Discover & Innovate: Microwaved food still healthy

Discover & Innovate: Microwaved food still healthy

A team from City University conducts an experiment by cooking green beans in water heated by a burner and water that was 'zapped': no real difference

If you ever use a microwave oven to reheat food, do you wonder if the food is as safe or as healthy as it was before? This is an issue that has been debated for years: does using microwaves to cook food damage it?

Those who say "no" claim that the radiation emitted by microwaves is not the type people should worry about. Those who say "yes" claim that microwaving food destroys vital nutrients in it.

To resolve the debate, a group of students from City University researched the effect of microwaved water on plant growth.

In the study, they ran two sets of experiments: one using tap water, the other using mineral water. The water was then either boiled using a Bunsen burner, heated in a microwave oven, or untreated.

Then, 150 green beans were planted, and watered with each sample of water. The students observed all six groups of beans as they grew.

It turned out that there was no significant difference between the green beans watered with microwaved tap or mineral water, and those fed with boiled or untreated water. All of the beans had a similar germination rate, mass, length and diameter.

The experiment confirmed findings by the World Health Organisation that were published in an information sheet in 2005 about using microwave ovens. That report said that food cooked in a microwave oven is safe to eat, and further, that it has the same nutrient value as food cooked in a conventional oven.

It also said food cooked in a microwave oven does not become "radioactive", and that the structure of the nutrients inside the food does not undergo any changes.

What's more, some nutrients such as vitamin C will eventually break down if they are heated for a longer period of conventional heating, so cooking in a microwave oven can actually preserve them, as the cooking time is reduced.

So, let's stop worrying about using microwaves to cook food. Yes, radiation is produced, but it is not cause for concern, as it is of a safe wavelength. Therefore, microwave ovens are a miracle of convenience and can be used without concern when you are in a hurry.

Reference: Electromagnetic fields and public health: Microwave ovens

Information sheet dated February 2005 can be found here

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Microwaved food still healthy

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