Microwave ovens

Microwave ovens

Are they safe?

Microwave ovens are convenient and popular. But are they safe?

 

This article from the Food Revolution Network provide you what you need to know about microwave ovens.

Comedian Steven Wright once said, “I just bought a microwave
fireplace. You can spend an evening in front of it in only eight minutes.”

Like Wright’s imaginary fireplace, microwave ovens can also
shorten the amount of time it takes to accomplish another task: cooking our
meals. They’ve proliferated quickly since their commercial introduction in the
late 1960s, so much so that it’s now hard for many of us to imagine a kitchen
without one.

And along with the technology, the food industry has
innovated tens of thousands of products designed to work with the microwave
oven. The microwave oven has become so much of a default, that sometimes you
have to experiment to figure out how to cook that frozen dish in boiling water
or a pan or a toaster.

Microwave ovens have been widely available since 1967, but
the first microwave oven came about in 1946. A Raytheon-employed engineer
named Percy
Spencer
 used World War II radar technology to accidentally produce the
first microwave cooking oven, with which he melted a candy bar. Before long,
Spencer was using his microwave to pop popcorn, which turned out to be a
prescient choice: popcorn is still the most popular microwaved food.

Over the next few decades, microwave ovens evolved to
include a turntable and to be more affordable and applicable for everyday
consumer use. And today, nearly every modern home, restaurant, office building,
and motel room has a microwave oven in it.

But even though microwaves have become a regularly used
appliance, the question remains: are microwave ovens safe?

What are Microwave Ovens and How Do They Work?

Microwaves were developed to cook and heat food quickly.
They’re named for the electromagnetic waves that they produce — microwaves —
which are longer than infrared radiation, but shorter than radio waves. The
appliance uses a glass turntable to rotate food as it cooks, which helps to
prevent cold spots.

Contrary to popular belief, microwaved foods don’t actually
cook from the inside out. Microwave cooking begins within the molecules where
water is present, and twists those molecules back and
forth
 to produce friction and ultimately heat. Since not all areas
contain the same amount of water, the heating is uneven. Because of this
shortcoming, I don’t know a lot of chefs who love microwaves, except as a way
to warm up things that were already previously cooked.

Cons of Using Microwave Ovens

Let’s first address some of the concerns around using this common
household appliance (such as are microwave ovens safe) and how much truth may
be behind them.

Unhealthy Foods

The biggest problem with microwave ovens actually isn’t the
appliances themselves, but the poor foods that all-too-often accompany them.
With our busy, on-the-go society, most of what people are using microwaves for
is to cook or heat ultra-processed, food-like products that don’t do your
health any favors. But in reality, that’s not the oven’s fault. The truth is,
there’s a world of difference between microwaving an industrially produced
frozen TV dinner and steaming some fresh or frozen broccoli.

Improper Use

In addition to what’s being put into the microwave oven,
improper use of the appliance itself can also be problematic. You can injure yourself
if you use a microwave incorrectly. One rule of thumb is to never put aluminum
foil or metal pans in a microwave oven as the waves will be reflected off of
them. This not only causes food to cook unevenly, but can actually spark and
damage the oven, or even lead it to catch fire. Food containers can also get
very hot; you can burn yourself if you try to pick them up without kitchen
mitts or towels. If you’re cooking something in a covered container, you might
end up with steam burns to your face as you remove the lid.

Every day, about 21 people end
up in American emergency rooms from “microwave oven-related injuries.” There
are a few from microwave popcorn steam, overheated hair removal wax, and nearly
one a day from exploding eggs (resulting from the pressure buildup of internal
steam), but most are from overheated water. The FDA warns to be
careful
 when trying to boil water in a microwave oven — particularly
when dumping something into it.

Plastic

Cooking TV dinners or using plastic wrap to reheat leftovers
come with their own concerns. Many TV dinners actually instruct you to cook
them with the plastic wrap still intact. But when plastic is heated, toxic
chemicals like BPA and phthalates can leach
out
 of the containers or covers, contaminating your food with
endocrine disruptors.

In 2008, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put 10
“microwave safe” containers through a microwave oven and then had them tested
in a lab. The containers included plastic types 1, 2, 5, and 7. Bisphenol A, or
BPA, was found to be leaching from all of them. The amounts detected were at
levels that can cause neurological and developmental damage in laboratory
animals.

Frederick vom Saal, a University of Missouri researcher who
guided the newspaper’s testing, commented: “There is no such thing as safe
microwaveable plastic.”

Radiation

But what about if microwave ovens are used safely — with
foods that are cooked in, for example, glass containers with glass lids? Are
microwaves inherently dangerous, or is the problem simply how they’re being
used?

The World Health Organization notes that one of the biggest
myths
 about microwave ovens is that foods cooked in them become
radioactive. Some people even refer to cooking their food in a microwave oven
as “nuking” it. Quite simply, this is wrong.

But microwave ovens do emit a type of microwave radiation.
These “microwaves” are similar to light in how they behave; once in transit,
they are either reflected or absorbed by materials in their path. How does this
relate to consumer health? According
to the FDA
, which has been regulating microwaves since 1971,
radiation-related injuries are very rare. Cases are typically the result of
improperly serviced appliances that led to overexposure of leaked microwaves.
FDA regulations require that microwave ovens are sealed to prevent high-level
radiation leaks. Their website notes that there is little concern about
radiation leakage unless your microwave has any damage to its door seal, latch,
or hinges. If your microwave continues to run with its door open, the FDA recommends
no longer using it, as this could cause radiation to leak out.

Undercooked Food

But there’s another cause for concern: Microwaves can’t
always be trusted to cook foods homogeneously. Foods undercooked in microwave
ovens can pose public health risks since the pathogens that could be lurking in
raw foods may not be killed. This is mainly a concern for meats, fish, and
other high-risk, animal-derived products, which need to be heated to at
least 140°F
 to kill pathogens, some of which may even be resistant to
antibiotics.

Cancer-Causing Compounds?

Yet another concern around microwaving animal foods was
raised by a 2015 study published in the Journal of Food Processing and
Preservation
, which found that more
cancer-causing
 heterocyclic aromatic amines (HCA) were created in meat
when microwaved than when it was pan-fried, baked, or even barbecued.

Possible Nutrition Loss

And there are concerns that microwaving foods may reduce some of the
nutritional quality of certain foods when compared to other cooking methods.
For example, a 2004
study
 published in the International Journal of Food Sciences
and Nutrition
 found that protein from microwave-cooked legumes was 5%
less digestible than the protein from legumes that had been cooked in a
pressure cooker. Another study found that a microwave heating time of 60
seconds was long enough to deactivate the
cancer-fighting compound alliinase in garlic.

Pros of Using Microwaves

There are also a lot of perks to having microwave ovens so
readily available to us. If there weren’t, we wouldn’t be using them all the
time.

Microwave ovens are just about the fastest and easiest way
to prepare (or at least, to heat) many foods. In most cases, the best way to
cook your vegetables is the one that gets you to eat them, and for some people,
based purely on convenience, that may be in a microwave oven.

These ovens are also easy to clean — much more-so than a
conventional oven — as long as you follow directions and prevent splatter or
explosions.

Some research has also found that vegetables cooked in the
microwave retain more antioxidants than those cooked via other methods. A 2009 study published
in the Journal of Food Science looked at the effect of
boiling, microwaving, pressure-cooking, griddling, frying, and baking on the
antioxidant activity of 20 different vegetables. Overall, they found that
griddling, microwave cooking, and baking resulted in the smallest antioxidant
losses. Cooking methods that used water had a more significant impact on
antioxidant activity in vegetables. To be clear, the difference here is not
huge, but it could be a point in the microwave oven’s favor.

Another perk to microwaving foods is that it doesn’t heat up
your house like conventional ovens do. Have you ever made baked goods or a
casserole dish in the warm months? A conventional oven will heat up your entire
kitchen, which may be nice in the winter, but it makes a hot summer day even
sweatier. And compared to a conventional oven it saves energy, which in today’s
world is important.

3 Healthy Microwave Recipes

Just because the microwave is commonly used for TV dinners,
that doesn’t mean it can’t be used for healthy meals too. Of course, you can
always use a microwave to steam some fresh or frozen veggies. And if you want
to be a bit more industrious (but still quick), here are three healthy recipes
that can be prepared swiftly in a microwave oven.

Best
Ever 5-Minute Microwave Hummus
 by Minimalist Baker – This recipe cooks
undrained, canned chickpeas and garlic in the microwave to soften them. And
then blends in tahini, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil for a quick and easy,
traditional dip.

Mexican Stuffed
Baked Potato
 by Dora’s Table – If you’re looking for a fast
alternative to baked potatoes cooked in a conventional oven, this is it. You
can save yourself nearly 90% of the typical time needed to make baked potatoes by
microwaving them instead. Once softened — which takes less than 10 minutes in
the microwave — you can slice them open and stuff them with your favorite
ingredients.

Spiced
Lentils with Yogurt, Almonds, and Mint
 by Power Hungry – Here’s a
nutrient-packed, easy microwave meal that only takes a few minutes to prepare.
A combination of lentils, tomatoes, and spices culminate together in the
microwave and are then topped with almonds and yogurt. We recommend starting
with leftover, home-cooked lentils, rather than canned. And keep in mind that
yogurt can be made from a soy, almond, coconut, and even cashew base — no cows
required.

The Bottom Line

Most microwave users put plastic and ultra-processed foods
in their ovens, thus exposing themselves to a host of chemicals believed to
contribute to cancer, heart disease, endocrine disruption, and many other
ailments.

And research is still ongoing on whether or not the EMFs and
radiation emitted from microwave ovens present long-term health dangers. We
don’t know that they do. And that doesn’t mean we are certain that they don’t.

But when used correctly and for healthy foods, based on
currently available research, microwave ovens appear to be safe.

So, should you use one? Ultimately, that’s a personal
choice. I don’t know many people who think of microwave ovens as being
especially conducive to gourmet cooking. But life can be stressful, and if a
microwave oven helps you to have a little more ease, to spend more time with
loved ones, or to have an easier time eating healthful foods, then that sounds
like a win to me.

And I don’t honestly think it’s likely to do you much harm,
unless you put metal in it, explode an egg, or drop it on your foot.

 

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Have a Healthy Day!,

.

Rod Stone
Author,
Publisher and Founder of r Healthy Living Solutions, LLC,  Supplier of Healthy Living information and products to improve
your life.

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