Are you afraid to eat food cooked in a microwave oven?

Ducks enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)
Ducks enjoying the beautiful spring sunshine. (Dr. Noorali Bharwani)

I met a lady who said she does not own a microwave oven and does not eat anything cooked in it. She believes it is not healthy. So I went on the Internet looking for some information.

First I checked the World Health Organization website. It has a document on the safety of microwave ovens dated February 2005 (WHO Fact Sheets 182 and 183). It concludes by saying, “Food cooked in a microwave oven is as safe, and has the same nutrient value, as food cooked in a conventional oven. The main difference between these two methods of cooking is that microwave energy penetrates deeper into the food and reduces the time for heat to be conducted throughout the food, thus reducing the overall cooking time.”

Microwaves are high frequency radio waves and, like visible radiation (light), is part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Microwave ovens cook food with waves of oscillating electromagnetic energy. The energy is similar to radio waves but move back and forth at a much faster rate. The microwave oven energy is more penetrating than heat that emanates from an oven or stovetop. It immediately penetrates and reaches molecules about an inch or so below the surface.

The food cooked in a microwave oven does not become “radioactive”. Nor does any microwave energy remain in the cavity or the food after the microwave oven is switched off. It is like turning on and off a light bulb. Once it is turned off no light remains.

Is it safe to stand close to a microwave oven while it is turned on?

I tend to walk away from the microwave oven while it is turned on because I feel I am being exposed to radiation. I thought I would have less wrinkles on my face (and look younger) if I did that. I learnt microwave ovens are designed to prevent people being exposed to microwaves while the oven is on. A person 50 cm from the oven receives about one one-hundredth of the microwave exposure of a person five cm away.

Finally, I will have the Harvard Medical School website (June 2008 update) have the final word, “A marvel of engineering, a miracle of convenience – and sometimes nutritionally advantageous to boot.” It is talking about the microwave oven. You can say the same thing about the person who cooks your wonderful meal everyday. So, don’t complain, enjoy!

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