Microwaving food

Author: 

Micaela Karlsen, MSPH

Question: 

I’ve been seeing some stuff on the internet about the “dangers of using the microwave to heat/cook your foods”.I understand the dangers of losing nutrients through cooking (over-cooking) but is there any evidence that microwaving foods is a bad idea?

Answer: 

Whether or not microwaving food is dangerous is outside our expertise, so we can’t speak directly to that question. However, in doing a little investigation of what literature was available, we performed several searches on www.PubMed.gov and found the following papers:

Effects of microwave cooking/reheating on nutrients and food systems: a review of recent studies. (from 1985)

[Safety of microwave oven use]. (translated into English, from 1997, no abstract available)

[Microwave oven and health care: caution!] (translated into English, from 1998, no abstract available)

These papers do seem to discuss the potential dangers of microwaving, however it is not possible read the abstracts online. You would need to access the papers through the library of a university who subscribes to these journals if you do not subscribe yourself, or buy access to the individual articles.

One thought to consider: in the absense of a knowledgeable answer here about whether or not microwaving is dangerous, and in the potential absense of a definitive answer anywhere, you may want to think about how important microwaving is to you in maintaining a healthy diet. If using it allows you to eat more vegetables than you otherwise would, you can see a health benefit in using it. This could outweigh the potential harm of what microwaving does. We don't know what that harm is though (at least not on this website), so that may be serious or insignificant.

At the same time, if microwaving doesn't have a big impact on what the composition of your diet really is (if you eat about the same amount of plant food, animal food, and processed food whether you use it or not), you could also apply the "Precautionary Principle" here, which is a concept that states that in the absence of conclusive evidence that something is not harmful, it is still preferable to wait until there is substantial evidence that something is safe before you use it. This principle is mentioned frequently in the debate over GMO foods, as many proponents of GMO foods are ignoring that concept.