Is Microwaving Food Really Unhealthy?

Nadine

Contributor

Every month on Kitchen Stories, we’ll be putting our food knowledge under the microscope to find out if what we think we know is really true. Have a food-related case that you want cracked open? Leave a comment underneath the article!

Approximately 95% of all American households own a microwave oven—no other country beats it. You place your food inside, press some buttons, wait for a few minutes or even mere seconds, and presto—dinner, lunch, or breakfast is ready to eat.

The centerpiece of each microwave oven is an electric tube that transforms electricity into magnetic waves. These microwaves are distributed through the whole cooking area and get reflected by metal walls inside the machine. As a result, the waves penetrate the food from all sides and cook it from the inside out.

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Since the invention of the microwave, there have been fierce opponents of the tool, claiming that the microwave’s magnetic waves can make you sick. But do they really? And, is it true that food loses valuable nutrients via microwaving?

Today, we get to the bottom of the 4 most common myths about microwaving.

Myth # 1: Microwave radiation makes you sick.

Microwave ovens work with high-frequency radiation, which is not radioactive and has been proven not to be dangerous. The same kind of radiation surrounds us all day and night—via the sun, WiFi, and radio waves. Microwaves penetrate food and get absorbed by water, fats, and sugar—directly converting them into atomic motion, which then creates heat. As soon as the radiation stops, the food cools down again without any radiation residues inside.

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The fact is: As long as you use a microwave according to the instructions, there is no need to worry. You could even sit right in front of a microwave oven without any negative consequences, since even cheap or old ovens hardly allow any radiation to pass from the inside, out.

Myth # 2: Microwaving destroys nutrients.

It’s the most common myth of all: Microwaving destroys all the best nutrients in our food. And the perpetuation of this myth is not without its reasons. Compared to raw food, cooked food always contains less vitamins and nutrients, however it’s not actually proven that microwaves affect them more negatively than other ways of cooking. Some nutrients, like vitamin C, can’t tolerate any heat.

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The fact is: Less nutrients are a result of the process of cooking itself, not the way you do it. It doesn’t matter whether you boil, fry, or microwave it.

Myth # 3: Never put metal in a microwave oven.

Is it true that you should never put metal inside a microwave oven? For the most part yes, so don’t heat up any food on your grandma’s plate with the gold rim. The heat in a microwave is actually so strong that it can melt gold and other soft metals. Aluminum foil and other thin metals can also cause sparks in the microwave.

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The fact is: If you place thick metal objects like a spoon in a microwave oven, it will only get hot. Sometimes this can even be helpful, for example, if you want to warm up drinks. But if you want to be on the safe side, simply don’t use any metal for microwaving. Better safe than sorry.

Myth # 4: Don’t cook whole eggs in a microwave.

It’s said that you can heat everything in a microwave, but if you cook a whole egg in it, it will explode in less than a minute. Why? The water inside the egg evaporates through the heating process and expands by a factor of 1000. Since it can’t escape through the egg shell—the egg bursts. The same thing can happen to cased sausages cooked in a microwave oven.

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The fact is: Ingredients with a shell impermeable to water should not be cooked in a microwave oven or they will burst. But you can of course crack the egg beforehand to make scrambled eggs in a microwave.

Scrambled eggs in a mug

Scrambled eggs in a mug

→ Go to recipe

The Conclusion

It’s not only safe, but also time-saving to cook or reheat food in a microwave oven. Compared to using a conventional oven or stove, it’s possible that you could also save some energy money by using a microwave instead. However, what you’ll probably lose is the real joy that comes from cooking—standing next to your stove, stirring your homemade risotto, and getting excited to eat is simply a relaxing, beautiful, and irreplaceable process.

What do you think of microwaving? Do you love it or never use it? Tell us in the comments below!