Is Microwave Cooking Bad for Your Health?

List: Posted: 02/25/11

If you spend a lot of time reading online, the fact is that you are likely to encounter some of the web’s biggest urban myths.  It is common on the web to read studies that tell you that microwaving food will do everything from render it nutrient free to give you cancer.  Is your microwave really a dangerous death machine?  

According to many websites, your microwave is capable of leaking radiation, and while it may not turn you into a superhero, it will eventually give you cancer by altering your DNA.  The simple fact is that this isn’t true.  Microwaves use a different type of radiation than power plants and X-Rays, and it cannot alter your DNA.  Furthermore, the FDA tests microwaves to ensure that very little radiation can escape.  With that said, however, you should never use a damaged microwave or one where the door does not close properly, and never buy a used microwave online or from a thrift store.

As for other claims about the microwave, they are largely bunk as well.  A microwave can cook off some of the nutrients in your food, but then so does all forms of traditional cooking.  In fact, microwaving food is actually healthier than many other more traditional cooking forms, for unlike pan frying and barbecuing, it doesn't create charcoal on your food, that black substance on the bottom of burned meat and vegetables. Charcoal contains carcinogens which certainly will give you cancer if you eat a lot of burned foods over the course of  your lifetime.

 

In truth, the only danger of the microwave is heating a liquid beyond the boiling point too rapidly for it to actually boil.  Also known as superheating, this can cause liquids to essentially explode.  This usually happens when the door is shut so if it happens it probably won't hurt you - at worst, you'll get a nice mess inside your microwave that you'll have to clean. 

Cooking in the microwave is not bad for your health.  It may not make the freshest and most evenly heated foods, but it isn’t giving you cancer or making your food useless, either.  Moral of the story?  Don't believe everything you read.

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