Q. Glen, Should I use the microwave to cook my veggies?
A. The microwave oven is standard issue in today’s kitchen, from the home, to the workplace, to the dorm room. Their speed and convenience feel like nearly a necessity for today’s busy lifestyles. But does this method of cooking and heating meals and snacks compromise the nutritional value of foods we eat?
Microwave ovens use waves of oscillating electromagnetic energy to heat food. These waves are similar to radio waves but move back and forth at a much faster rate. They are also remarkably selective, primarily affecting polar molecules—molecules with a negatively charged end and a positively charged end. Water is a polar molecule, so a microwave oven cooks by energizing (heating) water molecules, and the water energizes its molecular neighbors. The reason glass, ceramics, and many types of plastic don’t get hot in a microwave oven is because they’re made up of nonpolar molecules. In addition to being more selective, microwave-oven energy is also more penetrating than heat that emanates from an oven or stovetop. It immediately reaches molecules about an inch or so below the surface. In contrast, regular cooking heat goes through food rather slowly, moving from the outside in.
Some nutrients break down when they’re exposed to heat, whether that heat comes from a microwave or a regular oven. Vitamin C is perhaps the clearest example. So, cooking with a microwave probably does a better job of preserving the nutrient content of foods because the cooking times are shorter.
Glen's Bottom Line: Cooking vegetables in water causes some of the nutrients to leach out into that same water. For example, boiled broccoli loses glucosinolate, the compound that may be responsible for its cancer-fighting properties. However, you can incorporate the nutrient-rich water from boiled vegetables into sauces or soups. Steaming vegetables may help retain more nutrients. Steamed broccoli holds on to more glucosinolate than boiled or fried broccoli.
No matter how you slice it, vegetables are good for you pretty much any way you prepare them, and most of us don’t eat enough of them. And the microwave oven? A marvel of engineering, a miracle of convenience — and sometimes nutritionally advantageous to boot.
Glen's Bottom Line: Nuke it!
Any personal health questions or problems mental or physical or before starting any diet or exercise program. Please consult your physician !
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Yours in good health
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