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Is Cooking In Microwave Oven Bad For Your Health?

| Reviewed By Dr. Alex Maliekal

Microwave oven has made everyone's lives easier, as it helps in cooking pre-made meals or reheating the food within a few minutes, as compared to other conventional cooking methods. There are many contradictory explanations on whether cooking food in a microwave oven is safe or not. Let's find out in this article.

How Does Food Heat Up In A Microwave

According to Harvard Health, the water molecules move around rapidly in the microwave and in the food in high frequencies. The molecules vibrate and the friction between the molecules results in heating which eventually cooks the food.

Are Microwaves Safe For Cooking Food?

Whether food is cooked in a microwave or a regular oven, the nutrients, such as vitamin C in the food breakdown when exposed to heat. Because the food takes a shorter time to cook in a microwave, the nutrients are preserved better.

However, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vitamin B12 is lost in foods like milk, pork, and raw beef once heated in a microwave. The study results showed that there was a 30 to 40 per cent loss of vitamin B12, where the vitamin was converted to inactive products, making them neither useful nor harmful-thus reducing the nutritive value [1] .

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A study also found that the powerful bacteria-fighting agents in breastmilk are destroyed when it is heated in a microwave [2] . Breast milk is rich in nutrients and "antibodies" (which improves the baby's immunity to infections) which are lost in the microwave. However, the nutritive value is still preserved.

Plastic containers used in microwave cooking can be harmful because the plastic can melt by the heat of the food inside, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also, plastic contains one of the worst contaminants BPA, or bisphenol A, an oestrogen-like compound used widely in plastic products.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) food cooked in a microwave does not become radioactive and it is as safe as it is cooked in a conventional oven. The only main difference between these two cooking methods is that in a microwave oven, microwaves enter deep into the food and reduce the cooking time.

On A Final Note...

There is no conclusive evidence that cooking in a microwave oven is bad for health. However, there are also evidences that support the loss of certain nutrients from food while cooking in a microwave.

At the same time, cooking in a microwave is very convenient and as long as the food is cooked well in a microwave-safe container, it is safe to consume.

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View Article References
  1. [1] Watanabe, F., Abe, K., Fujita, T., Goto, M., Hiemori, M., & Nakano, Y. (1998). Effects of microwave heating on the loss of vitamin B12 in foods.Journal of agricultural and food chemistry,46(1), 206-210.
  2. [2] Quan, R., Yang, C., Rubinstein, S., Lewiston, N. J., Sunshine, P., Stevenson, D. K., & Kerner, J. A. (1992). Effects of microwave radiation on anti-infective factors in human milk.Pediatrics,89(4), 667-669.
Alex MaliekalGeneral Medicine
Alex Maliekal
Read more about: microwave health cooking
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