From cooking to reheating leftovers, microwave ovens bring huge convenience into our homes. Many people, though, tend to think that this convenience comes at a price. Is your microwave really your enemy in disguise? We’ve done a lot of research to shed some light on the subject.
The health concerns related to the use of microwaves fall into three major groups: loss of nutrients upon cooking, health effects for those near the microwave, and the possible cancerogenic effects of the food cooked in it. Let us go through these one by one.
Do microwaves zap the nutrients out of food?
As we wrote earlier, there’s no evidence that microwave cooking destroys any more nutrients than conventional cooking. Lots of Internet anti-microwave arguments refer to experiments proving that microwaving the food leads to change in their nutritional profile. What they do not usually take into account is that cooking raw foods in any way that involves heating leads to changes in their nutritional value. In fact, boiling or slow cooking the foods leads to greater nutrient and insoluble fiber losses than microwaving them.
Microwave ovens spur the molecules of water inside the food to move and vibrate, and the friction of the molecules heats up the food. As many products, especially vegetables, have a high water content in the first place, they get cooked very quickly in a microwave which means that fewer nutrients break down from being exposed to heat. Cooking in a microwave also needs significantly less water compared to boiling, which means that less water soluble nutrients are leached in the process.
This research compared the antioxidant losses in 20 vegetables cooked in the microwave to those in the same vegetables boiled, pressure-cooked, of fried. The result? Microwave cooking turned out to produce the lowest antioxidant losses! That’s right – rapid microwave cooking actually helps preserve plenty of beneficial chemicals.
Does the microwave-cooked food cause cancer?
There is no evidence to prove that it does. The food cooked in the microwave oven contains a fair amount of nutrients, and on top of that it does NOT become:
- rich in cancerogenic substances
- in any way harmful to your health (if cooked according to the recipe and microwave user manual).
Another common misconception is that plastic containers release cancer-causing substances into food when microwaved. The truth is, those plastic containers and wraps which are intended for the microwave (and therefore labeled as microwave-safe) are perfectly good to use in the microwave.
In fact, those containers which display a microwave-safe icon or the words “microwave safe” are approved by the FDA. This means that tests and measurements have proved that those containers produce from 100 to 1000 times fewer chemicals per pound of body weight than the amount which could possibly cause any significant harm over a lifetime of use.
Is it dangerous to stand in front of a working microwave?
If the oven is working properly, it isn’t dangerous to stand in front of it. Although microwave ovens can have some radiation leakage, the levels that can be released are no higher than those which are released by:
- cell phones;
- any WiFi-enabled devices;
- pretty much any home appliance you care to name.
The amount that can leak from one microwave oven throughout its lifetime is way below the amount which could possibly harm a human in any way; this matter is under the strict FDA control.
Since the radiation levels drop greatly with increasing distance, simply step away from the microwave when in use to ensure complete safety. The radiation levels two feet away from the oven are about one-hundredth the amount at two inches. When they are off, microwave ovens do not produce any radiation whatsoever.
With no evidence to prove the supposed dangers of microwave cooking, we hope that you will begin to enjoy the convenience of microwave cooking without much worrying about the drawbacks.