Microwave ovens were first available for sale as long ago as 1946. However, the question asked then is still being asked today – Is it safe to microwave your food?
When it was first introduced, many people were suspicious of the microwave oven and questioned whether it had health risks. This question remains relevant today.
How a Microwave Works
To understand the answer to this question, you need to discover how the microwave oven actually works.
Inside your microwave is a magnetron. This is responsible for converting it into radio waves. These are also referred to as electromagnetic radiation. Basically, microwave exposes your food to electromagnetic radiation in the microwave frequency range.
These radio waves are then directed through a channel into the heating area; where you place your food.
Your food should be sat on a turntable. Turning the food is essential to ensure the radio waves heat the food evenly.
The inside of the microwave is reflective metal. This bounces the radio waves around the cooking area; increasing the intensity of the cooking effect. The waves bounce off metal but will pass straight through china and other materials; allowing them to vibrate the molecules in your food.
This vibration causes the food to heat up. The more they vibrate the hotter you food becomes.
Health Risks Associated with Microwaves
There are many claims and concerns over the effects of these radio waves on your food and health. Fortunately, the majority of these claims appear to be unfounded.
Here are the most common concerns:
Many people are concerned that microwaves remove the nutrients from your food. This is true, but so does any form of cooking.
The mere act of heating food up alters its nutritional profile. The real issue is when you cook it for too long or on too high a setting. Again, this is also true for a conventional oven.
What you may be interested to know is that the rapid cooking process that occurs inside a microwave actually helps to retain the polyphenols in green vegetables. These are beneficial to your health.
Many people are concerned with the electromagnetic radiation given off by a microwave and its potential links to cancer. There are even surveys which appear to confirm this.
It is first necessary to understand what HCAs are. HCAs are compounds created when you cook meat, poultry or fish at high temperatures. HCAs are defined as carcinogens; these are substances that are likely to cause cancer.
These only occur when you cook meat for a long period of time at high temperatures. And they appear regardless of your cooking method. There are no studies that show microwave ovens produce any more HCAs than a conventional oven.
In fact, studies show that barbequed fish contain more HCAs than microwaved cooked fish.
The bottom line; there is no greater risk than with any other cooking method.
Plastic Containers and BPA
It is, therefore, reasonable to question whether these same chemicals can leach out of the plastic during the microwave cooking process.
The answer is yes.
However, if you use plastic products that are labeled microwave safe, there is no BPA present, so you don’t need to be concerned.
Of course, you can simply use alternative containers; such as glass.
Microwaves Don’t Kill Bad Bugs
This concern arises because you will often find hot and cold spots after you’ve cooked something in a microwave. This happens when the food is not rotating properly or hasn’t been cooked long enough.
In this instance, you will increase the chances of not having killed any harmful bacteria in your food. This is why it is essential to make sure your food is cooked for the right amount of time at the right temperature.
Also, salt in food causes localized heating which can make the food appear hot before the cooking process has actually been completed.
If you stick to the guidelines for cooking and storing food, this will not be an issue.
Can Your Microwave Cause Damage to You If You Stand Too Close?
The real issue with a microwave is the radio waves it creates. These are harmful to people and can cause burns. They are the same rays that are used by cell phones, but much more powerful.
Your microwave is designed to contain these waves inside the food area; none are retained after the food has finished cooking.
But, if your microwave oven does not contain these rays properly and you stand close by watching your food cook, you are potentially increasing your exposure.
Microwaves should not leak radio waves. But if they do, then your body will absorb these rays and it can potentially damage your health. Research is ongoing into how bad the effects are.
Test your microwave by placing your cell phone inside it with the door closed. Do not turn it on!!!
Then ring your cell phone via Skype, FaceTime or a similar internet-based service. You should not be able to get a WI-Fi signal inside your microwave.
If you do then your microwave may be leaking. But, even this is unlikely to be harmful to your health as it will be in such a small amount!
If you are at all concerned, stand approximately 2 feet away; this will allow the radio waves to dissipate.
So, Is It Safe to Microwave Your Food? – The Bottom Line
The fact is that using radio waves to cook your food has no more of a negative effect on your food or your health than using a conventional oven.
You can carry on using your microwave with confidence.
Microwaves will not make your food dangerous, they cannot alter your DNA and, even if leaking, they will put off less electromagnetic radiation than your refrigerator.
You can continue to use them!