One of the most common kitchen appliances that you are likely to encounter in kitchens in the U.S. and not only is the microwave oven. Its utility and the speed it provides in regards to heating up food and even preparing meals from one end to another makes it quintessential for the modern person as time is what we all lack and need to spare as much as possible. However, while speed might be a desirable advantage provided by the small appliance, what is universally true is that people put their health above all – and the nasty rumors surrounding microwaved food consumption aren’t benefiting the appliance at all.
Instead of going on assumptions or stories you heard from a friend who heard them from a friend, it’s best to inform yourself on the cooking process involved with the appliance and know for sure whether or not this is a safe practice to take up. So, the question emerges – is it safe for your health to microwave your meals?
Clarifying the cancer rumors
We start off by clarifying the fact that there is no research that shows a link between regular consumption of microwave cooked food and cancer. This is the worst rumor surrounding the appliance, by far, one that could end up doing severe damage to the health of individuals who take it too seriously.
HCA or heterocyclic aromatic amines are the most studied compounds to produce cancer, and they are normally found in foods that are rich in protein during the cooking process. The cooking method used impacts HCA formation the most, researches showing that, indeed, microwaving chicken at a high temperature causes HCA formation at higher rates as opposed to barbecuing, baking, or pan-frying this type of meat. However, studies show that barbecuing fish, for example, is more harmful when it comes to the formation of HCA as opposed to microwave cooking it, so there are arguments and counterarguments for all food preparation methods, not solely for microwaving.
Why packaging matters
Nowadays, most containers are specially designed to withstand the temperatures inside the appliance, but this isn’t a generality and it hasn’t been this way for a long time either. When you use plastic packaging in the microwave, the chemicals inside the containers will migrate into the foods, predisposing you to the appearance of cancer. What you must do to prevent this unwanted outcome is only use packaging that is marketed as microwave safe – you can figure this out by checking to see if there is a microwave symbol on it or if there are instructions for microwave cooking in its manual/sheet.
What happens to the nutrients in your food
Regardless of the cooking technique or process you take up, there is one thing you must understand – changes occur in the physical, chemical, and nutritional profiles of the foods. Microwaving doesn’t deprecate nutritional value of foods more than other types of cooking do as long as the procedure is done properly. With the right combination of time and temperature used for the cooking process, most nutrients will be preserved, while the taste, color, and texture of the food will increase.
- There is one nutrient that is indeed destroyed during this cooking process, more precisely vitamin C. If your body doesn’t receive the needed dose of vitamin C over a prolonged period of time, it could lead to scurvy. Do note that short bursts of heating don’t actually destroy the vitamin but rather retain most of it, so as long as you use proper cooking times, you will be in the clean.
So, are there actual health effects to worry about?
- No more vitamin B-12: All the benefits this vitamin provides are instantly cancelled when heated in the microwave as it becomes inactive. Found in pork, milk, and raw beef, among other foods, it is a vitamin we need to insert in our diets to prevent anemia, form red blood cells at a normal pace, prevent osteoporosis, decrease Homocysteine, and even ward off depression.
- Contaminated breast milk: A mother’s worst nightmare is a deprecating health of her child. Woefully, what some women do not realize is that one of the worst mistakes they can do is microwave the nutritious breast milk the baby needs for a healthy development and growth. As you heat the milk in the appliance, all the potent bacteria-fighting agents inside it are destroyed, growth of E-coli inside in being 18 times more likely to occur.
- Blood changes: It might sound strange, but researches showed that people who abusively consume microwaved vegetables and milk go through blood changes. To put it in simpler words, the non-ionizing radiation of the appliance causes white cell and cholesterol levels to increase, while decreasing red blood cell levels, which leads to a shift in blood structure.
- Heart rate shift: Radiation levels emitted might comply with safety guidelines, but this doesn’t mean that they have no effect on your health. As a matter of fact, the low frequency of radiation emitted affects heart rate instantly, individuals noticing chest pains and irregular heartbeats when they abusively use the appliance. If you ever feel any of the aforementioned symptoms, reduce your use considerably or give up on microwaving meals altogether as this is a truly detrimental practice for your state of health.
Tips to minimize risks
- When you are cooking veggies with it, microwave them as little as possible to minimize nutrient loss.
- Don’t rely on it to fix food contamination – if you suspect the food might be contaminated, throw it out altogether instead of consuming it.
- Only use containers that are market as being microwave-safe to avoid contaminating your meals.
- Always follow instructions on the packaging when you are handling store-bought microwaved meals – there are clear directions in terms of cooking time and temperature, and you should respect them.
- Stir foods during preparation to make sure everything is equally heated, minimizing the chance of contacting food-borne illnesses by doing so.
Verdict – Good or bad?
As you have probably concluded on your own by this point, there is no actual harm associated with consuming microwaved food as long as you are responsible and don’t base your entire diet on this practice. As with all cooking techniques and processes, there are good and bad sides to it and proper use can actually end up benefiting your health as this is the healthier method to prepare a wide range of foods. In conclusion, our verdict is that microwaving your food is a practice you should not give up on but rather limit to healthy levels.
One of the most convenient manners to heat up your food or even cook it, depending on the type of appliance you have at your disposal and the meal you are trying to put together, is microwaving. However, with so many rumors surrounding microwave cooking, it’s understandable to be skeptic when it comes to safety in use. Learn here whether or not microwaving food is a safe practice and what happens to your health if you take it up.