January 9, 2009

You Ask, I Answer: Microwaving

On your Youtube videos you often mention having this or that kind of food (like a flash frozen box of spinach) ready to microwave for a nutritious and easy meal at the end of a long and busy day.

I am just wondering where you stand on microwaving foods and how that may change the nutritional quality of the food or perhaps produce harmful effects to the food we eat.

Microwaving foods, even things like tea, seems unsafe to me.

Do you see this as an issue?

-- Dennise O'Grady

Bay Head, NJ

Not really.

I am surprised at how many people think microwaves emit radioactive energy. They don't!

Microwave energy is low in frequency and non-ionizing, while X-rays, for example, are high frequency and ionizing. VERY different properties as far as effects on human health are concerned.

This appliance has been thoroughly researched by food scientists, and not a single study has shown that microwaved food is somehow toxic or chemically altered in such a way to cause illness.

Of course, this is not to say you should stand two inches away from a working microwave for ten minutes. Similarly, be sure to take the necessary precautions when it comes to the type of containers you microwave.

If someone were to tell me they use a microwave to cook 90% of their food, though, my only concern would be that they are most likely eating a lot of high-calorie, sodium-laden prepared frozen meals.

I actually think microwaving is a quite resourceful way to cook certain foods. Its quick cooking capabilities save time -- and nutrients!

Whereas boiling leaches water-soluble vitamins (B-complex and C), microwaving -- much like steaming -- tends to retain them.

Also like steaming, microwaving does not require the addition of any fat.

One downside to microwave is that the extremely high temperatures can severely deplete one antioxidant commonly found in the Brassica family of vegetables (i.e.: cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and cabbage).

As far as heating up water -- it's perfectly safe.

If your coffee gets cold, though, don't stick it in the microwave. It's fine from a health perspective, but it will impart an acidic flavor.

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