Is microwave cooking bad for your health? A nutritionist answers

There is a popular belief that microwave cooking zaps all nutrients. But is it true?

Most people believe cooking in a microwave depletes the nutrients in food. But the fact is, whether you cook on gas, use a charcoal stove or a microwave, what matters is the amount of time and the heat you require for cooking, and not the cooking method. The best cooking method that retains nutrients is the one that exposes food to heat for the shortest amount of time, cooks quickly and the one that uses a minimal quantity of liquid. According to nutritionist Priya Kathpal, cooking in a microwave is, in fact, a safe bet as it requires less time so it can help retain more water-soluble nutrients, which the food loses when you cook it for too long. Due to a faster cooking time, microwaving the food also helps preserve heat-sensitive nutrients like vitamin C.

Grilling meat or fish in the microwave, instead of pan-frying them, also inhibits potentially carcinogenic chemicals like heterocyclic amines and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are related to prostate and pancreatic cancer[1].

However, you can go wrong with microwaving if you do not follow these tips.

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  • Avoid covering your foods with plastic wraps as the heat produced in the oven can make the plastic release harmful chemicals, which are considered carcinogenic.
  • Also, make sure not to overcook the food in the microwave. Take into account the standing time of the food because it continues to cook even after the microwave is switched off as the heat is still trapped inside.
  • Also, ensure that you do not use traditional metal cookware as the microwave heat cannot pass through the metal.

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[1] Sugimura T, Wakabayashi K, Nakagama H, Nagao M. Heterocyclic amines: Mutagens/carcinogens produced during cooking of meat and fish. Cancer Sci. 2004 Apr;95(4):290-9. Review. PubMed PMID: 15072585.

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