Microwave meals have taken over many busy households. Even though the microwave oven has been around since 1945, it still holds some mysteries as to how it affects the food you eat and how that food affects your body. Much research has been done to adjust the technology, making microwave meals safer and more efficient. However, there are still some risks as well as benefits that should be noted.
How Microwave Meals Work
It was discovered by accident by a self-taught American engineer named Percy Spencer. While working in close proximity to radar sets emitting microwaves, a chocolate bar in his pocket melted. Thus, the microwave age was born. By exposing food to microwaves, the water molecules inside become excited, producing high amounts of heat. Essentially, it boils the food from the inside out. A conventional oven cooks from the outside in. Using a microwave is called dielectric heating.
Benefits of Microwave Meals
- High vitamin and mineral retention. Yale-New Haven Hospital writes on their website that some foods cooked in a microwave will retain their nutritional value better than any other cooking method. Many cooking methods burn away important nutrients. Due to little or no added water, covered cooking and a short heating time, some microwave meals are recommended due to their ability to hold onto essential nutritional value. These foods include vegetables, burritos, popcorn, baked potatoes, casseroles and soup.
- Flavor enhancement. Because microwaved meals are cooked in their own juice, it eliminates the need to add butter, oils or salt. This enables the food to lock in its flavor, allowing you to enjoy it without ingesting unnecessary sodium, sugar or fat. If certain foods are cooked in a microwave they may encourage weight loss programs.
- Real meals in less time. Using a microwave is fast and easy, but actually preparing nutritious meals rather than a quick meal is possible. Using Ziploc brand's Zip 'n Steam bags can help prepare such things as juicy salmon, crisp vegetables and desserts such as apple slices with cinnamon or sliced plums, almonds and honey.
Risks of Microwave Meals
- Chemical change. Some studies show that microwaved meats can form an agent called d-nitrosodiethanolamine. This chemical has been linked to causing certain cancers.
- Cellular manipulation. In 1976, Russia banned the use of the microwave. Some of their findings included digestive disorders, free radical formation and immune system compromise. Most of these findings were due to the change in blood cells that had the potential to cause disease.
- Explosions and burns. Many people forget or do not even know that cooking some foods in a microwave can cause potentially serious results. A raw egg, still in its shell, will explode like a firework if cooked in a microwave. Uncovered sauces or soups will spray throughout the oven when the heated center expands and comes in contact with the cooler outside. Cheese is also notorious for having a volatile response, potentially causing serious burns.
Microwave Meals - Tips
- When covering microwave meals, be sure to poke air vents in the covering to allow steam to escape.
- Never switch on an empty microwave - it can damage the interior elements.
- Handle finished foods carefully because the outside may seem cool, while the inside is most likely red hot.
- Never put metal in a microwave, as it may damage it.