Debunking the 5 Most Persistent Myths about Microwave Ovens | Over the decades, microwave ovens have made cooking and reheating food convenient for many Filipino households. All you need to do is pop in a meal and set the time, and lunch or dinner is served within minutes. If you don’t have the luxury of time to prepare food, getting microwave-ready meals from the grocery store can also help you save time. Microwave ovens have become so popular that you can now find them in just about any office, school, hotel, convenience store, and many other establishments in the Philippines.
Perhaps because microwave ovens are so ubiquitous, different myths have circulated around the web about how they work and how safe they are for heating food. Some of these rumours may have even caused some people to stop using their microwave oven altogether. However, for the most part, many of these myths are just misleading or simply untrue.
In this short guide, we’ll debunk some of the most popular myths about microwave oven safety and use.
Any Non-Metal Dish Is Microwave Safe
When it comes to containers, using just about any non-metal dish or bowl in your microwave oven won’t do. In fact, people should be more cautious about the type of containers they use in the microwave because not all non-metal dishes actually microwave safe. As such, when it comes to buying microwave oven containers, make sure to look for ceramic, glass, or plastic dishes that are specifically labelled safe for microwave use. Containers that are meant to be used in microwave cooking are also designed to allow heat to be evenly distributed, thus warming the food properly.
That said, you should avoid containers with metal parts as these can easily spark when microwaved, increasing the risk of fire occurring in your kitchen. Moreover, be careful about using plastic containers. Though many of them may be labeled “microwave safe,” many such plastic containers may leach harmful chemicals such as phthalates or BPAs when heated, and these substances can then contaminate your food. To be safe, it’s better to use microwavable ceramic or glass containers.
Microwaving Food Makes It Radioactive and Carcinogenic
You might have heard that radiation emitted by microwave ovens is dangerous and can cause cancer. While it is true that these ovens use radiation to heat and cook food, this does not make the food radioactive. To clarify, microwave radiation only works at a frequency that is not harmful to people, so it’s pretty safe to say that people can keep buying microwave oven, which is a very useful kitchen appliance. Though there have been injuries using a microwave, these are usually scalded and burn injuries from getting into contact with steaming hot liquids and food.
Radiation is actually found everywhere. A natural source of radiation is the sun. Much other equipment that uses electricity also release electromagnetic radiation. These include things like televisions, mobile phones, hairdryers, most electronic devices, and even power lines.
While exposure to these devices and equipment is not generally considered to cause cancer, there are certain devices that do emit high-energy radiation that can damage DNA cells, the most well-known examples being x-ray machines. However, people don’t typically have access to such equipment. Moreover, while too much exposure to radiation emitted by x-ray machines can be harmful to your health, you would still need consistent exposure to x-rays within your lifetime to increase your risk of developing cancer.
Microwave Ovens Kills Nutrients in Food
While there is some truth to this claim, it is simply an exaggeration. The truth is food naturally loses nutrients during any kind of cooking process. Some nutrients in food break down when it’s cooked, no matter what cooking method people use. Boiling food in water also breaks down more of the food’s nutrients. Thus, using a microwave oven to cook makes no real significant difference when it comes to affecting the food’s nutrient profile.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cooking food in the microwave is safe and keeps around the same amount of nutrients in food just like cooking with a traditional stove. But when it comes to cooking thick meats, the WHO reminds consumers to be mindful of the cooking time. Because meat cuts are typically thick and take a long time to cook, the heat generated by microwave ovens may not be enough to thoroughly cook such food items. This can leave you with unevenly cooked food that may still have harmful microorganisms in it. After microwaving, the WHO suggests letting the food rest for a few more minutes before consumption. This lets the heat spread more evenly throughout the container and the food itself.
Reheating Pasta in the Microwave Makes It Healthier
You might have heard about a BBC health show experiment that claimed to lower the blood glucose levels of participants by 50 per cent—the subject food being pasta dishes heated in microwave ovens. The experiment’s proponents explained that pasta is like resistant starch when it is cooled and reheated in a microwave, claiming that the procedure keeps the gut from digesting carbohydrates and absorbing them as sugar.
However, don’t get your hopes up. This experiment only included 9 participants, which means a similar study must first be done on a larger scale and then peer-reviewed for it to be considered proper scientific research. Until then, it’s best to adhere to a nutritionist-recommended meal plan if a low-sugar diet is desired.
Microwaved Water Harms Plants
In an online post that went viral several years ago, it is claimed that a child, who was once working on a science fair project, discovered that water boiled in a microwave oven can alter plants’ DNA. It came with photos comparing plants that were watered with purified water and plants that were watered with microwaved water (the water was allowed to cool down before being used to water the plants). Basically, the post implied that the specimens that received microwaved water were harmed.
This experiment cannot be further from the truth. There is no evidence that radiation from microwave ovens have enough power to alter the DNA of plants. Though water can be contaminated with other types of radiation, there is no proof that microwaved water can alter or harm the DNA of plants, animals, or humans. Microwaving water can also cause water molecules to vibrate rapidly, producing heat in the process.
You might hear about other microwave oven myths out there. But before you believe them, be sure to do your own research. They may be misleading or simply untrue. The microwave is a useful and reliable kitchen appliance in many households. As long as you use it properly, there shouldn’t be any cause for alarm.