Myths to dispel: is using the microwave bad?

Is using the microwave bad or not? Our nutritionist has listed the advantages and disadvantages of the microwave to lead to conscious use.

Microwave  ovens  are household appliances mainly used to heat food. Their operation is based on the interaction of matter (in particular the water and fat particles contained in food) with the electromagnetic fields generated by the is based on the interaction of matter with electromagnetic fieldsMicrowaves, which are a type of radiofrequency radiation, are therefore absorbed by the water and fat molecules which, thanks to the energy received, are able to vibrate. Thus the molecular friction caused by the rubbing generates heat and the heat in turn cooks the food. The result is that the food heats up from the inside out, so the food cooks first inside where there are generally more water and fat molecules, and then outside where it is drier. This feature distinguishes the cooking method carried out through the microwave oven from that of other more classic ones (ovens, electric ovens and stoves) which heat the food by conduction or radiation, therefore starting from the outside towards the inside.

The radiation

Many think that the microwave is bad because it uses radiation , microwaves in fact, but it is likely that the misunderstanding arises precisely from the term radiation . The radiofrequency radiations to which the microwaves belong are of low energy and are of the non-ionizing type . They have enough energy to vibrate atoms within a molecule, but not enough to push an electron away from its bond. They are therefore not powerful enough to induce genetic mutations. Furthermore , food heated with a microwave is not radioactive because it is not ionized: it is exposed to insufficient quantities of energy to cause this phenomenon. Consequently, even food cooked or heated with this methodthey do not affect the risk of getting sick .

Disadvantages: food poisoning

The disadvantage of using the microwave and the possible risk to health is that of being able to contract infections or food poisoning , due to the temperature reached by the oven itself and the very short cooking times , which may not be able to kill and therefore totally eliminate the bacteria that can be found in food.the risk is mainly linked to food stored in the refrigerator and not exactly freshThe microwave is therefore less effective than traditional cooking in eliminating any bacteria or toxinswhich can be present in badly stored food, so much so that food left a few minutes in the microwave can retain a high microbial load and therefore cause food poisoning, with the related gastrointestinal disorders (sometimes even serious) that follow. This risk is mainly linked to foods that have been stored in the refrigerator for a few days and which, therefore, are no longer properly fresh and may have developed bacteria inside them, regardless of the cooking method you choose to use to prepare them. For these foods it is highly recommended a cooking method that reaches high temperatures (pan or oven), able to totally kill any bacteria present, while the microwave oven should be avoided.

Disadvantages: the spread of ready-to-eat foods

A negative note to be associated with the spread of the microwave is that with this the appearance and diffusion in supermarkets of ready-to-eat foods, to be heated in a short time, has also increased. This could have led to an increase in poor quality foods included in the population’s diet and a consequent uncontrolled increase in body weight. In addition, many of these products are prepared and packaged in plastic packaging with which the food, to be cooked, must be placed directly in the microwave, but which are not really healthy. In fact, even plastic containerswith which we store food and which we use in the microwave are not very healthy, since in many cases they release bisphenol A, a known endocrine disruptor. So there are also indirect problems related to the use of the microwave, which make us understand that its excessive use can be harmful in the long run.

Advantages: intact nutritional values

An advantage of the microwave oven is to  maintain the nutritional value of fresh food . With heat, foods are altered as many vitamins and, above all, proteins tend to denature.the nutritional values ​​are maintained thanks to cooking without water and in a short timeSince with the microwave, foods cook without water and in a short time, without reaching very high temperatures, they maintain a high nutritional value which, on the other hand, is lowered with traditional cooking methods, since the temperatures reached are higher. Extensive investigations have found that there are no substantial differences compared to conventional cooking: the digestibility of food is similar in the two cooking methods. Compared to conventional cooking, on the contrary, cooking in the microwave damages the stability of water-soluble vitamins (C and B) less and produces fewer unwanted substances , such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and aromatic heterocyclic amines typical, for example, of grilling.


We can therefore conclude that the microwave is not bad, but it cannot be a substitute for all the more traditional methods of preparation and cooking of food. However, it should be remembered that the waves emitted by the microwave inevitably generate molecules that are not natural for our organism which, in the long run, can (we still do not know) have potential negative effects.

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