Today almost every household has a microwave and any kitchen may seem unequipped without it. Though generally recognized as safe, many articles speak about the dangers the appliance may pose to your health and food.
Does it zap nutrients out of food?
All cooking of raw foods, including heating and cooling, alters the nutritional content of food to some degree, but different types of heating does that in different ways. For example, broccoli loses most of its antioxidants when boiled, but retains its nutrients when steamed. Boiling vegetables accounts for greater nutrient losses than microwaving them because the nutrients leach out into the cooking water, researchers say.
Nutrients, however, can be lost when high a temperature is used to cook foods in microwaves, or when they are cooked for too long.
Does it cause cancer?
One of the main cancer-causing compounds are the heterocyclic aromatic amines (HCA), which are formed when meat is cooked using high-temperature methods.
A recent study showed that barbecued fish contains more HCA than microwave-cooked fish, while HCA could not be detected at all in microwaved beef. Also, defrosting beef and re-heating previously-cooked meat or fish in a microwave just for a few minutes, does not produce any extra HCA.
Microwaving food in plastic
If you heat food in a plastic container, some of the chemicals that make up the plastic can migrate into your food, which has been associated with increased risk of cancer. Microwaving plastics that aren’t marked microwave-safe is an especially bad idea.
There are a number of things you can do to mitigate the risk. These include avoidingovercooking vegetables to minimize nutrient losses, only use containers marked as microwave-safe, and rotate and stir foods during cooking to spread the temperature of heating equally and minimize potential for food-borne illness.