Do you have questions about cooking in a microwave oven? Do vegetables you cook in a microwave lose much of their vitamin and nutritional content?
Recently the Harvard Health Letter reviewed this topic and concluded, perhaps surprisingly, that microwave cooking “keeps more vitamins and minerals than almost any other cooking method.”
Cooking food, by any method, reduces the content of certain nutrients, such as Vitamins C and B12, which are particularly sensitive to heat. But others nutrients actually become more available to our body following cooking. For example, when colorful vegetables such as tomatoes and carrots are cooked, their antioxidants are liberated, and better absorbed into our system.
Microwave cooking is particularly valuable because the cooking times are short, and less of the heat-sensitive nutrients such as Vitamin C are lost in the cooking process. But microwave ovens have certain rules so the food cooked is safe and maximally nutritious:
1) Add a minimal amount of water
In this way, the food is essentially rapidly steamed in the microwave (and steaming is also a good way to cook vegetables).
2) Use a safe container and loosely cover
Remove any packaging (including any plastic or Styrofoam) around the food and place on a “microwave-safe” dish of glass or ceramic, or a simple white paper plate. To be totally safe, do not use any plastics at all in the oven (plastics liberate carcinogenic substances into the food). You can loosely cover the food with a plain white paper towel to help retain nutrients.
3) Spread out the food and leave the center of the plate empty
A problem with microwave ovens is that foods can be unevenly cooked. Don’t leave the food in one lump, but distribute it flat around the plate, with some empty spaces between groups of food, and leave the center of the plate empty. Try placing the heavier elements, such as broccoli stems, towards the edges of the plate, so that they cook more thoroughly.
4) At least once during the cooking, move the food around
Stirring and moving the food at least once during the cooking cycle helps the food cook more evenly.
But even more important than how you cook vegetables, is that you do actually eat them, preferably 5 servings a day or more. Best is to go for the dark green ones, but mix in other colored vegetables as well. If you want to eat them raw, that’s fine. If you prefer to steam them lightly rather than use the microwave, that’s great too.
Just don’t be afraid to use the microwave oven. For many situations, it might be your best option.
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