Should you nuke your food for more nutrients?

Microwaving is one of the most controversial cooking methods in the natural health world because of fears that microwaves expose you to radiation and rob your food of nutrients.

And it’s true that microwaves do emit low levels of radiation. But it’s the non-ionizing type, not the DNA-damaging ionizing radiation that’s been linked to Alzheimer’s and cancer.

It’s also true that microwaving impacts the nutrients in your food… but not necessarily in the way you think…

Mounting evidence shows that microwaving may help food and beverages retain nutrients and beneficial compounds better than other heating methods. Which means microwaving might not deserve such a bad rap, after all…

Microwaving myths exposed…

Dr. Quan Voung, a scientist at the University of Newcastle in Australia, discovered in 2012 that microwaving your green tea actually makes it healthier….

Voung has devoted his professional career to helping people get the most beneficial bioactive compounds for their buck. And in the case of tea, he found that a quick zap in the microwave extracted 80 percent of tea’s caffeine, theanine (an amino acid) and polyphenols. In other words, microwaving green tea, instead of brewing it, brings out the health-giving components in a way that makes it easier for your body to absorb and benefit from them.

And when it comes to the nutrients in your food, microwaving may have a similar effect….

Although heating your food by any method causes your food to lose some nutrients, research shows that microwaving your food helps it retain its nutrients better than other cooking methods.

Why does microwaving have the nutritional edge over more traditional heating methods?

Well, because it cooks food quicker. And the shorter the time food is exposed to heat, the less nutrients it loses.

It’s been proven, for example, that microwaving helps foods retain their vitamin C content better than other cooking methods. And you know how beneficial vitamin C is to your health — it helps with everything from colds to cancer.

Why more microwaving isn’t always better…

Nutrients aside, there are potential health risks associated with relying on microwaves too often… like not eating enough fresh food or exposing yourself to high levels of BPA.

If you’re using the microwave every day, for example, you may also be eating a lot of frozen, processed pre-packaged foods, which isn’t the ideal diet for optimum health. Ultra-processed foods are stripped of nutrients before they make it to your microwave and have been pumped full of additives and calories.

To avoid that trap, learn to cook your fresh, whole foods in the microwave. The microwave can be great for steaming vegetables, for instance.

Try to stick to glass or ceramic containers when you’re microwaving your food. If you use plastic containers, you risk exposing yourself to the dangerous chemical BPA, which can leach into your food from the plastic containers. Of course, you can avoid BPA exposure by not popping anything wrapped in plastic into the microwave.

All in all, when used correctly, the microwave can be your friend. It may even provide your body with extra nutrients. Of course, regardless of how you choose to heat your food, the best thing you can do for your body is eat plenty of fresh, whole foods on a daily basis.

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Sources:
  1. Q. Vuong, et al. “Improved extraction of green tea components from teabags using the microwave oven.” — Journal of Food Composition and Analysis, 2012.
  2. Controversial Study Says Microwaving Tea Might Be Healthiest Way To Brew It — The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  3. Microwave cooking and nutrition: Is microwave food healthy? — Harvard Medical School. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.