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Is it safe to microwave food?

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200714-is-it-safe-to-microwave-food

bbc.com

Is it safe to microwave food?
There’s nothing risky about microwave radiation – but there is about heating up plastic.

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The debates around microwave cooking

The debates around microwave cooking

When used correctly, there’s nothing to worry about in terms of a microwave’s radiation, according to the World Health Organization.

But other concerns are less clear: for example, whether microwaving food causes nutrient loss, or whether heating food in plastic can trigger hormone disruption.

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Microwave cooking and nutrients

There’s no simple answer as to whether microwaving vegetables will retain more nutrients that any other method, because each food is different in terms of the texture and nutrients they contain.

Studies show that shorter cooking times tend to not compromise nutritional content. Steaming and microwaving could even increase content of most flavonoids, which are compounds linked to reduced risk of heart disease.

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Microwaving and heating plastic

  • We often microwave foods in plastic containers and wrapping and this comes wit a risk: the risk of ingesting phthalates. When exposed to heat, these plastic additives can break down and leach into food.
  • Phthalates are common (in toys and body lotions for example) and it’s still unclear just how much damage they do. But most experts agree that heating plastic with phthalates can increase exposure.
  • The best way to avoid this is to use other microwave-safe materials than plastic, such as ceramic. If you do use plastic containers, avoid any that are losing their shape, since old and damaged containers are more likely to leach chemicals.

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Microwave: Heat risks

  • Even if you avoid plastics, there are other potential risks of heating food in the microwave – including uneven heating, and the high temperatures used.
  • Consider using microwaves to reheat, rather than cook, food, as it may cook unevenly.
  • Reheating food comes with risks, too. Food must be heated until it is 82C (176F) throughout to kill any harmful bacteria, and because bacteria can still grow each time food cools back down, you shouldn’t reheat a meal more than once.

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Radiation in microwaves is completely harmless

Microwaves use low frequency electromagnetic radiation (same as in lightbulbs and radios).

When you put food inside a microwave, it absorbs these microwaves, which makes water molecules in the food vibrate, causing friction that heats up the food. Humans absorb electromagnetic waves, too. But microwave ovens produce relatively low frequency waves and they are contained inside the microwave.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Fresh food nutrients

Fresh food nutrients

Food is most nutritious at the point of harvest. After that, fresh produce starts degrading.

Once picked, that fruit or veg is using its own nutrients to keep its cells alive. Vitamin C fou...

Refrigerating produce

Refrigeration slows down the process of nutrition degradation. The nutritional loss varies from product to product.

Spinach loses 100% of its vitamin C content in seven days at room temperature and 75% if refrigerated. Carrots lose 27% of their vitamin C content when stored at room temperature for a week.

However, when vegetables are frozen, including spinach, they lose significantly less vitamin C, because freezing pauses the process of oxidization.

Frozen foods nutrients

As soon as produce is harvested, it's a nutritional race against time.

Frozen produce has one problem: before it's frozen, it's blanched - heating food up for a few minutes at high temperatures to inactivate enzymes that degrade texture and color. Blanching also reduces nutrient content.

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Pasteurization

Pasteurization
  • It is the process of applying low heat to kill pathogens and extend shelf life of food and beverage products.
  • The process does not eliminate bacterial spor...

The Process of Pasteurization

  • The process is dependent on the nature of the product and whether it is packaged or not.
  • Liquids and products packaged in plastic and metal containers can be pasteurized either through steam or hot water.
  • Packaged food in glass containers can be pasteurized too by using hot water with the consideration of the glass's breaking point.
  • The temperature and duration of the process of pasteurization are delicately controlled.

The Discovery of Pasteurization

  • In 1864, Louis Pasteur developed the technique to heat wine before aging it to kill microbes and reduce its acidity. Hence, the name pasteurization.
  • However, the process itself has been around way before Louis Pasteur. It was popularly used in China to preserve wine in 1117AD.
  • The main reason why it is named in his honor is due to his research that pointed towards microorganisms as the culprit for spoilage and disease that led to the Germ Theory of Disease.

Understanding how long food lasts

Understanding how long food lasts

Should humanity face a nuclear apocalypse of worldwide war, we need to understand which foods might be safe for survivors to eat, and how long the foods will last.

To understand this, we ne...

Why foods go bad

Most foods spoil because of the growth of microbes. Preserving food is an attempt to limit microbial growth. Food can be preserved by drying, salting, chilling, or storing in air-tight containers.

  • Drying is the most effective because microbial growth is inhibited.
  • Salting is effective because it removes moisture, creating an environment where microbes cannot survive.
  • Sugar coating can prevent bacterial cells from functioning correctly.
  • Storing in air-tight containers is less effective because there are probably a lot of microbes on the food before you put it in the container. Some microbes are anaerobic, meaning they don't need oxygen.

Food preservatives

Preservatives are used in foods to extend their shelf lives. One of McDonald's Big Mac in Iceland is an example of a long-lasting processed food. It has been on display since 2009, in a glass box. Preservatives that has been discontinued by McDonald's are:

  • calcium propionate that prevents mold growth on bread.
  • sorbic acid that also inhibits mold from cheese
  • sodium benzoate, which inhibits the growth of bacteria in the Big Mac special sauce.