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Cooking in the microwave: unhealthy and harmful?
The microwave is one of the most common household appliances in Germany. Warm meals are ready in minutes in the practical devices. But is the food preparation in it also healthy or possibly rather harmful? Experts provide answers.
There is a microwave in 70 percent of German cuisine
It is fast, practical and in keeping with the spirit of the times - in the microwave a warm meal can be prepared within a very short time. Such devices were already on the market in the 1960s, they have prevailed since the 1990s and are now in 70 out of 100 German kitchens, reports the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE). However, some consumers fear that microwave food preparation will result in health problems. Is that really the case?
Microwave food harmless to health
Just in the freezer, ready to eat on the dining table a few minutes later: Within a very short time, frozen food is thawed in the microwave or a meal prepared the day before is warmed up.
Inside the device, the microwave radiation with a frequency of 2.45 gigahertz ensures rapid heating.
When used sensibly, the microwave can not only save time but also energy compared to the hob and oven. The small devices are particularly useful for singles or families in which not all members eat at the same time.
However, some consumers fear that they will have to pay for the reduced workload with reduced health. However, this concern is unfounded.
Margret Morlo of the Association for Nutrition and Dietetics (VFED) in Bocholt also sees it that way. "Food from the microwave is harmless to health," said the expert, according to a message from the dpa news agency.
Also consume raw fruits and vegetables
As the BZfE explains, the electromagnetic radiation from the microwave only vibrates the components of the food, so that heat is generated.
However, the composition of the food does not change. The waves are not strong enough for that. The food cannot absorb any rays either.
Microwave dishes are just as safe as dishes from the saucepan. However, it is not advisable to freeze vegetables in portions, for example, and then warm them up in the microwave, because: "Most vitamins are sensitive to heat," says Morlo.
The maximum vitamin losses can fluctuate between 40 and 80 percent. Vitamin C can even be completely lost.
"If you often heat or cook your meals in the microwave, you should also eat raw fruits and vegetables every day to optimize the vitamin content," recommends Morlo in the agency report.
No special microwave dishes required
You should also be careful because so-called "hot spots" can form. These are hot temperatures in the middle of a vessel.
They arise primarily in tall, narrow dishes - such as baby bottles or jars.
"As a result, cocoa, for example, only feels lukewarm when you drink it and can burn your mouth the next moment," explains Annabel Oelmann, CEO of the Bremen Consumer Center in the dpa report.
In order to distribute the temperature evenly, especially shake or stir baby food, then check the temperature carefully, advises the BZfE.
According to the experts, no special microwave dishes are usually necessary. Conventional tableware made of glass, ceramic, porcelain, earthenware or heat-resistant plastic therefore also fulfills its purpose.
However, some plastic kitchen gadgets should not be used in the devices, as heating melamine dishes may result in the risk of pollutant release.
Metal vessels also do not belong in a microwave oven, since metal reflects the microwaves, arcing can occur and the microwaves do not reach the food.
For thawing and heating individual portions
Microwave ovens are particularly suitable for thawing, heating and cooking individual portions.
Some devices are also equipped with grill or other baking functions.
"Larger quantities of meat or vegetables, refined sauces and crispy brown cakes can generally not be prepared well in the solo microwave oven," writes the BZfE.
"Even starchy foods such as rice, potatoes or pasta that have a long cooking time work better on the stove," said the experts.
And: "The traditional microwave oven cannot completely replace the traditional oven."
Keep children away from running microwave ovens
Some consumers are worried that the use of microwaves will spread harmful rays in the kitchen.
But Ina Stelljes from the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) explains in the agency report: "Protective devices ensure that very little radiation is released to the outside during operation."
However, a small amount of so-called leakage radiation could occur in the vicinity of the screen and the doors. For this purpose, a limit value is set in safety standards which, according to the BfS, is adhered to in the majority of the microwave devices.
"There is no health hazard with technically perfect devices, not even for particularly vulnerable people like pregnant women or small children," says Stelljes.
However, unnecessary exposure to high-frequency fields should always be avoided. The BfS therefore recommends that children, especially when preparing food, should not be in front of or next to the device. (ad)