I was asked the other day if using a microwave to heat my meals depletes the nutrients and vitamins contained within them. What an awesome question! As an athlete, I am always on the go and finding a way to heat my food often involves using a microwave. Sure, I would much rather use my oven, grill, or steamer to prepare or warm my meals but they’re not always accessible.
So first, how does a microwave heat our foods so quickly? Food is heated from the waves of energy that are emitted. These waves are like radio waves but much shorter and they are selective primarily affecting water. Microwaves cause the water molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal energy! OK, so is this a positive thing? Well actually, yes! Let me explain! Some nutrients in our foods break down when they are exposed to heat whether from a microwave or a regular oven. Because a microwave cooking time is short, there is a better chance that nutrients and vitamins will be preserved. Veggies contain many vitamins and minerals so it is important to know the best preparatory method for them.
The biggest factor that robs our veggies of nutrients is water because these nutrients leach out into the water while they are cooking. So steaming might be a better option for preparing your veggies than boiling!
The cooking method that best retains nutrients is one that cooks quickly, heats food for the shortest amount of time, and uses as little liquid as possible. Microwaving meets these criteria. Using the microwave with a small amount of water essentially steams food from the inside out. That keeps more vitamins and minerals than almost any other cooking method.
So, don’t be weary of microwaving your meals! We all live busy lives and often the only choice we have to enjoy a warm meal is to pop it in the microwave!