Myths About Microwaves

Talk about your Nutrition Zombies!  There’s an apparently unkillable myth that microwaving destroys nutrients or “denatures” food in some particularly harmful way. Every time I think we’ve driven a stake through its heart, it pops up again. (Wait, stakes are for vampires, not zombies. Maybe that’s the problem.)

Just this morning, I received an email from Julie, who wrote:

“A holistic clinician said it is best to avoid microwaves because they  change the molecular structure of food and renders in unabsorbable in the body.”



Let’s take these one at a time:

Microwaving Doesn’t Destroy All the Nutrients

All cooking degrades nutrients to some extent, but microwaving foods is no more harmful than any other cooking method. In fact, because food cooks quickly and with a minimum of water, microwaving is one of the better ways to cook vegetables.

See also: Surprising News on How Cooking Affects Nutrients

Microwaved Food is Not Radioactive or Carcinogenic

As detailed in this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the pernicious cancer rumor dates back to some unpublished and poorly documented “research” that spread like Kudzu through the internet–but lacks scientific validity.  One prominent cancer researcher is quoted as saying

“I can honestly tell you that I have never seen a valid scientific study—and I pay attention to most of the cooking research out there—that has given us reason to test whether microwaving food could cause cancer. In fact, my research suggests just the opposite.”

Microwaved Water Doesn’t Kill Plants

And finally, there’s a widely cited “experiment” which supposedly proved (with photographic evidence!) that plants will die if watered with microwaved water. I’m forever grateful to my brethren-in-arms over at Snopes for actually testing this claim with their own experiment (also with photographs). You can view their findings here.

Don’t Use Plastic in the Microwave

There is one caveat about microwaves that’s worth paying attention to: Don’t use plastic in the microwave. Even though the plastic itself doesn’t get hot, it can leach potentially harmful compounds when it comes into contact with hot foods.  I strongly suggest keeping all plastic (even stuff marked “microwave safe” ) out of the microwave–and that includes those vegetables that you’re supposed to be able to microwave right in the bag. Use only glass or ceramic containers when zapping food.

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