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Is Microwaving Food Bad for You? We Set the Record Straight.

Despite the microwave's popularity, questions still persist about its safety and whether or not microwaving food is bad for you. We're here to set the record straight-first by explaining how microwaves work and then delving into the impact that microwaves have on food's nutritional content.

How Microwaves Heat Your Food

The microwave was invented almost 75 years ago, and many people warm something up in one of these devices every single day.
microwaving food
In a nutshell, microwave ovens produce electromagnetic radiation that makes the molecules in your food oscillate really fast, creating heat. Water molecules have a positive pole and negative pole. The electromagnetic field oscillates as it passes through the food, causing the molecules to flip over millions of times a second. The friction resulting from this interaction warms up the food.
While the concept of radiation might freak you out, it's nothing to fret over. Everything from sunlight to cell phones also creates electronic radiation. In fact, both cell phones and microwaves generate non-ionizing radiation, though a microwave is much stronger than a cell phone. This increased power is why microwave ovens are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Microwaves have metal shields and screens to protect you while the microwave runs. As long as you stay one foot away from the microwave (don't put your face right up against the door!), you'll be fine. If your microwave is old or broken, or the door doesn't achieve a good seal, consider purchasing a new one—either a standalone model or an over-the-range microwave.

How Microwaves Impact Food

microwaving lunch
Applying heat of any kind to food—whether via the microwave, oven or stove—will cause the nutritional content of raw produce to degrade. Because of this, microwaves don't reduce the nutritional content of food more than other heating methods. Heating the food also kills off potentially harmful bacteria that may be breeding on the surface of the food. In fact, because of their low temperatures and short cooking times, microwaves may actually have less of an impact on food nutrition (and sometimes bacteria) versus other heating methods.
However, microwaves do impact the temperature and texture of food. Many people have had the disappointing experience of pulling a steaming plate out of the microwave, only to find that the center is still stone cold. While the rotating turntable at the bottom of the microwave does help distribute the heat more evenly, the heat is still hitting the outside of the food first, causing it to warm up much faster. This is why it's a good idea to microwave the food for a little while, stir it and then finish heating it up.
Microwaving can sometimes result in a less-than-palatable texture depending on the food's water content. Because most microwaves don't get hot enough to boil water, they won't crisp up foods that already contain a lot of liquid, like hash browns. If you want a crispy or crunchy texture, you'll need to heat the food up in the oven or on the stove instead.

Is Microwaving Food Bad for You?

If you've been wondering whether or not microwaving food is bad for you, the answer is no! As long as you don't overheat the food, microwaving it won't impact its nutritional content any more than other heating methods, making it safe, effective and convenient.
microwaving broccoli
That being said, it's not a good idea to microwave food in plastic containers unless they are specifically designated microwave-safe. This is because many plastics contain hormone-disrupting compounds that can be released with heat and leach into your food. One of the best-known examples is bisphenol-A (BPA), which has been linked to conditions like cancer, thyroid disorders and obesity. High heat can also melt the plastic and make the container unusable.
Food containers will say whether or not they're microwave safe on the box as well as the bottom of the container. You can also opt for glass tupperware if you're really worried about plastic or want some containers that stand up to heavy use for a longer period of time.
Whether you have a standing or over-the-range microwave, it's safe to heat your food in it as long as it works as intended. If your microwave is getting old and you're in the market for a new one, check out our microwave buying guide to help you get the search process started.

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