses, in addition to being a pressure cooker.

 

Instant Pot Pressure Cooker

 

In addition to being used as a pressure cooker, the Instant Pot can be used as a slow cooker. As mentioned above, stainless steel is not a perfect solution. However, I’d rather use it than ceramic for slow cooking. With stainless steel, we generally know what we’re getting. However, ceramics can be contaminated with lead and cadmium, and really the only way of knowing for sure is to test it yourself. You can’t really learn this from calling the manufacturers, because if you call them, the customer service person with whom you will speak will probably inform you that there is no “added” lead but won’t have enough information to be able to tell you whether or not your ceramic insert might be contaminated with heavy metals, including naturally-occurring lead and cadmium.

 

In addition, the Instant Pot pressure cooker has a sauté function, which I found helpful. There is also a function to make yogurt that I am looking forward to trying out. By the way, there is another model of the Instant Pot pressure cooker that does not allow you to make yogurt that is $20 cheaper.

 

And lastly, I love the fact that I can make bone broth in a few hours (as opposed to 24 – 48) without worrying about leaving it on the stove and making the whole house smell like soup.

 

Where the Instant Pot pressure cooker is made

 

They are made in China. Generally, I am not a big fan of products made in China; however, this is one of those cases where, after having done my due diligence, I am comfortable recommending it even though it is made in China.

 

Where to Buy the Instant Pot pressure cooker

 

For more information and recipes, please visit Instantpot.com

 

The model I bought

 

 

The cheaper model without yogurt function

 

 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  I will receive a small commission from your Amazon purchases.  The price to you is the same. Thank you!

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4 Responses

  1. pallavi paurav

    Thank you Irina. You rock with your posts. I always look forward to your new posts .
    I just dont have space for one more appliance however I need pressure cooker. Do you have recommendation of gas stove pressure cookers ? I see Tamara’s blog that lots of pressure cookers have been tested positive for lead so I want to be sure before I get one.

    • Hi, Pallavi: Thank you for asking. I don’t have a recommendation for a gas stove pressure cooker right now. But I put it on the list of things to research. Is anybody else interested in a gas stove pressure cooker? ~Irina

  2. Hi Irina! I just bought POWER PRESSURE COOKER XL and then read your blog. Im very concern about it. What do you think about this pressure cooker? THANK YOU!!!

    • Hi, Maryna: I am not familiar with this brand. Since you have it, could you tell us what materials come in contact with food? Does it also stainless steel bowl? ~Irina

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