Are Microwaves Save?

I’m a big-batch cooker. From time to time I put to and make a mess of food, putting it in individual containers in the freezer. This saves me time when I don’t want to have to start from scratch. And since I’m the best mama ever, I end up stuffing my children’s freezers with my lasagna, veggie chili, mac and cheese, stew and soups.

When I reheat, I typically just throw whatever I’m cooking into a ceramic dish and nuke it. I love my microwave. But how safe is it, really?

I’ve was told by a friend that microwave ovens shouldn’t be used to heat water for tea because the microwave tears apart the molecules and ruins the water. I’ve been told that if you have cancer in your family you should lose the microwave ovens. And I’ve been told that eating microwaved food can interfere with hormone production.

That’s all a load of hooey.

Microwave ovens have been around for about sixty years now and they’re damn convenient. I use mine to defrost, steam my veggies and rewarm left-overs. I’ve even baked the odd cake-in-a-cup when I’ve become desperate for chocolate cake and the stores have all closed!

Microwave ovens heat food by producing electromagnetic radiation, which is absorbed by water molecules in the food. The water molecules vibrate and produce heat, which cooks the food. That’s why food with more water in ‘em, like veggies, cook more quickly.

That radiation is one reason why we sometimes refer to it as nuking our food… but that’s probably a bad term to use if you want to believe microwaves aren’t bad for you, right?

Radiation is the release of energy from any source. Not all radiation is harmful. Non ionising radiation has enough energy to move things around inside a cell but not enough to change cells chemically. The radiation from a microwave oven is non-ionizing, much like radio waves and the radiation waves given off by computers and their screens.

But what about the food cooked in a microwave. Have you wondered if foods become less nutritious when microwaved than when cooked on the stove top or in a regular oven?

Researchers say that microwaved foods may be better for you since microwaving results in less loss of nutrients compared with boiling and frying. Turns out water-soluble nutrients like many B vitamins and vitamin C are not leached out of the food when they are microwaved since food cooks quickly, and those nutrients are less exposed to the heat.

There are some nutrients that become more potent when exposed to heat, like lycopene in tomatoes and beta-carotene in carrots. For those, stove-top or oven roasting will make they better for you nutritionally. And the taste, well, the taste of roasted anything really, right? I make a slow roasted tomato, garlic and red pepper pasta sauce with basil that keeps summer in my kitchen all winter long.

The idea is to pick the cooking method that works best for you time-wise and for the nutrients in your food. Boiling and stir-frying may actually be the worst for your vegetables. Putting broccoli in water, for example, destroys it because it’s nutrients are water soluble. And stir-frying it means exposure to high heat, which may rob it of nutrition too. So steam or nuke that sucker. If you like your veggies boiled, save the water and use it to cook your rice or to make your gravy so you don’t pour the nutrients down the drain.

If you’re determined not to have a microwave in your home, that’s fine. To each his own. But if you have a microwave and are happy using it, and someone tries to tell you that you’re ruining your food or exposing your family to danger, it simply isn’t true.


Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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12 Responses to “Are Microwaves Save?”

  1. Thanks for the no nonsense article(s) Gail! Just wanted to say that through Twitter and Facebook I have read that you are ending your blog this week. After over a million words, you’ve decided enough is enough. Good for you! But, I’m going to really miss your blog. It is part of my morning ritual – coffee, Gail and time to myself before the kids get up for school. However, you deserve a break, and I’m looking forward to what else you might have in mind. Thanks for all you do Gail. My life has changed because of you – and I’m sure there are many more out there that can say the same! Hugs to you! 🙂

  2. Nooooooo!! I just read the comment above, had not realized that – I have been reading your blog every morning for YEARS. Thank you for all of the research, insight and valuable wisdom you have provided. I will really miss it.

  3. Thank you for this info — I’m going to share it with my cousin who believes in all the myths you’ve stated here. I do think that if you use plastic — whether a plastic bowl or wrap, that it may leach into the food. I use ceramic or glass & coffee filters to cover for splatter but in a hurry I’ll use plastic film for baked potatoes!
    I’m going to miss this blog sorrowly 🙁 It’s the only one I’ve consistently have read for years & appreciate all the super awesome advice given. You won’t take it down completely? Sure hope not as it is soooooooo resourceful!
    Thank you VERY much for all your hard work in researching topics . . . Muchly appreciated — hope you have a wonderful break & maybe you’ll have something better for your biggest fans!

  4. Like posters above, I had not realized that you are ending this blog. I am fortunate to have been raised by parents and in an environment that taught me the necessity of frugality, so even when I was a poor student and then a debt-laden new graduate, I never found myself in desperate financial circumstances. I’ve also been fortunate in my work and life circumstances, but things can change in a heartbeat, so one should always learn. Thank you so much for all of the good advice (in both the blog and your television shows) and your warm good humour.

  5. avatar RedHeadedWoodpecker Says:
    March 29, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Gail, Your slow roasted, red pepper, tomato, garlic and basil sauce…as you called it Alex’s Roasted Summer Sauce….has become my favorite way to use my homegrown tomatoes. I love the way it smells when I make it. Gail, I’m going to miss this blog so much. Thank you so much. I met you once at a book signing, and feel as if I know you. Over coffee, while reading your blog, I’ve learned the books you like, shared recipes, learned more about Autism, seen your paintings, heard about your travels, and SO MUCH MORE. You inspired and taught me ways to live debt free. My husband and our kids are enjoying the benefit of accomplishing that. Enjoy the next chapter of the story of your life…..I’ll miss reading about this part of your life!!

  6. I have enjoyed reading your blog for years. You have been a wonderful teacher. You will be missed.

  7. Gail, thank you for this blog. I’m going to miss it.

  8. Thanks, Gail! Enjoyed reading your blog and will miss it.

  9. Just wanted to say thank you for all the years of blogging! I will really miss your blog, it’s part of my morning routine, and I have learned so much. I can’t imagine how many lives you have changed.

    I understand though that sometimes it is just time to move on, and that is the wonderful part of being in control of your money and your life! Freedom to make the best decision for yourself.

    I follow you on Twitter, so I will be anxiously watching for updates! Have a great day!

  10. Thank you for all your words of wisdom. Finding you a few years ago saved my and my husband’s finances. I have no idea where we’d be without you, your shows and your blog. Like others have said, your blog is part of my daily routine and will be sorely missed!

  11. I wish “they” would put your TV shows on dvd and let us purchase them.

  12. avatar John Brendt Says:
    December 28, 2016 at 4:25 am

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