Science Mom: Your Microwave Will Not Give You Cancer, And Might Even Help Prevent It

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3. Myth #3: Microwaves destroy the nutrition in food.

If you err on the crunchy side, you may be avoiding microwaves because you’ve heard that they destroy all the vitamins, minerals, and general healthy goodness in your food. Good news! Microwaving is actually better for retaining the nutritive quality in food than most conventional cooking techniques.

Does a microwaved mushroom contain a lower proportion of vitamins than a raw one? Well, yes – but so does a boiled or sauteed one. Cooking inherently destroys a certain percentage of the vitamin content of anything you eat, but cooking also makes food more digestible and makes those vitamins more readily accessible to your body. And microwaves happen to be one way to cook things that happens to preserve a pretty good amount of vitamins and antioxidants (thanks to how it works–energizing water molecules–as well as the comparatively short cooking time). Not only do microwaves not cause cancer, they help preserve the safety of the substances that can help prevent cancer!

So if preserving the nutritive content of your food is your main concern, stick it in the microwave. Just don’t add too much water, or you’ll lose just as many vitamins as you would if you threw your vegetables into a pot of boiling water. (Side note: the antibodies in breast milk do not count as nutritive content, and will get hella destroyed by a trip through the microwave, so don’t thaw your hard-pumped milk that way.)

4. Myth #4: “Microwave sickness” is a thing.

I had never heard of this before I began researching this article, but it turned up on site after site. I had to stop working and pop myself a huge bowl of popcorn in order to keep working. This “sickness” is a naturalist bogeyman whose effects are as wide-ranging and nebulous as “antioxidant depletion”, “mitochondria dysfunction”, and “high levels of bacteria in the blood”. It is also not real. Nuking a piece of leftover pizza is not going to disrupt your sleep cycle, and it’s not going to give you a heart attack–but arguing with someone who believes in this stuff just might.

Of course microwaves have downsides. If you stick a beautiful locally-grown organic game hen in the microwave to cook, it’s going to come out tasting like a rubber chicken. Plus, there’s the fact that while your first bite of microwave burrito is going to be slightly hotter than the surface of the sun, the inside core will still be frozen rock solid. And last but not least, there’s the risk that the oven’s insistent FOOD-IS-READY beep will be loud enough to wake the baby that you just put down for a nap.

So no, microwaves aren’t perfect–but they’re also not the devil incarnate. If your fear of “toxins” or invisible radiation has been holding you back from the most cherished of all parents’ kitchen appliances, don’t worry: your morning oatmeal is safe to zap.

Just remember to take the spoon out first.

(Image: itVega/Shutterstock)

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