A few weeks back, I attended a local health fair and had a variety of great conversations. One in particular I’d like to share here was with a retired scientist about the safety of microwave ovens.
He asked me if I thought microwave cooking was safe. This is a very interesting question, because while there are many in the natural foods industry that lean towards more ‘natural’ cooking methods, I must admit I’ve never found any hard science that shows microwaving food actually alters it any more than boiling or grilling. In fact, one could argue the byproducts of preparations like grilling (those delicious char lines are known carcinogens) and boiling (killing of enzymes and leeching of nutrients) damage food to a much greater extent than microwaving does.
In short, microwave ovens use microwaves to cook food. This means that high frequency waves are generated that cause the water molecules in food to vibrate. As a result, heat is generated, and the food is warmed. This process is not ‘nuking’ the food as it’s not radiation that’s creating the heat. According to everything I’ve seen, microwaving food does not alter food and appears to be totally safe. In fact, there are some studies that show it may actually retain more nutrients than other forms of cooking like boiling. (Although, in my book nothing beats a good ol’ fashioned light-steaming!)
However, there is a very real concern over the type of container placed in a microwave oven. Experts recommend that only glass or ceramic containers be used as there is evidence that microwaving foods in plastic containers or covered by plastic wrap can drive plastic molecules into your food. That’s not a good idea and one reason that I’m not a huge fan of the microwaveable plastic pouches that steam your veggies.
Personally, I prefer to use a microwave for re-heating or defrosting my food as opposed to cooking it. But after re-researching this topic, it’s not due to food safety. It’s just a preference. How about you?