What about microwaving food, does it pose any dangers?

in StemSocial6 months ago

Food Image from Unsplash

There are few things in the home that have caused as much contention as the microwave, even though it has been a kitchen workhorse for decades. It has been praised as a saviour for those who are unable to cook or who choose not to cook, and it has also been described by certain chefs as single-handedly pulling the art of cooking down into the gutter.

But beyond the gastronomic disagreements, another issue can be found: under what circumstances is cooking in a microwave unhealthy for you?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no need to be concerned about the radiation that can be emitted by microwaves if it is utilized appropriately. But there are a few problems about which there is less consensus, such as whether or not heating food in plastic can induce hormone disturbance or whether or not microwaving food destroys its nutritional value.

lowering nutritional levels

It has been demonstrated in certain studies that microwaving veggies causes them to lose part of their nutritional content.

For instance, research has shown that microwaving removes 97% of the flavonoids, which are plant chemicals that have anti-inflammatory properties and are found in broccoli. That's third more damage than boiling would cause on its own.

When comparing the nutrient loss of broccoli cooked in the microwave to other cooking methods, one 2019 study noted that prior studies changed the cooking time, temperature, and whether or not the broccoli was in the water. The study concluded that the nutritional value of broccoli cooked in the microwave for just one minute was not affected. Flavonoids, substances related to a lower risk of heart disease, maybe more abundant after being steamed or microwaved. Microwaving appears to be a superior technique to maintain flavonoids than steaming under the cooking parameters used in this investigation, the researchers said.

However, they also discovered that when microwaving with an excessive amount of water (what you'd need to boil), flavonoids were depleted.

According to the lead author and scientist at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center of the United States Department of Agriculture, Xianli Wu, there is no universally accepted mechanism to explain how microwaving could boost flavonoid levels. It's possible that the softening of plant tissue caused by microwaving makes flavonoids more easily quantifiable, but not that their actual quantity is increased.

However, it is not certain whether microwaving veggies preserves more nutrients than other preparation methods. That's because, as Wu points out, there are substantial differences between the textures and nutrient profiles of various foods.

Although microwaving is often recommended, Wu warns that the ideal cooking time will vary depending on the vegetable. When it comes to conventional home cooking methods, microwaving is on top for many plant meals.

Researchers evaluated the phenolic (compounds linked to health benefits) content of vegetables cooked in different ways (boiling, steaming, and microwaving) in another study. Squash, peas, and leeks lost phenolic content when microwaved or steamed, however, spinach, peppers, broccoli, and green beans retained theirs. Antioxidant performance was another test conducted by the team.

When compared to boiling, cooking vegetables in the microwave produces better results overall. This was true for both of the evaluation criteria.

According to what written by the researchers, "moderate heat treatment would have been a valuable technique in increasing the health qualities of various crops."

Heating may evoke dangerous plastic materials

Imagine of different plastic plates. From Unsplash

Although we frequently microwave food in plastic containers and packaging, some scientists are concerned about the possibility of swallowing phthalates as a result of this practice. These plastic additives have the potential to degrade and leak into food when they are subjected to high temperatures.

Professor of food engineering at Washington State University, Juming Tang, says that some plastics aren't meant to be heated in microwaves because the polymers used to make them soft and flexible melt at a lower temperature and may leach out during the microwave process if temperatures rise above 100C (212F).

More than 400 plastic food containers were obtained by researchers in 2011 for the study, and it was discovered that most of them leaked chemicals that disturb hormones.

You can find plasticiser phthalate in many disposable containers, plastic wraps, and water bottles because it makes the plastic more flexible. The hormones and metabolic system have been shown to be affected by them. Phthalates raise the risk of metabolic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension in children by elevating their blood pressure and insulin resistance. Asthma, ADD/ADHD, and problems with fertility have also been related to exposure.

Leonardo Trasande, a professor of environmental medicine and population health at New York University School of Medicine, warns that phthalates may also interfere with thyroid hormones. Babies' brains rely heavily on these hormones, among their many other functions, while in the womb.

Studies have shown that the chemical bisphenol (BPA) used in many plastics may also interfere with hormone function. However, there is a dearth of studies in comparison to the many studies that have been conducted on phthalates.

As of yet, the full extent of the harm caused by phthalates is unknown, despite their pervasiveness (they can even be found in toys and body creams). Heating plastic containing phthalates, however, can increase exposure, according to most experts.

Professor and director of Arizona State University's Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering Rolf Halden claim that "microwaving mobilizes pollutants." In preparation for further chemical examination, this method is employed in laboratories to "extract contaminants from samples."

Furthermore, Trasande asserts that the relationship between chemical exposure and the risk of disrupting hormones is non-linear; hence, the dangers do not necessarily increase in proportion to the frequency with which an individual microwave food is contained in plastic containers.

Once upon a time, we were taught that poison was dose-dependent. Since the majority of impacts occur at low exposure levels, as we know from several research, "there is no safe threshold of exposure," Trasande argues.

When reheating food in a plastic container, it is essential to keep in mind that even plastic that does not come into direct contact with the food, such as a lid, poses a risk of exposure.

According to Halden, "water rises as steam from the food, and then condenses on the bottom of the lid," and then "the extracted chemicals from the lid then fall into your food, trapped in the condensation droplets."

Utilizing materials other than plastic that are safe to be heated in a microwave, such as ceramic, is one of the most effective strategies to reduce danger. If you do want to utilize plastic containers, make sure to steer clear of those that have become damaged or aged, as these types of containers are more prone to leak chemicals into their contents. You can also check your container for the presence of phthalates by looking at the universal recycling symbol, which is typically located on the bottom of a product. Phthalates are present in containers that display the number 3 alongside the letters "V" or "PVC."

The dangers associated with heating

Even if you stay away from plastics, there are still additional possible dangers associated with reheating food in a microwave, such as uneven heating and the high temperatures that are utilized.

At the outset, since microwaves tend to cook food unevenly, you should probably just use them to reheat it. Food safety expert and University of Georgia professor Francisco Diez-Gonzalez adds, "There will be some areas that are hotter than others depending on the portion that is heated."

A sample of the food's interior will have varying temperatures. In the case of raw foods, it is extremely challenging to maintain a constant temperature throughout.

However, it's vital to remember that reheating food is not without its dangers. Since hazardous germs can continue to thrive after food has cooled, it is important to heat it to at least 82 degrees Celsius (176 degrees Fahrenheit) before eating.

Another potential danger is the microwave's extremely high temperature. Though heating at a higher temperature isn't usually a concern, certain studies have found a possible danger in microwaving cereals and root vegetables that are heavy in starch.

Betty Schwartz, a professor of nutritional sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, found tiny crystals within the jacket potatoes her students were microwaving during lunch breaks. The analysis revealed a high concentration of acrylamide, a chemical that forms as a byproduct of certain cooking processes. To avoid the formation of acrylamide, which Schwartz claims occur at greater temperatures in the microwave, she had her students boil their potatoes.

There is scant evidence in humans, however, animal research suggests that acrylamide is a carcinogen by interfering with cell DNA. Some studies have shown that microwave cooking is more conducive to acrylamide development than conventional cooking.

When heated to 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius), a molecule's energy level increases to the point where it can react with DNA, causing mutations "the author Schwartz claims. "It is possible for cancer to develop when there are numerous mutations. Acrylamides have been demonstrated to have these effects in animal experiments.

Pre-soaking the potatoes in water before microwaving them is one workaround for this problem.

Security regarding radiation exposure


Image of microwave oven with veggies around Unsplash
When it comes to the radiation that is emitted by microwaves, rest assured that it is absolutely risk-free. Low-frequency electromagnetic radiation is utilized in microwave ovens. This is the same type of radiation that is made use of in radios and light bulbs. When you place food in a microwave, the food absorbs the microwaves, which causes the water molecules in the food to vibrate and creates friction, which ultimately causes the food to become hotter.

All living things, including humans, are capable of absorbing electromagnetic radiation. However, microwaves emit waves of a low frequency and these waves are contained within the microwave itself. Even if that weren't the case, the waves won't cause any harm, according to Tang. (Of course, a microwave's heat isn't completely risk-free; you shouldn't, for example, cook a live animal in there.)

Electromagnetic waves, of which microwaves are a subset, permeate our environment constantly. The electromagnetic waves and infrared energy emitted by the oven's heating elements can be dangerous if you're not careful when baking bread. When speaking to one another, "humans emit and receive radio waves," as Tang puts it.

Food cooked in a microwave oven is safe if you consume crops produced in the sun, but not otherwise.

Microwaves don't employ ionizing radiation like X-rays, thus they don't have the power to knock electrons loose from their atomic nuclei.

"In order to harm DNA, you need to destroy the chemical links that hold it together. According to Timothy Jorgensen, an associate professor of radiation medicine at the medical centre of Georgetown University, "This is the primary mechanism by which radiation kills; it mutates cells and produces cancer."

According to Jorgenson, most of the concerns regarding the dangers of microwave radiation were put to rest in the years after the invention of the microwave oven.

In particular, a significant amount of research on the safety of microwaves was conducted by scientists at the Army Natick Research and Development Laboratories in Massachusetts, United States. This research was very helpful in putting people's minds at ease about the topic.

There are many factors to take into account while you are preparing food in a microwave. According to the research that was done, even though microwaves have been considered a safe kitchen device for a long time, this status should not be taken completely at face value. In particular, many professionals are still expressing their concern regarding the potential for the plastic containers that we heat in the microwave to wreak havoc on our hormones and, as a consequence, negatively impact our well-being.

That brings us to the conclusion. I want to express my gratitude to you for taking the time to read this post, and I pray that God will richly reward you.



Brown, Jessica. “Is It Safe to Microwave Food?” Is It Safe to Microwave Food? - BBC Future, www.bbc.com/future/article/20200714-is-it-safe-to-microwave-food. Accessed 18 Sept. 2022.

Gunnars, Kris. “Microwave Ovens and Health.” Healthline, 18 Feb. 2022, www.healthline.com/nutrition/microwave-ovens-and-health#:~:text=Microwaves%20are%20a%20safe%2C%20effective,overheat%20or%20underheat%20your%20food.

Datta, Rupali DattaRupali. “Is It Safe To Heat Food In Microwave? Expert Reveals - NDTV Food.” NDTV Food, 7 Sept. 2020, www.google.com/amp/s/food.ndtv.com/health/is-it-safe-to-heat-food-in-microwave-expert-reveals-2291660/amp/1.

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I don't even have a microwave anymore, but I'm still curious about this.

It seems the solutions are easy: use ceramic or some such. As to nutrients getting lost, that happens with lots of cooking methods.

Yeah, because of rubber and plastics, foods get poisoned. so ceramics is the best. Thanks for your contributions

Yeah the greatest concerns is with plastic!
Also the taste changes a lot

Yes, you're on point. Thanks for stopping by


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These are a whole lot of reasons for us to discard our microwaves indeed but the problem with the human nature is that, we love ease so much, anything that would bring us ease is what we will definitely go for and this microwave ease soothes us so bad that it may be difficult to let go of, but regardless we need to reduce the use more efficiently, thanks for sharing this educating information.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I believe we will make beneficial use of the microwave oven if we are careful about how we should package our foods before microwaving and other necessary precautions considered

Dear James!
I agree with you!
I don't use the microwave.
Thank you for article!

Wow, I don't use it too but I have seen many using it here. It's all about choice and preferences