Prior to the 1960’s or 70’s, microwaves did not exist in the average person’s household; flash forward to today, and we see a much different story. Busy parents, crammed college students, high school kids coming home after school, and employees heating lunch in their office kitchen all commonly rely on microwaves each and every day in order to help prepare time-saving meals. So are microwaves really capable of zapping the nutrients right out of your food, or is that just an old wives’ tale?
When people contemplate whether or not microwaves are potentially dangerous, a few things usually come to mind: People hear that they leak radiation into the air around them, they contaminate foods and drinks with toxins, and may even kill all of the vitamins and minerals present within food. But when we look at actual studies, none of these worries are necessarily true.
First it helps to understand how microwaves work.
Microwaves operate by heating molecules inside of food and liquids. Essentially the molecules in a substance are forced to move very quickly thanks to waves that a microwave omits, which creates a lot of heat in your food or drink through friction. This process is not unique to microwaves; we create other sources of heat using similar mechanisms of friction all the time. A microwave therefore doesn’t have any special chemical substances, toxins, or “radiation” that is omitted out of it and into the environment or your food.
Does this process of creating friction kill your food’s nutrients? The bottom line is that cooking your food in any way- whether it’s grilling, baking, boiling, or microwaving- usually has some sort of effect on the nutrients in your food, whether good or bad.
There are always going to be some pros and some cons when it comes to how cooking food alters its nutrients; this is because certain vitamins and minerals are actually enhanced and made more readily absorbable by the body when heated and cooked. At the same time however, other vitamins and minerals can lose some of their potency, absorbability, and become somewhat or completely destroyed during the cooking process. Basically, a microwave’s ability to kill nutrients depends on the food being microwaved.
Each naturally occurring food normally has a range of vitamins and minerals in it, all of which react to being heated and cooked differently. For example, carrots may lose a lot of their Vitamin C when cooked, but other vitamins present in carrots actually improve in terms of concentration once being cooked. Tomatoes and spinach, differently than carrots, are thought to become even healthier when cooked, with a lot of their antioxidants becoming more accessible once heated. Studies have shown that water soluble vitamins and most antioxidants tend to be susceptible to damage during microwaving, but can experience similar decreases in potency when roasted, boiled for an extended period of time, or grilled over high heat. So to sum it up, there is no perfect way to cook food to preserve all of its nutrients, and microwaving is no different than other methods.
CATEGORIES: Nutrient, Food, Microwave