In this modern, high-speed age that we live in, with all its numerous devices designed for convenience, the humble microwave oven is a piece of kitchen equipment that not only heats our food, but can also play a part in cooking meals in a way that produces results which hardly differ in quality and taste from food cooked in any other modern kitchen appliance. However, have you ever wondered about the safety aspects involved in heating or cooking your food in a microwave?
Microwaves cook or heat food through the release of electromagnetic waves (that are also used for radio and television transmissions) and ordinary light waves at a frequency of 2,450 MHz. When these waves come into contact with the food or any substance that contains liquid or moisture, an energy transfer occurs in the liquid’s molecules that leads to the molecules moving around and colliding. The resulting heat is able to cook or heat that food quickly and without damage to the food’s structure.
The waves produced by a microwave oven dissipate on entry into food, meaning that no waves or radiation are trapped in the food cooked inside them. For this reason, cooking food in a microwave is not harmful to health, and cooking in a microwave does not reduce the quality of the food any more than other forms of cooking or heating. Therefore, regularly cooking or heating your food in a microwave will not have any negative effects on your health. However, when reheating food that has been cooked the previous day, you need to be certain that it has not gone off because this could lead to a bout of diarrhea.
No matter which method is used, the nutrients contained in that food are affected any time heat is applied to food. If microwaves are used correctly, the nutrients contained in that food will not be affected any differently to when food is cooked normally. The factor which causes food quality to deteriorate is the application of heat and the length of time it is cooked.
Due to microwaves being specially designed to prevent against the waves used from escaping the microwave itself, they are considered to be a completely safe electrical appliance. As for the light seen while the microwave is operational, it is merely a light bulb used to allow people to see what is happening inside. Hence, looking into a microwave or being close by as it is operating is not a danger to health as some people tend to think.
If appliances designed for our convenience – such as microwaves – are used in the correct way, they can save us a huge amount of time while also helping us to keep healthy. On the other hand, if we do not understand how to use these appliances safely, they have the potential to cause damage to property and injury to the user.
The Second Class Honours M.D., Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital, Mahidol University.