The beauty of functional medicine is it puts your health journey in your hands. The curse of functional medicine is that, compared to popping a pill, eating healthy takes more time, which can feel stressful.
Enter the Instant Pot, a relatively new kitchen appliance that is simple to use, makes it easy to stick to a whole foods diet, and takes a lot of stress out of cooking when your schedule is hectic. This can be one of the best functional medicine tools to following a good diet towards healing.
What makes the Instant Pot a good functional medicine tool?
The Instant Pot’s success is in its multiple features and that it produces consistent results. The Instant Pot sautés, foolproof pressure cooks, slow cooks, makes yogurt, functions as a rice cooker (not that you should have this a lot though), and quickly makes bone broths (one of my favorite and most often used benefit of the instant pot)
It is conducive to big batch meals that will create nutritious leftovers for a few days.
Here are some ways the Instant Pot can help you save time in the kitchen without sacrificing nutrition:
Cooks frozen meats. How many times have you forgotten to put the meat out to thaw for dinner? You can put your frozen meat in the Instant Pot and still have stew for dinner.
Cuts down on dishwashing (yeah!). The Instant Pot allows you to do multiple things in one pot, cutting down on dirty pots and pans. For instance, you can sauté the onions and brown the meat in the same pot you cook your stew in. Additionally, you can cook in Pyrex bowls inside the Instant Pot, which can then be stored in the fridge and used as a lunch container.
Don’t even try this with plastic. This should be self explanatory but I’m saying it because you would be surprised at what some people do.
Removes the stress of timing. Once you put your meal in the Instant Pot, you press a button for how long it needs to cook and then you can walk away. Not only will it shut itself off, it will also keep food warm for up to 10 hours. It makes reliable hard boiled eggs, and some people even crack their raw eggs into a bowl before cooking for a quick and easy egg salad that doesn’t require peeling egg shells.
Takes the complexity out of pressure cooking. The Instant Pot’s most popular feature is pressure cooking, which radically shortens cooking times. Best of all, it uses a foolproof design so you don’t have to worry about blowing up your kitchen. Which has and can happen with regular pressure cookers.
It’s a great slow cooker. One of the most satisfying dinners is the one you make in the morning and it’s waiting hot for you in the evening. This is perfect for those with alternate work hours or those workaholics that don’t get home until late and heave a tendency to just pick up something on the way home. In addition to cooking quickly, the Instant Pot is a great slow cooker, and you can brown the meat in the same pot.
Makes dairy-free yogurt. Yogurt is a delicious and convenient snack that is hard to give up when you go dairy-free. Dairy-free yogurts are expensive and filled with thickening gums, which are irritating and immune reactive for many people. The Instant Pot is a great dairy-free yogurt maker, using gelatin or chia as a thickener. You will need to order a high-quality brand of coconut milk however, for a good end result.
Easy squash and root veggie cooking. Peeling and chopping squash and root veggies can be a real deterrent to including them in your diet. No worries, just toss them in the Instant Pot whole and then peel, seed, and chop them after they’re cooked. Cooking more fragile vegetables such as broccoli, however, is best left to the stove top steam basket to avoid overcooking. Make sure it’s an all stainless steel one, no plastic or silicone.
These are just a few of the ways the Instant Pot can be a part of a functional medicine protocol to help you manage a chronic health disorder. Don't be intimidated by it — the learning curve is quick and you’ll soon be able to intuit how to use it. The internet abounds with tips, recipes, and general enthusiasm to get you up to speed.
As a little personal side note, I generally recommend gong with the bigger sizes, specially if this is for a family. If you are just an individual or a couple then consider the medium size. The small size isn’t really good for much other than a little bit of yogurt or doing something like fondu, if your into that.
There are also a number of recipe books specifically for the instant pot. None of these are functional medicine specific though, at least not yet. My wife and I are thinking about putting one together so stay tuned.
Now go out and get your next functional medicine tool.
I’m Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!