If you have a weak digestion and struggle with fibre, but you still want to include vegetables and wholegrains in your diet, then you may want to consider using a pressure cooker.
Why use a pressure cooker?
These days, many people are affected by food sensitivities (sometimes described as allergies). The problem can stem from digestive weakness and poor absorption. In some cases, the food is not properly being broken down, possibly due to insufficient digestive enzymes or stomach acid. Consequently large molecules of foodstuff pass into the blood stream, which triggers the immune system, so that it over reacts and becomes sensitised to foods like gluten.
If you have a weak digestive system, your body may struggle to properly break down the foods you eat into micro nutrients. By using a pressure cooker, the device does some of the breaking-down work for you.
Where to get one?
There are many types of pressure cookers on the market these days and the designs have gotten more sophisticated. The old ones used to make a hissing sound when it heated up and sounds like it is about to explode. Some of the new ones don’t do that. Above is an image from Amazon of what pressure cookers look like. I suggest you buy a small or medium-sized one.
People with weak digestive system will have bowel that absorbs far less of the nutrients in a standard meal compared to a person with a normal functioning bowel. This can result in becoming underweight or suffering from tiredness.
The problem can be exacerbated if you overeat, whereby you put too much strain on your digestive system. If the bowel is having trouble dealing with a regular amount of food, eating larger amounts will often overstrain the system and lead to even less absorption, undigested food, gas or flatulence.
We’ll discuss flatulence in greater detail later. So don’t go away yet.
Masticate: Chew your food
I had an acupuncture teacher in Japan, who I also received treatment from. Every time I saw him as a patient, he would make the same recommendation: “you should eat brown rice”. I would then tell him that it’s hard to eat and difficult to digest. He would then tell me, “you must chew your food”. I think I had the same conversation with him a few times.
Years before I did practice this habit. I read this book by Gudrun Jonsson called Gut Reaction.
It is a very simply written book and very practical. When I followed the diet advice in this book, I actually started getting detoxification symptoms. I would come down with a cold as though my body was expelling stuff out of it, so I feel her diet plan was effective.
This diet was also a less extreme and exhausting method of detoxifying compared to fasting, which was something I had experimented with years ago, including a fast with the famous naturopath Dr Keki Sidwa. I may write a post about that sometime.
Gudrun Jonsson’s plan is a somewhat strict diet. However is the sort of diet that can be carried out for short periods of time without the exhaustative effects as a water or juice fast may cause.
I met the author – Gudrun, some years ago at a Health exporium in London and I asked her about her advice to chew your food 50 times – is it not a bit too strict? She told me that it is a guideline but it is ok to chew 20 – 30 times to break down your food adequately.
Macrobiotic Eating Habits
One solution to increase absorption is to follow the macrobiotic approach where it is recommended to chew each mouthful of food 30 to 50 times. Essentially by doing this you break down all the macronutrients into smaller fluidic particles making it easier to digest and you masticate the food with saliva which contains certain digestive enzymes.
This macrobiotic approach has helped many people. However it takes a lot of commitment and a somewhat regimented dietary habit. And frankly, who can be bothered to sit down and chew and chew and chew? There is no better way to take the fun out of eating, then to sit at the diner table like a cow chewing for hours on cud while everyone else is eating dessert.
And how do you chew a beef steak into oblivion? You can’t. Some foods are meant to be ‘wolfed’ down. Chewing is primarily for grains and fibre.
Who’s a Cow?
“Chew your drink, Drink your food”
This quote renders forth the idea that you should chew your food until it turns to liquid in your mouth rendering it easier for digestion. Just like a cow munching on grass.
By the way, cows poo where they eat.
Sorry, I’m not really selling this idea of chewing very well. So much for my health website.
Gandhi also advocated making your own clothes. Can you imagine trying to sew your own Nikey trainers? It just wouldn’t work.
But hey at least there’s no risk of your trainers getting stolen.
Nonetheless, chewing more often is good advice.
Eating like a wolf
Some people wolf down food leaving huge chunks of food to sit in the stomach for hours fermenting and causing discomfort or bad breath.
If you do adopt the habit of chewing, I recommend it be undertaken in a relaxed manner. The process of counting out 50 chews every time you take a mouthful is boring and tedious and must make a person feel neurotic. It is ok to aim for 20 to 30 chews and if you can’t always manage it, simply just eating in a slow and relaxed way is beneficial for your digestion.
It may even be an idea to do a 30 day trial of 30 – 50 chews each mouthful. This trial would enable you to create a new habit of eating more slowly and conscientiously.
However, if you don’t want to spend your time masticating and looking like a goat, there is another way to make your food easier to digest, and that is by using a pressure cooker.
And just in case, you’re thinking this is an affiliated link, well, it might be.
Length of intestines
Though we have some canine teeth for chewing meat, we also have long intestines which means food passes through our gut more slowly than that of a carnivore.
So whilst we can eat meat, we are also designed for carbs and fibre. We are like the all-rounder cricket player – good at batting and bowling. It gives us a quite an advantage over many other species. Especially Dinosaurs – and they are all extinct. Enough said.
There is this curious Japanese idea that they have longer intestines than Caucasian people. I am not sure if it has been scientifically proven, but I have heard many Japanese mention this as a fact. I suspect it’s a myth kind of like how the size of a person’s feet is related to girth.
I personally wouldn’t want to be the scientist testing out if this is true or not. I suppose they would need to use a really long tape measure.
Using a Pressure Cooker
One of the main solutions recommended to increase absorption and enjoy your meals is to incorporate the use of a pressure cooker. This simple cooking utensil is a sealed vessel which restricts air or liquids from escaping. It cooks food quickly as the internal steam pressure from the boiled fluids builds up and heats the food more intensely than conventional boiling methods. This method is very quick and has the same effect as simmering a meal for several hours. This method also uses less electricity or gas as once the pressure cooker is heated up, the gas or electric can be turned off as it continues to cook using its own heat, saving money on fuel bills. And if you want the food really soft, you need only simmer the pressure cooker on a low heat for another 10-15 minutes.
For people with a weak digestive system, the softer and more digestible the food is – the better digested it can be. Pressure cookers can soften most foods.
Brown Rice and IBD
I personally find brown rice difficult to digest. I have a weak digestive system due to suffering from a digestive system disease called colitis. This is the case even if I use a pressure cooker. However, if I mix it with white rice at a ratio of 60 (white) to 40 (brown), it is easier on my gut. And in this way I get the benefits of brown rice. If I tried to eat 100% brown rice, it would upset my gut.
Everyone is different. You have to find out what is your level of tolerance for fibre and brown rice. I would suggest that even the 60/40 ratio (white/brown) amount is too much for most IBD sufferers and in some cases they would be better to avoid brown rice altogether and choose white rice instead, especially if they have an active disease.
However, if your digestive system is in reasonably good condition, brown rice has lots of benefits. For example, it can help with constipation. Apprently also Beri beri. Although not many people suffer from that in the West any more.
Benefits of using a pressure cooker for brown rice
Brown rice is full of Vitamin B complex vitamins but because it is made of insoluble fiber, it can be very upsetting to weakened bowels.
However, if you boil it for a slightly extended time in a pressure cooker, you can break down and soften the fibrous husks and almost turning the insoluble fibre into a soluble fibre source.
The same ‘fibrous-breaking-down effect’ also occurs with cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and sprouts. Cabbage contains vitamin K and has been considered to have plenty of anti-cancer effects. However, the rough fiber can be upsetting to the bowel and is notorious for causing flatulence even in healthy people. However, when you pressure-cook cabbage you can blitz it into a mushy state.
Does Pressure Cooking Destroy Nutrients?
Some opponents argue that cooking at a higher pressure destroys the nutrients. However in a study in 2007 published in The Journal of Food Science, the cooking of broccoli in a pressure cooking retained 90% of its vitamin C compared to boiling which retained 60% or steaming which preserved 78%. It is well-known that heating up vegetables does destroy some vitamins, although this depends more on the length of time a vegetable is cooked.
With traditional boiling, you tend to cook the foods for longer, whereas with pressure cooking, the cooking time is much shorter. Also, if less water is used, fewer nutrients leach out of the food and more of the nutrients are retained in the vegetables essentially simulating an enhanced equivalent to the method of steaming food.
Fibre and gas
Beans are pretty healthy but they do have one unfortunate downside. A high bean and fibrous diet causes gas.
One time I attended a Moxa seminar in South Devon. On the final night of the workshop, we all went to an organic wholesome vegetarian restaurant out in the middle of the countryside (which pretty much describes Devon). The food was incredible. The whole restaurant too. Everything on the menu was 100% vegetarian.
The only downside was that if you’re not used to it, the high fibre content did cause rather a lot of gas the next day. On the way back, I had to abandon my travelling companion on the Moors of Devon as he was trying his bestest to gas me to death. It was him or me. My apologies to his wife.
Only joking, of course I am.
The Bog Man of South Devon
But who know – in a few hundred years his body may be pulled from one of the bogs and put on display in the British Museum – ‘The Bog Man of South Devon’. How curious it will be for our descendants to find a bog man in the future compared to the ones we have unearthed up to now?
In the future, likely they will be found with a smartphone fossilised in their palms. Their faces frozen into some sort of wretched grimacing smile as they attempted one last selfie – “Hey look at me in a hole in the ground!”
Also their bodies will be semi-intact – due to our modern day-processed diet of E-number preservatives in our foods and water supply and stored in our bodily tissues.
For sure, the future Bog Men and Women will be interesting no doubt.
Choose your celebration dinner wisely
For this reason I think I prefer an American style Hamburger and fries. There is an American style diner in the south-east of England. I stopped off there a couple of times travelling from Devon to London. It is great as there are lifesized models of Elvis and various other American cultural heroes as well as lots of photos of US actors and singers from the 1950’s over all the walls. Even the food is named after famous cultural icons. For example, there is the Marilyn Monroe Burger and the Buddy Holly burger.
It is just how I imagine America to be, if I ever get to visit.
Beans and pulses
Often sufferers of Inflammatory bowel diseases like colitis just cannot touch pulses like lentils or beans. Beans are notorious for causing gas as shown in this documentary from YouTube:
It’s a scene from the Mel Brookes iconic comedy, Blazing Saddles – the baked beans and farting cowboys scene. Why this scene never got nominated for an oscar, I will never know.
I’m sorry, I’m British. We like our toilet jokes. I thinks it’s because there’s a tendency toward being anally retentive in our culture.
That is unless you feed a British person lots of alcohol on a Spanish or Greek holiday retreat. Then it all just comes out as ugly as it can be.
Don’t mention the ‘F’ word – (football)
And don’t ever ever let us travel abroad when there is a world cup football match on. We just can’t let go of our crusading and savage tendencies. Many of us still think it’s the year 1189 (- Year of the Third Crusade)
Remember the movie gremlins? – Never feed the Mogwai after midnight and don’t get them wet.
It’s the same with British people – don’t feed them alcohol and don’t let them leave their island. Ever.
Mind you the Russians have got the right idea. They’ve actually started beating our hooligans at their own game for once.
Some groups of Russian ‘football’ supporters called ‘Ultra’s’ are physically training their bodies and then purposely seeking out British football ‘fans’ during international football tournaments to fight with. And it’s not much competition when muscular Vladimir and butch MMA trained Sasha from Vladistock come across pudding-shaped beer-bellied Mike and Steve from Doncaster.
All I can say is – it’s about time. For decades, our ‘gentlemanly‘ (yeah right) British football supporters have been causing widespread damage and insulting our European neighbours every time there is a football match in their country. And nothing has ever stopped it… Until now.
But enough of the British bashing. Unless you’re Russian. Let’s get back to talking about pressure cooking.
Jumping Jack Flash is a gas, gas, gas
This gas is caused by the phytic acid (the scummy liquid that you have to scrape off the top when you boil lentils). It is a protective substance to prevent the grain from being eaten by insects and other predators. It is a shame because pulses and beans are a great source of proteins and carbohydrates. A key solution is to soak the pulses and beans overnight or for a few hours. The exposure to water inactivates these toxic chemicals and activates certain enzymes making them more digestible.
If you still have trouble with the fiber content of the pulses, then another solution is to cook them and then use a blender to make them into an easy digestible soup.
However, the pressure cooker is great for cooking pulses because it has been found to reduce the phytic acid and lectin content of some grains and pulses by over 50% particularly if they are also soaked for a few hours beforehand. In fact even the protein digestion of peas and beans can be enhanced up to 84% with pressure cooking. The fiber can be broken down more effectively with pressure cooking making them easy to digest.
The pressure cooker is ideal for making highly nutritious soups and stews with minimal effort and can provide meals for up to two days. Meat can also be pulverized in pressure cookers making it tender. Here is a simple recipe for a small pressure cooker. Feel free to add or remove any ingredients that you don’t like or are intolerant to.
Simple Chicken & Vegetable Stew
- 3 medium sized potatoes
- 2 carrots
- A few leaves of Savoy cabbage
- A handful of spinach
- A small slice of ginger
- A small spring onion
- A small handful of chicken breast meat (free range)
- A small handful of brown or white rice.
- One organic stock cube (preferably containing no preservatives or additives).
Peel and chop all the vegetables into small pieces.
Peel the ginger but don’t chop it
Chop and slice the chicken into small pieces.
Fill the pressure cooker up with water half full. Wash the brown rice, put into the pressure cooker and heat up. When it’s boiled, add the rest of the vegetables and meat. Bring to the boil and then add the stock cube. Stir it in and then add the lid.
Simmer on a low heat for 5 to 10 minutes and then switch off. The pressure cooker may blow out steam. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal. Once it cools the steam will stop. The pressure cooker will continue to cook by itself. Once it cools down enough, you will be able to remove the lid*.
Serve in a bowl and enjoy a highly nutritious simply cooked soft meal.
*Please note that pressure cookers vary in design, use and size. You may have to use your pressure cooker differently then instructed here.
Health Benefits of Using a Pressure Cooker
So just to sell the idea further, here are some benefits of using a pressure cooker:
- Uses less energy and is a more efficient way of cooking. Less fuel bills.
- Retains more nutrients, water-soluble vitamins and minerals (especially if you use less water).
- Cooks food 70% faster than conventional cooking methods.
- Enables you to soften foods especially high-fiber vegetables, pulses and grains and make it easier to absorb.
- Versatile – can be used for preparing evening meals or cooking your breakfast oats. Can be used for soups and stews cooking grains, or boiling vegetables.
- Other negative chemicals and carcinogenic factors like acrylamides which are produced when grilling or frying are not produced when pressure cooking.
- Ideal for lazy cooks or people who don’t want to spend a long time in the kitchen but also want to eat more healthier and wholesomely.
There is a small learning curve with figuring how to use your pressure cooker. Some modern designs are a little bit more sophisticated and take some time to be able to use comfortable. Don’t let that put you off. Life is all about change and trying out new things.
There are many choices for pressure cookers today. Pick a size and design suitable for your needs and it can serve you well for many years. I would recommend you start off with a simple model like this Tefal Pressure Cooker.
And yes, that is an affiliated link. So if you buy an Amazon Tefal cooker, I can get some money to launch an expedition to find the lost Bog Man of South Devon.
His wife misses him terribly.
1950s style woman with plate of food: Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_igorr’>igorr / 123RF Stock Photo
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