Ever wonder if microwave meals are healthy as you watch the timer tick down to zero?
Take a moment to envision your kitchen, as well as the kitchens of your family and friends. Most likely, they all have something in common: a microwave oven. Most Americans own a microwave. When it comes to convenience, microwaves win out over any other cooking appliance. They help us prepare and reheat meals almost every day, but you might wonder how safe they really are. Let’s take a look at some of the lingering concerns.
How microwaves work
We can all easily identify a microwave oven and explain that it cooks our food quickly. However, many of us may not know how the “magic” happens. Microwaves cook food using waves of energy that are like radio waves but shorter (called microwaves). These waves primarily affect water, causing the molecules to vibrate and create heat.
Does using a microwave “zap” nutrients out of food?
Heat exposure breaks down some nutrients — it’s unavoidable with any cooking method. However, there is nothing specific to a microwave that causes foods to be any less nutritious. In fact, since heat exposure time is likely reduced with a microwave, it may do a better job of preserving certain nutrients than slower cooking methods.
Microwaves and radiation exposure
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees making sure radiation emissions do not pose a hazard to public health in the U.S. The FDA runs tests on microwave ovens in their labs. Their Center for Devices and Radiological Health sets and enforces standards of performance for products such as microwave ovens. Standards require all microwaves to be built so that the moment the latch is released or the door is opened, the microwave shuts off. Microwaves must display a label stating safety standards are met.
Keep in mind that these safety precautions are not guaranteed if you have a damaged microwave oven. The FDA also has guidelines about safe operation of microwave ovens.
Microwave energy does not remain in food after you cook it. An article by the World Health Organization had a good comparison: Microwave energy is like light from a light bulb; once the light bulb is turned off, no light remains.
Is it safe to microwave meals?
Go ahead and microwave those leftovers without worry. Especially if a microwave helps you prepare healthy foods you wouldn’t eat otherwise. Whether you are always on the go or limited in your cooking tools, your microwave comes through in a pinch!
Check out these recipe links for microwave meal ideas: