Is Microwaved Food Less Healthy?

Microwaves offer a fast and convenient way to cook and defrost food. With the growing amount of “healthy” microwavable meal options, many individuals rely on microwaves for one or more of their meals every day. While microwaves offer a fast and convenient way to cook, there is concern that the quality of the nutritional content of food is compromised when it is prepared in a microwave. Here are some common questions about microwaved foods.

Microwaved Food

How Do Microwaves Cook Food?

To cook your food, microwaves vibrate the water molecules found in foods, which changes their polarity and causes the electrons to move faster and faster, producing heat. What differs from cooking in your oven is that an oven uses heat to cook your food, transferring heat from heated coils through the air in the oven to the food.

This heat can be felt escaping from the oven as soon as you open the door. Cooking with a microwave, however, is more like causing heat to happen in the food rather than being applied to it. The food gets hot, but the microwave itself stays relatively cool. Some people express concern about eating food that has been prepared in a microwave because they are concerned about the amount of radiation. However, the electromagnetic waves used to cook food in a microwave are similar to those emitted by most telephones and are considered harmless.

Does Microwaving Food Change The Nutritional Profile More Than Oven Or Stovetop Cooking?

Another concern many people have is that cooking with microwaves will change the nutritional content of the foods they are eating. The primary concern is that foods will lose a significant portion of vitamins and minerals, making them less nutritious. However, this is not the case. In actuality, the longer food is exposed to heat the more the nutrients in the food will break down; if food is exposed to heat and water at the same time, like during boiling, the breakdown will occur much faster. In fact, foods cooked in water, whether in the oven or on the stove, lose between 74 and 97 percent of their antioxidants. Since microwaves operate by cooking foods quickly, typically with minimal or no added water, food actually retains more nutrients when microwaved than when cooked in the oven or on the stove.

Why Use Microwave-Safe Containers?

One concern that should be taken into consideration when cooking with microwaves is cooking in microwave-safe containers. This isn’t all that different from selecting the right cookware for other cooking methods. For example, you likely have pots and pans that are designed for the stovetop, but not the oven and vice versa. When you cook in containers that do not microwave safe they may be damaged by the microwaves and could cause harmful toxins to seep into your food. In general, glass and ceramic containers are safe for microwave use but check before using plastic containers.

Can You Steam Foods In The Microwave?

If you have food, like certain vegetables, that you prefer to eat steamed, but would like to speed up the process by cooking in the microwave, you can simply add a small amount of water to the bottom of the container you are microwaving them in. Then simply place a microwave cover on top of this container. The cover should have a tight enough seal that most of the steam will stay in the container, but not be completely sealed, as you don’t want the pressure to build and force the lid to come off.

If you are an avid microwave user, you can rest assured that you are still receiving the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants found in the foods you are eating.