Before answering this question, it is important to note that every cooking method will destroy nutrients. The 3 factors that determine the extent are:
1. how long the food is being cooked
2. how much liquid is being used and
3. the cooking temperature
Since microwave use less heat than conventional methods and involve shorter cooking time, it has the least destructive effect. The most heat-sensitive nutrients, for example, are water-soluble vitamins especially those in vegetables.
A study at Cornell University has found that spinach retains nearly all of its folate when cooked in a microwave, but 77% was lost when cooked on the stove. When it comes to water soluble vitamins, adding water can greatly accelerate the loss of nutrients. It was found that broccoli cooked by microwave — and immersed in water — lost about 74% to 97% of its antioxidants. When steamed or cooked without water, broccoli retained most of its nutrients. In conclusion, microwave can be a great cooking method that preserves nutrients well based on the above factors.
People also often ask, “do microwaves make my food radioactive?” Though microwaves have become an essential tool for families, many still question about their safety. First of all, microwave energy uses a wave length similar to television, radio waves, electric shavers and radar. It does not make food “radioactive.” X-rays and nuclear radiation are at the other end of the spectrum and are a million times more powerful. In other words, microwaves are safe for us to use.
Keep the following four tips in mind to ensure that your microwave use is safe and efficient:
1. To promote uniform cooking, arrange food items evenly in a covered dish and add some liquid if needed. Where possible, debone large pieces of meat as bone can shield meat from thorough cooking.
2. Stir the food midway through the microwaving time to even the cooking and eliminate cold spots where harmful bacteria can survive. Even if the microwave oven has a turntable, it is still helpful to stir and turn food top to bottom.
3. Never partially cook food and store it for later use because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed. When partially cooking food in the microwave oven to finish cooking on the grill or in a conventional oven, it is important to transfer the microwaved food to the other heat source immediately.
4. Only use cookware that is specially manufactured for use in the microwave oven. Glass, ceramic containers, and all plastics that are safe to use usually will be labeled for microwave oven use.
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