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Do Microwaves Actually Lower Your Nutrients in Food

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 08/31/2023

Microwave ovens provide a simple, convenient cooking method. Especially when it comes to fast meals, reheating leftovers, etc. But is heating or cooking your foods in the microwave really a good option?

Are microwave ovens a safe choice? What about the radiation? Or nutrient loss?

I'll answer these common questions about microwaves and food in the article below.

I will cover:

We will start by clarifying what kind of radiation microwaves use to heat food.

A young woman in white shirt puts white bowl of food into microwave oven.


 

Do microwaves use radiation?

Microwaves do use a type of radiation to cook your food. But this type of radiation is called non-iodizing radiation. It is still a form of radiation, but it is not nearly as harmful as CT scans or X-rays, for example. It does not penetrate deep into tissues, and it does not damage your DNA in the same way the other kind does.

Overall, the risks and harms are much lower. But there are some long-term studies that show that microwave radiation can produce cancer causing effects in rats. And they also suggest that it may be linked to cataracts.

The bottom line here is that the radiation used is not the most dangerous, but it is still radiation. And there are some possible harmful effects to be aware of.

 

Will using a microwave lower the nutrients in my food?

Certain studies show that yes, cooking with microwaves can lower the nutritional value of your food.

It depends on how long you cook the food, but it may reduce the nutrient content from 5-40% (or even more).

For example, studies have found that:

  • Using the microwave for just 60 seconds can deactivate something in garlic called allinase. This is a nutrient that is thought to have cancer-fighting effects.
  • Cooking broccoli in the microwave leads to 97% loss of antioxidants. Compare that to steaming, which only leads to an 11% loss.
  • Six minutes of microwave cooking can destroy 30-40% of the vitamin B12 in milk.
  • Microwave cooking decreases vitamin C content in asparagus spears.
     

Check out the links below to learn more about these studies and their results.

Broccoli and vegetables in microwave, heating up vegetables, microwave nutrient levels.


These are just a few examples of studies suggesting that microwave cooking can reduce levels of nutrients in your food.

When eating foods like vegetables, you want to get the most nutrition out of them as you can. Nutrients are key to a vibrant state of health. So choosing cooking methods that maintain high levels of nutrition is important.

 

Other drawbacks of microwave cooking

It isn't just a matter of losing nutrients in microwave-cooked food. There are other problems with using this cooking method, too.

Below are some other things to think about.

  • Using the microwave can lead to an increase in glucose and Fat Storing Hormone response.
  • Microwaving food can increase free radicals and oxidative damage.
  • Microwaves can oxidize cholesterol.
  • Putting plastic containers in the microwave can release up to 44 different chemicals into your food.
     

There are many things to be aware of when it comes to cooking with microwave ovens. Along with nutrient loss, you'll also want to be cautious of oxidation, chemical leaching, and more.

Man’s hand on microwave door handle, microwave keypad cooking time for heating food.


 

My recommendations

Some people still prefer to use a microwave despite the drawbacks. If that is the case for you, I've got some tips for making it as safe and as healthy as possible.

  1. Don't use the microwave on a regular basis. If you can, try to use it sparingly. Only use it when you really need it. Don't turn to it as the go-to option for heating or cooking food.
  2. Use it for only short cooking times. Try to only do microwave cooking for short bursts of time. The longer you use it on your food, the higher your chances of destroying nutrients.
  3. Opt for the conventional oven or stovetop when you can. If you need to cook for longer than 5 or 6 minutes, I say skip the microwave oven and go for your stove instead. Roast or steam your vegetables. Reheat leftovers in a saucepan or in the oven. It might take a few more minutes of your time, but healthier options are always worth the extra effort.
  4. Use glass containers rather than plastic containers. Even if they say they are "microwave-safe" containers, go with non-plastic options like glass or ceramic. This will help to prevent unhealthy chemicals from leaching into your meals. Glass is great for storing in, anyway. So you may want to invest in a good set of containers for your kitchen.
     

Chicken in glass dish in microwave, heating food in microwave-safe container, no plastic.


These tips can help ensure you are using your microwave oven safely. If you are going to use one, you want to get minimal harm from the process.

 

The bottom line

Microwaving food may be the most convenient option out there. But there is some evidence to suggest that it isn't the healthiest one.

Studies show that microwaving can actually lower nutrients in your food. This includes things like vitamins and antioxidants in vegetables. Other problems involve radiation, free radical damage, spiked Fat Storing Hormone, and more.

If you want to continue to use a microwave, be sure to use it sparingly and only for short cooking times. And always, always avoid plastic containers with heat.

Try to use conventional heating methods as much as possible instead.

Heating food on gas stove, vegetables and chicken in dishes.


Do you cook with a microwave oven? What are your thoughts on health, microwaves, and food? Any tips on heating without one? Share your comments with me below.

References

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Disclaimer: Our educational content is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.

Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy.

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