Since the first microwave oven was sold in 1947 after World War II, people have questioned whether it removed the nutritional value of food, especially vegetables.
Turns out, cooking in the microwave is one of the best ways to retain vitamins and minerals in some vegetables, Bob Barnett of upwave.com reports.
“If you use your microwave with a small amount of water to essentially steam food from the inside, you’ll retain more vitamins and minerals than with almost any other cooking method,” Barnett writes.
Yes, you could get burned. And using the wrong kind of plastic, usually one that doesn’t say, um, “microwave safe,” could lead to unsafe chemicals leaching into your food.
Catherine Adams Hutt, a registered dietician and certified food scientist, says that microwaving may be one of the best methods for cooking vegetables. In general, cooking reduces a food’s nutritional value.
“The best cooking method for retaining nutrients is one that cooks quickly, exposes food to heat for the smallest amount of time and uses only a minimal amount of liquid,” Hutt says, according to Barnett.
Spinach, for example, if boiled on a stove could lose up to 70 percent of its folic acid, he writes. Microwaved with a small amount of water, however, spinach retains nearly all of its folic acid. Folic acid is a B vitamin that helps the body generate healthy new cells.
In yet another example, Barnett cites bacon. He says cooking bacon on a stovetop or griddle until it’s crispy creates nitrosamines, a chemical compound of carcinogens. Microwaved bacon, on the other hand, creates fewer of the cancer-promoting chemicals.
But microwaving is not always good. If vegetables are dumped into a lot of water and overcooked, they could lose a lot of nutrition. Hutt advises people to use microwavable dishes with tight lids that can create sufficient steam environments.
“Steaming over a stovetop is just as good, though,” Barnett writes. “In some cases, it may even be better: One small study found that steamed broccoli retained more of its cancer-fighting sulforaphane than microwaved broccoli.” Sulforaphane is an anit-cancer compound in cruciferous vegetables.
In most cases, however, using a microwave to cook food, if covered tightly in a microwave-safe container with a minimal amount of liquid, could be a good thing because not only does it save time, it enhances the nutritional value of some foods, he says.
In tomatoes and carrots, for example, microwaving makes the carotenoids more accessible to our bodies. Carotenoids are colorful plant pigments that the body can turn into vitamin A. It also makes the biotin in eggs more digestible.
So, go ahead and nuke it.
Just use the proper dish and watch the amount of water you use.