Does Microwaving Kill Nutrients? | The Truth About Cooking Methods!

By
Mike Kenler
January 4, 2021

What Are Microwaves? 

Microwaves are a type of electromagnetic radiation. Other common types of electromagnetic radiation include X-rays, visible light, and radio waves.

These waves exist on a spectrum simply known as the electromagnetic spectrum:

While most people think of microwaves as the device in your kitchen that heats up food, microwaves are also used in developing radar systems, wireless communications, and even cancer treatment.

How Do Microwaves Work? 

Microwave ovens cook food with extreme efficiency. They work by generating microwaves that vibrate the water molecules in your food. As a result, this vibration creates heat and warms up your food. 

Thankfully, microwaves pass through paper, glass, plastics, and other similar materials. Therefore, this method of cooking directly heats the food, whereas a traditional oven heats the entire cooking area. 


Does Microwaving Food Kill Nutrients?

The short answer is no, microwaving food does not kill nutrients. There is nothing unique about microwaves that will contaminate or drastically reduce the nutritional value of your food.

The long answer is more complex. Perhaps a better question is “which cooking method is best?” 

In 2009 five researchers published a study in the Journal of Food Science that set out to answer this question. 

They designed an experiment that tested the effect of six different home cooking methods (boiling, pressure cooking, griddling, frying, baking, and microwaving) on the antioxidant content of twenty vegetables. 

What Is The Worst Way To Cook Veggies? 

Boiling veggies was the worst cooking method, followed by pressure cooking. As it turns out, heating vegetables with water appears to cause the most antioxidant loss, as some of the nutrients seep out into the cooking water. 

However, it should be mentioned on average, boiling the vegetables only reduced the antioxidant content by 14%.

So if boiling or pressure cooking is your favorite cooking method, just eat an extra floret of cauliflower or a few more brussel sprouts to compensate for the loss of antioxidants.

In addition, this study only focused on the antioxidant content of food. Although methods such as frying or griddling retained more nutrients, the researchers did not consider the negative effects of consuming empty calories in the form of oil. 


What Is The Best Way To Cook Veggies?

Not only does microwaving food not kill nutrients, it actually proves to be the best way of preserving nutritional content. On average, microwaving preserved 97.3% of the antioxidants in the vegetables.

If you want to cook as gently as possible, just pop your veggies in the microwave and hit start.

Microwave Safety Hazards

The two most significant dangers with cooking in a microwave are burns and vision impairment. As with any cooking method, be sure to use oven mitts. While glass trays are not heated directly from microwaves, they can still cause severe burns from the heat of the food inside. 

Also, it is well documented that prolonged exposure to microwaves can cause cataracts, which often bring about cloudy and/or blurry vision.

For that reason, it might not be the best idea to stick your face right up against the microwave!

The Bottom Line

The above 2009 study patently concluded that microwaving is the healthiest way to prepare your food. 

While it only considered the effects of microwaving on vegetables, there is not a single study that has concluded that microwaving food kills nutrients in any food whatsoever.

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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