Is microwave cooking safe and does it help preserve the nutrition in food?
Some people believe that microwave cooking removes nutrients and makes food less healthy.
Microwave ovens cook food-using waves of energy that are similar to radio waves but shorter. These waves are remarkably selective, primarily affecting water and other molecules that are electrically asymmetrical — one end positively charged and the other negatively charged. Microwaves cause these molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal (heat) energy.
Some nutrients break down when they are exposed to heat, whether it is from a microwave or a regular oven. Vitamin C is perhaps the clearest example. But because microwave-cooking times are shorter, cooking with a microwave does a better job of preserving vitamin C and other nutrients that break down when heated.
Cooking vegetables in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients leach out into the cooking water. For example, boiled broccoli loses glucosinolate, the sulfur-containing compound that may give the vegetable its cancer-fighting properties (as well as the taste that many find distinctive and some find disgusting). Is steaming vegetables better? In some respects, yes. For example, steamed broccoli holds on to more glucosinolate than boiled or fried broccoli.
Speaking about the same, Padma Shri Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal – President HCFI & Honorary Secretary General IMA said, “The cooking method that best retains nutrients is one that cooks quickly, heats food for the shortest amount of time, and uses as little liquid as possible. Microwaving meets those criteria. Using the microwave with a small amount of water essentially steams food from the inside out. That keeps more vitamins and minerals than almost any other cooking method”.
A few tips to safe microwave cooking
- Always read the instructions on the packet
- Never reheat food more than two minutes (because of the risk of scalds)
- Never heat fats or cooking oils in a microwave oven – the temperatures can easily become excessive and may melt even the most resistant plastic container
- Always allow one to two minutes standing time to allow heat to even out
- Always use plastics approved for food use in a microwave oven.
- Always be careful – use a glove to remove the container from the oven.
- If you think that something is wrong with your microwave oven like spark or fire, put off the main switch with the use of the wooden stick or any other insulated object. Call your service provider.