Is Microwaving Food Dangerous?

Photo credit: bigstock.com

Photo credit: bigstock.com

So What’s all the Controversy About?

Some claim that the process by which microwaves generate heat destroys the nutrients within food, effectively rendering the food useless from a health standpoint. Various studies appear to support this idea. One Australian study found that caused a greater level of “protein unfolding” in meats than heat generated by conventional cooking methods. Another study performed on broccoli appeared to show that the broccoli lost 97% of its’ cancer-fighting antioxidants when prepared in a microwave. Other studies showed nutrient destroying effects in garlic, breast milk, and other food items.

The opposing side argues that microwave ovens are perfectly safe and the claims to the contrary are pseudoscience. This is the official position of most official government organizations like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. They claim that the studies decrying the evils of microwave ovens were flawed or have been misinterpreted.

It is worth noting that ALL cooking methods alter the molecules of foods and if done incorrectly will ruin the food in question. The general consensus with these studies is that the longer the food spends in the microwave, the more risk there is of nutrient loss. Different nutrients react to microwaves in different ways. Vitamin B12 in particular appears to be sensitive to microwave radiation. Foods rich in that vitamin should not be microwaved if you wish to retain the benefits of it.

The presence of water also appears to exacerbate nutrient destruction. When vegetables are boiled, they lose a lot of their vitamins. One study showed that boiling spinach on a conventional stove caused it to lose most of its nutritional value, while microwaving with no water barely led to any vitamin loss.

The fact is that this issue is not entirely black and white. Different foods have different molecular structures and they are not all going to react to microwaves the same way, just as they don’t all react to traditional cooking the same way. There are some foods that should not go in the microwave at all, and there are some others that can be microwaved, provided you take some basic precautions.

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