Microwave Oven Myths
Microwave Ovens and a Healthy Diet
It started when I was having a dinner party. One of the guests (I'll call him Tim) came in the kitchen to chat. While we were talking, I put some vegetables in the microwave to heat up.
Tim looked at me and said, "You're cooking vegetables with a microwave? Don't you know microwaves alter the molecular structure of foods? Why take something perfectly healthy and destroy it in a microwave oven?" I was so surprised at his statement, I didn't know how to react. Did he really believe that?
Let me take a second to explain how a microwave works. It's simple really. The motor in the microwave converts power into short (micro) radio waves. They're a form of electromagnetic energy. The waves bounce around until they're absorbed by the water in food, causing the molecules to vibrate rapidly and produce heat.
Despite what many popular websites claim, microwave ovens do not make food radioactive. There is no relationship between microwaves and nuclear energy, even though the slang term for heating something up is to "nuke" it. Microwaves do not change the molecular structure of foods, they merely make the molecules vibrate more, resulting in heat.
While I'm busting myths, you should also know that microwaves cook the outside of food first and the heat is then conducted into the interior. The waves can't penetrate deeper than 1 1/2 inches, so the center of a particularly thick food is cooked by heat from the outer layers. Things don't cook from the inside out.
Funny thing is, cooking in a microwave actually preserves more of the nutrients in foods than baking (with the longer cooking times) or boiling (where nutrients are absorbed by the water). The short cooking time and low water use make vegetable preparation especially well suited for microwave cooking.
For healthier results, here are a few simple rules to follow when cooking with a microwave.
Don't use metal pans, dishes with gold leaf or metal glazes. Microwaves bounce off the metals and the food won't cook properly. The metals will also disrupt the microwaves and create electrical "arcs" or sparking that can damage the oven or even cause a fire.
Microwave safe plastic is perfectly fine to cook with. You just want to avoid cooking or reheating things in that old plastic butter tub, plastic takeout boxes or plastic shopping bags. If it's not specifically designed for the higher heat environment of a microwave, the plastic will melt and harmful chemicals called "plasticizers" can leach into your food.
You should also avoid any plastics that have BPA in them. On plastic microwave dishes look for the words "BPA FREE."
Microwave safe glass or ceramic is also perfectly acceptable to cook with. They just may cost a little more than the plastic alternatives.
Most microwave ovens use a turning table to overcome one of their biggest drawbacks. They tend to cook unevenly. By spinning the food around, it's more likely to heat all over. To help things along, stir things halfway through the cooking cycle.
You should also pay attention to the "standing time" after food is done. Some recipes suggest you let things sit for a couple of extra minutes. What that does is even out heat distribution and can briefly increase the temperature of the food.
Microwaves are GREEN
There's just one more thing most people don't know about microwave ovens. They may be one of the "greenest" appliances in your kitchen. They cook faster and primarily heat the food, not air, so a microwave may use as much as 80% less energy than stovetop cooking or traditional oven baking.
The microwave isn't the health-destroying machine many make it out to be. It's just another appliance that can make your life a little healthier, greener and more convenient.
For hundreds of nutritious recipes you can freeze and easily reheat later, visit my website WeCookFit.com. Every picture is how the food turned out after we finished cooking it. Look for the words "Freezer Friendly" beneath the pictures for dishes you can make in bulk and quickly reheat in the microwave later. Start living healthier with your microwave today!
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