In the last 20 years, the microwave has become an indispensable part of our daily lives - almost as essential as the refrigerator. However, every now and then, there seem to be some concerns raised about the safety of this device. This week, I touch upon microwave cooking once again to explore its virtues and some causes for concern.
What’s most promising about microwaving cooking is that there aren’t too many new truths emerging and much of the old information still stands. The energy waves of the microwave, which are similar to radio waves (but with a shorter frequency), work by heating up the water molecules in the food. The microwave is prized for its short cooking time, and this is ideal from the nutritional perspective. When the cooking time reduces markedly, the heat-sensitive vitamins in the food are better preserved. The precaution to take here is to avoid using too much water, as the food vitamins could leach into the water. Using minimal water is a great way to cook and preserve the nutrients. Another advantage is that cooking food in the microwave requires little or no fat, which can be used to our advantage whenever required.
One thing to be particularly careful about is the cookware that goes into the microwave. Although plasticware that is labelled ‘microwave safe’ is commonly used for heating, we now know that every kind of plastic most certainly leaches chemicals into the food upon heating. Of course, the plastic containers used for takeaway food are not be put in the microwave. Containers made from heatproof glass and ceramic glass are the ones that are ideal for microwaving food.
The other concern with microwave heating is that it delivers heat unevenly. This is why milk for babies should never be heated in the microwave. Milk heated in the microwave develops ‘hot spots’, and consuming such milk could be harmful for babies. The uneven heating of foods – both solids and liquids – can be addressed by stirring the food slightly by halting the process midway.
As Indians, we enjoy a warm meal at all times. This makes the microwave a rather indispensable part of our everyday life. As long as it is used in the prescribed manner, the microwave can very well continue the kitchen’s prized appliance.
Nutrition Therapist &Wellness Consultant