The other day, an artist friend came over to discuss an art project we’re both involved in—we were both showing a couple of our paintings in a local exhibition in March—so I made a cup of tea while we talked about it.
I put two cups of water with a chamomile tea bag in them in the microwave and, presto, in no time we had our tea. But when my friend saw me doing that she said she never uses a microwave oven to cook food because the radiation creates dangerous compounds in the food, and also diminishes its nutrient content. She said she learned that from the Internet; and apparently she’s not alone in that belief. (Isn’t the Internet grand?)
Later, having my doubts, I decided to check that out because with my busy schedule, I use the convenience of the microwave oven a lot. And what do you think I found? You guessed it: just the opposite is true.
According to Dr. Irwin H. Rosenberg, editor of the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, “Foods cooked in a microwave oven may keep more of their vitamins and minerals because microwaves can cook food more quickly and without adding water—nor do you have to add fat.”
The US Food and Drug Administration says cooking with microwaves is safe: “Microwaves cause water molecules in food to vibrate, producing heat that cooks the food. That’s why foods high in water content, like fresh vegetables, can be cooked more quickly than other foods.”
Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School bears this out. They say, “Some nutrients break down when they’re 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.”
And there is no evidence whatsoever of dangerous compounds caused by radiation.
The chief caution about microwave cooking concerns the containers you use. The FDA warns, “Some plastic containers should not be used in a microwave oven because they can be melted by the heat of the food inside. Generally, metal pans or aluminum foil should also not be used in a microwave oven, as the microwaves are reflected off these materials causing the food to cook unevenly and possibly damaging the oven.”
I will make sure my friend reads this post so that she can once again enjoy the great convenience of modern day cooking technology.
Modern day? My goodness, microwave ovens have had widespread popularity for over thirty years, which, of course, to an octogenarian like me, seems like only yesterday.
The first one was built in 1945. It weighed about 750 Lbs., was about six feet high, and cost $67,000, which, at today’s valuation, is over $900,000.