Is it Healthy to Cook Food in the Microwave?

Although it doesn't pose a risk if you cook food in the microwave sporadically, it can be dangerous if used to reheat food, as certain bacteria can survive.
Is it Healthy to Cook Food in the Microwave?

Last update: 15 December, 2022

Nowadays, there are a lot of people who doubt whether it’s completely healthy to cook food in the microwave. Although they’re often used for heating and cooking certain foods, microwaves are appliances that don’t treat food the same way as traditionally as stovetops.

How do microwaves work?

Microwaves work by generating electromagnetic waves that are responsible for heating various elements contained in food, such as:

  • Water
  • Fats
  • Liquids

This way, the food absorbs the energy produced by the microwave. It’s a process technically known as dielectric or electronic heating. This heating causes vibrations, friction and collisions between the molecules that are inside these foods, thus raising their temperature.

However, this method of heating is more efficient in liquid elements than in solid foods, since the movement of the molecules they contain is usually slower and more limited. In addition, the movement is also significantly lower in fats and sugars, because they have a smaller amount of perceptible molecules.

Advantages of using the microwave

cook food in the microwave

Nowadays, the microwave has become a commonly used kitchen tool that allows you to:

  • Cook in short periods of time.
  • Prepare simple and complete meals.
  • Use other cooking methods.

However, it’s important to learn to use it in the right way. Using it improperly could result in fire or other accidents.

Is it dangerous to cook in the microwave?

It’s easy to see the differences between cooking food in a microwave and traditional cooking methods. After all, the microwave uses a more aggressive and faster cooking method. Some experts clarify that this type of cooking is capable of altering the composition of the food. This way, it can not only affect its physical and nutritional properties, but it can also be unhealthy for the human body. Among these points are the following that we’re going to discuss below. However, before continuing, you should know that this opinion isn’t completely accepted and there are those who believe the opposite.

The alteration of the components in food

The alteration of the components in food

Cooking in the microwave can significantly modify the molecular formula of foods, including their:

  • Amino acids
  • Sugars
  • Proteins
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Antioxidants

Not only does this reaction mean that the required and necessary absorption of food will be affected over time, it also means the human body will be damaged if it’s frequently used to cook food.

The distribution of heat

Although most people are faithful believers that the microwave is responsible for heating food from the inside out, it’s actually the opposite.

The microwave is better able to heat foods that contain liquids. Therefore, it easily heats certain parts of the food (especially those that are not frozen or that contain more liquids).

However, the heat provided by the microwave is not evenly distributed. There is a possibility that the center of the food will not reach the correct temperature. The consequence could be that bacteria or elements harmful to health will not be destroyed.

Dehydrating foods

Dehydrating foods

Electromagnetic waves are responsible for causing vibrations, friction and collisions between the molecules found in food. This can cause a remarkable loss of juices and result in their dehydration.
This dehydration affects the flavor, aroma, and consistency of the food, making it less consistent compared to traditional methods or those to which the consumer is adapted.

Does cooking food in the microwave really harm your health?

Cooking in the microwave doesn’t pose a health risk unless it’s used incorrectly. The World Health Organization has stated that there is no significant risk when using it for cooking or heating.

However, the best way to maintain the health of the human body is to vary between the types of cooking that each appliance provides. In addition, it’s necessary to try to elaborate healthy recipes that provide vitamins, minerals, acids, fiber, and any other component that the body may need.

Additional note

Deborah García Bello, chemistry expert and science communicator, comments that microwave radiation doesn’t affect health. Therefore, there’s no need to fear when using it on a daily basis.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.