Is Microwaving Food Healthy or Unhealthy? The Surprising Truth from Harvard Medical School #health #wellness
These days, it seems like everywhere we turn there is another article warning us about some new dietary threat to our health. From food coloring to ecoli to arsenic in chicken to GMO’s, there is no shortage of bad news out there. Imagine my smile upon reading some good food news for a change! My friend Linda Avey shared this on Facebook. Linda and I met while researching our shared ancestry (her husband is my very distant cousin). She also happens to be co-founder of an exciting new website called Curious, which explores data-relevant questions people have about their health. You might want to sign up for the beta, it’s a super cool concept! Whenever Linda shares an article, I take notice– because, well, she’s brilliant. This week, she turned my kitchen upside down with news that microwaves are not the enemy… in fact, a microwave may just be the healthiest and best way to cook your veggies!
For years now I’ve heard and read from various sources that microwaving our food is unhealthy and that, despite its undeniable convenience, it has the power to zap all of the nutrients from food. We have a microwave in our kitchen and while I do use it regularly, there’s usually a voice in the back of my head warning me that this might not be the best choice. At one point, I even considered replacing my microwave with a large, costly toaster-style oven in an effort to “clean up my act.” Imagine my surprise after reading Harvard Medical School’s article in favor of microwave cooking. According to their post, the speedy convenience of microwaving also helps to preserve nutrients in our food.
In other words, don’t believe the hype, no matter how believable it might sound!
In a microwave, food is cooked or reheated by waves of energy that are similar to radio waves. These selective waves affect “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 are going to break down when exposed to heat, no matter where it’s coming from – an oven or a microwave. This is where a microwave’s short cook time can actually be beneficial. Important nutrients like Vitamin C are diminished when foods are heated, but because vegetables spend a much shorter time in the microwave than they might in an oven, the nutrients have a greater chance of being preserved.
Harvard goes a step further and points out that vegetables can actually lose nutrients when cooked in water. For example, broccoli’s flavor and cancer-fighting properties come from glucosinolate, which is lost when broccoli is boiled. Shorter, faster cook times that don’t require much liquid are our best hope for preserving nutritional value, and microwaves offer exactly that. By steaming food from the inside out, more minerals and vitamins are preserved than with alternate cooking methods. So, it appears that microwaves aren’t the enemy! At least, Harvard Medical School seems to think so. And who am I to argue?
Does this mean that I’ll be microwaving all of my vegetables from here on out? Definitely not. I don’t think I could live without roasted carrots and broccoli. But this certainly does give us some food for thought, and it might just ease our collective conscience a bit when reheating leftovers for lunch the next day. Do you use a microwave on a regular basis?