Does a Pressure Cooker Destroy Nutrients?

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Do pressure cookers destroy nutrients
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Since I wrote about my new favorite kitchen appliance, the Instant Pot pressure cooker, I’ve gotten a  lot of comments and questions about if pressure cooking is a healthy way to cook food or if it destroys nutrients.

It is certainly a logical and valid question… in fact it was the question that kept me from trying a pressure cooker for years until I finally decided to research it, and what I found was fascinating.

Growing up, I considered a pressure cooker an antiquated kitchen tool that elderly relatives used and that was most useful for canning. Some pressure cookers can double as a canner, which is probably why my elderly relatives used their pressure cooker more than those in my generation, but it turns out I had missed out on a lot of important points in my quick judgement!

How Does a Pressure Cooker Work?

A pressure cooker is a pressurized (of course) pot that cooks food using a combination of heat and steam. While it would seem that high heat is required, the steam and pressure actually provide much of the cooking power. A pressure cooker has a valve that seals in the steam, creating a high-pressure environment. This is beneficial because it increases the boiling point of the water or liquid in the pot and forces moisture into the food in the form of steam. Both of these help the food cook much more quickly.

How does this work?

Consider this- water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes. This is because the lack of pressure allows the water to boil at a lower temperature. You may have noticed special high-altitude cooking instructions on certain recipes and this is partially why. The lower the temperature at which water boils, the faster foods start to dry out and the more difficult it can be to cook. This is also why it takes longer to cook food at higher altitude.

Pressure cooking essentially does the opposite of altitude, it increases the boiling point of water and decreases the cooking time. Since steam can’t escape from the pressure cooker, you avoid water-loss and are able to cook foods without losing heat.

One big advantage of a pressure cooker is that it can cook foods much more quickly and energy efficiently than other methods like stove top, the oven, or even a slow-cooker.

Does Pressure Cooking Use Really High Heat?

This is where some of the confusion starts to come in. Many people assume that since pressure cooking cuts down the cook time so dramatically, it must use a much higher heat. This isn’t the case at all.

As described above, the shortened cooking time is a product of the increased pressure, not increased temperature at all. When researching, the highest recorded boiling point of water in a pressure cooker I could find was 250 degrees. That is still lower than the temperature that most foods are prepared at in the oven or stove top and about the same as a slow-cooker.

In other words, a pressure cooker may cook foods at a lower temperature than most other cooking methods, utilizing the pressure to improve cooking time and efficiency.

Does a Pressure Cooker Destroy Nutrients?

I completely understand this question, as I had the same one. At first glance, the idea of cooking foods more quickly seems too good to be true and it just seems logical that there is a downside, such as a loss of nutrients.

Fortunately, in researching this question, I found that the reverse is actually true!

Readers have asked if a pressure cooker uses high heat (see above) and if this creates the similar negative effects of high-heat methods like grilling and broiling. Again, it makes sense until we delve into the science of heat and pressure and understand that the increased pressure is what creates the faster cooking environment, not higher heat.

To reiterate, pressure cookers actually cook at a lower temperature than most other methods (steaming, roasting, etc.) but do it more efficiently. All cooking methods reduce nutrients to some degree, but I was surprised how much of a difference the cooking method could make!

In fact, a 1995 study found that pressure cooking preserved nutrients in food more than other cooking methods. Another study measured levels of Vitamin C and B-Vitamins in food and found these levels of vitamin retention (the amount remaining in food after cooking):

  • Boiling reduced nutrients the most with a range of 40-75% retained (up to a 60% loss of nutrients!)
  • Roasting and steaming preserved up to 90% of nutrients (but in some measurements, almost half of nutrients were lost!)
  • Pressure cooking did the best job at preserving nutrients with a 90-95% retention rate

This makes sense when you think about it. Since pressure cooking doesn’t require a much higher temperature and shortens the cooking time, there is less time for nutrient loss. For this reason, pressure cooking may actually preserve nutrients better than other methods of cooking.

There are a couple of notable exceptions to this rule:

Pressure cooking does seem to deactivate certain properties in food like phytic acid. I explained in this post about traditional preparation methods for grains how reducing phytic acid and lectins makes the nutrients in foods like grains and beans more absorbable and less likely to irritate the digestive system. Pressure cooking seems to do a better job of deactivating these substances than other cooking methods.

An Important Caveat

There have been conflicting studies that showed that higher levels of nutrients were lost with pressure cooking, but follow up research revealed that most of the nutrients were actually just transferred to the cooking liquid.

For this reason, I make a conscious effort to use only as much cooking liquid as is needed when using a pressure cooker and to re-use the liquid in the meal by making a gravy, drinkable broth or sauce of some kind.

What Can You Cook?

I’ve personally only experimented with roasts, broth, meats, soups, stews, vegetables and rice in the pressure cooker (this is the one I use), but there are instructions and recipes for cooking virtually everything in a pressure cooker (including cheesecake and hard-boiled eggs!).

Many people love the ability to cook rice or beans in under an hour in a pressure cooker but I love that I can prepare a roast in under an hour!

Pressure Cooking: Bottom Line

Like any method of cooking, pressure cooking does destroy some of the nutrients in food, but it actually preserves more than any other cooking method.

With newer electric pressure cookers (like the Instant Pot), pressure cooking is a convenient and healthy way to get food on the table for your family more quickly and easily while still preserving the nutrients in your food.

Do you use a pressure cooker? What is your favorite way to use it?


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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


143 responses to “Does a Pressure Cooker Destroy Nutrients?”

    1. Jamie Larrison Avatar

      Possibly since they can reach temperatures of up to 250 degrees F. The healthiest option would be to choose foods from a healthy source that have a low risk of bacterial contamination though.

  1. Gail Tighe Avatar
    Gail Tighe

    I cook my leftover chicken carcasses in my InstaPot, bones and all. I save the bones, skin, and scraps from our dinners in a gallon ziplock bag in the freezer. I’ve been known to throw in rib and pork chop bones too.
    When I have a full ziplock bag, I empty the frozen stuff in the ziplock bag into the IP, cook them on high pressure for about 2 hours to 2-1/2 hours. Let it cool, then run my hands through the cooled chicken to mush looking for the bones that are still there, and just squish the bones up with my hands, they mush up really easy. I also save leftover veggies from our dinners and mix them into the mush. I then put it into containers that will last my dogs about 3-4 days, put 1 in the fridge and freeze the rest. My dogs love it added to their dry food in the morning. (I free feed)
    It was good to read about the nutrients not cooking away. thank you.

  2. Daniel Avatar

    I’ve had a Fissler pressure cooker for about 10 years. It’s stove top. It needs about 2 cups of water or it will burn any food sitting on the bottom. Recipes that call for sautéing or browning in the pressure cooker…not a good idea in mine. I use a pan to sauté or brown. I add any oil after I add the water. Keep the bottom clean, have enough water, and you avoid burning.

    Just used mine 2 days ago to make vegetable stew. Start with a quart of chicken stock and add lot’s of veggies, some diced ham, navy beans, lentils, spit peas. Sautéed the onions and peppers…and diced ham in a pan. Add last. Cook on high for 30 minutes. I slow release (wait for it to cool off naturally). The beans are done after 30 min. I do presoak the beans overnight. I’ve tried 25 minutes, but the beans weren’t quite done. Once the lid comes off, I add whole wheat macaroni elbows and put my glass lid on. The heat cooks the macaroni. Enough stew to last me a week.

  3. Krisatlyn Pac Avatar
    Krisatlyn Pac

    From what I could see, the study was on ascorbic acid & beta-carotenes, not B vitamins. Beta-carotenes are precursors to making vitamin A.

  4. Vicki Avatar

    I have stayed away from using a pressure cooker because increasing pressure tends to destroy the digestive enzymes in our foods.
    -Isn’t the High Pressure Processing (HPP) used for raw dog food essentially the same thing as an Insta-Pot Process? If so, I do know HPP destroys much of the digestive enzymes found in raw meats for my dog.
    -When I discovered one of the raw food companies had changed its process to HPP (& the reason I did some detective work was my dog’s coat wasn’t as shiny as it had been). Once I changed to one of the companies that did not use HPP for their raw dog food – it made a LOT of difference in her coat!! (BTW: I already added other supplements & fresh foods into her diet – so she wasn’t just getting raw pet food).
    -For that reason, I have steered clear of the Insta-Pot.
    -Have you done research on the effects of high pressure on the digestive enzymes in foods?

    I love your site!!

  5. Leona Roberts Avatar
    Leona Roberts

    Aloha Mama! People look up to you for good advice & recipes, so I’m sharing research indicating that the formation of resistant starches in potatoes or rice are inhibited by pressure cooking. Increasing resistant starches through boiling, cooling then serving, or reheating & consuming, significantly DECREASES CALORIES, LOWERS GLYCEMIC RESPONSE, INCREASES SATIETY & NOURISHES OUR GUT BIOME! Healthy human colons are 90% gut biome & 10% human tissue! Pressure cooking rice to significantly increase resistant starch takes 40 minutes-or longer! As a senior starch junkie & tireless researcher, I’ve lost stubborn weight, increased my health & continue to excel at my chosen extreme sport! Cooking to increase resistant starch really helps & saves time! Keep it organic & improve the world!

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