Heating meals within the microwave: good or unhealthy? Specialists reveal – NDTV Meals
Countless people use microwaves to heat their foodMicrowave is a small device that uses radiation to heat foodSome people also cook in the microwave, but how safe is it?
Is It Dangerous To Heat Food In The Microwave Or Just A Myth? This topic is still trending after decades of microwave use. Microwave ovens are present in almost every household these days and are used for cooking, heating, baking, etc. They have become a necessity rather than a status symbol, especially in households where both partners work. A microwave is an electric oven that heats and cooks food by exposing it to electromagnetic radiation in the microwave frequency range. Professionals usually prefer cooktops or traditional ovens for cooking because they feel that other cooking methods do not give dishes the right flavors. In Indian households, microwave ovens are often a simple and straightforward way to reheat food, boiling water, or even idle steaming, dhokla, or vegetables. Our traditional cooking method and microwave don’t really go together.
The debate about microwave cooking actually goes beyond taste – it’s about radiation getting into food (and therefore our bodies), the destruction of nutrients in food, and definitely the plastic containers and how their chemicals are ingress into our food that causes enormous damage to our body in the long term.
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The best way to ensure we are getting the maximum nutrition from our groceries is to buy fresh and locally grown food. Nutrients can be lost through incorrect washing techniques. So if you wash your vegetables after you cut them, you will lose water-soluble vitamins. Long cooking or high temperatures also destroy nutrients. Roasting meat (traditionally) leads to the production of dangerous nitrosamines – in the brown / burnt part – which are linked to various health problems.
Microwave cooking also affects the nutrients. Vitamin B12 is lost when cooking in the microwave by becoming inactive due to heat, and the temperature in the MVO can be very high. The only plus point is that it takes a little less time to cook in the microwave, so some nutrients can be saved.
Another water-soluble vitamin – folic acid – is lost when leafy green vegetables are boiled in water. However, cooking in MVO reduces this loss by up to 77%. In Indian households, the loss is mainly due to the fact that all the greens are chopped before washing, but most of the time the cooking is done with stirring or steaming without blanching. Whereas meat cooked in MVO (microwave) has much lower levels of nitrosamine because it doesn’t usually turn brown in the microwave.
(Also read: 10 brilliant microwave hacks that will make your life a lot easier )
Plastic contains a chemical called phthalates that penetrates the food when plastic containers are heated in microwaves. This is added to make plastic more flexible and is commonly found in takeaway containers, plastic bottles, and plastic wrap. These are harmful to our body. Studies have shown that these compounds disrupt our hormones and metabolic system and can increase the risk of CHD, insulin resistance, infertility, and asthma, among other things. However, scientists have not been able to determine the level of ingestion at which it becomes toxic. Another chemical that is often heard about in this context is bisphenol (BPA), which has similar reactions in the body.
While food is being reheated, it is advisable to transfer it to a ceramic bowl or plate or glass container for safety. If you do need to use plastic, choose one that is clearly microwaveable.
It has been found that the temperatures in the foods cooked in a microwave oven are unevenly distributed. Some parts of the food can be cooked while others are still uncooked or raw. This increases the risk of food-borne bacteria entering our bodies. Ideally, it is advisable to let the food sit for some time after cooking so that the heat can seep evenly through the entire dish.
No food cooked in the microwave is radiation positive. The WHO has stated that food cooked in MVO is safe to consume. The microwave energy goes out as soon as the oven is switched off. Also, the possibility of exposure to microwaves near an MVO is nearly impossible as the design does not guarantee leakage.
Microwave ovens are a convenience and should be used when necessary. Personally, I find cooking in MVO to produce food that isn’t as tasty as a stove or a regular oven. Indian food – which takes a little more time for flavors to seep through the dis – doesn’t work well with MVO. Overall, microwave ovens are safe to use, just choose the right cooking utensil.
About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a clinical nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has assembled and led teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions to patients in all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and the Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.