Do microwaves destroy nutrients?

by Seppo on July 31, 2010

We all know it, or do we really? Microwaves are evil. Nuking your food destroys everything good in it. Microwaves are the ultimate ‘curse of convenience’.

Invented by Nazis and banned by Russians after their heroic researchers discovered the horrifying effect microwaving has on foods. Microwaves destroy 97% of the goodness in broccoli.

All that is common knowledge in the natural health field. Unfortunately nobody bothered to check if it’s actually true.

Welcome to the wonderful world of natural health myths, distortions and nonsense.

According to studies the reality is quite opposite. Every type of cooking can damage nutrients in foods. What really kills the nutrients is how much heat you apply, how long you cook the food and how much water you use in cooking.

Research clearly points that microwaving is no worse than other cooking methods, and in many cases results in less nutritional losses than some other cooking methods.

For example consider these studies from The U.S. Natural Library of Medicine database.

According to the method of analysis chosen, griddling, microwave cooking, and baking alternately produce the lowest losses, while pressure-cooking and boiling lead to the greatest losses; frying occupies an intermediate position. In short, water is not the cook’s best friend when it comes to preparing vegetables.

Influence of cooking methods on antioxidant activity of vegetables.

This study shows no significant differences between microwaving and other cooking methods. Steaming is the best though.

Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli

Based on the information available in the literature, nutrient content and retention of microwave-cooked or reheated foods is equal to or better than the same product prepared conventionally or held hot in a foodservice operation. Using recommended procedures for microwave cooking and reheating should result in products that are satisfying from both a sensory and nutritional standpoint.

Retention of nutrients in microwave-cooked foods.

In conclusion, no significant nutritional differences exist between foods prepared by conventional and microwave methods. Any differences reported in the literature are minimal.

The effect of microwaves on nutrient value of foods.

But what about the study all the microwave haters love to point to? You know the one that says microwaving destroys 97% of antioxidants in broccoli. In that study the broccoli was immersed in water. And we already know that cooking, regardless of the method, vegetables in water leads to huge nutritional losses. Vitamins and antioxidants are destroyed and mineral leak into the cooking water (that’s why it’s good to reuse the cooking water).

It’s the water that caused the damage – not the microwave.

Is it possibly microwaving destroys foods in some other way, such as the “microwave effect”? Anything is possible, but so far we’ve seen very little evidence of it. My point is that if microwaving doesn’t harm the delicate vitamins and anti-oxidants it’s hard to believe microwaved food would somehow harm the people eating it.

Blaming microwaves is a great example of what’s wrong with the natural health field. Some ‘expert’ writes about this new evil in his book/website and refers to obscure sources (Russian research nobody can find and a 6th grader’s science project, I kid you not). Then this discovery is picked up by several other alternative health websites. Before the original author can gets his next colonic, it’s repeated in tens of thousands of websites. And a person searching for the dangers of microwave ovens is confronted with mountains of ‘evidence’ of how dangerous nuking your food is.

It’s like a giant Xerox machine, and nobody bothers to check the claims. It took me about 30 minutes to find out this is yet another piece of alternative health fear mongering. But I digress.

Don’t believe everything you read on natural health books and websites. You’ll just become paranoid and make your life very inconvenient.

More sanity restoring information about microwaves:

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Veso M August 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

Nice find!

Time to dig back the oldie microwave. Actually the reason it was in “sleep mode” because 95% of the foods processed by it were…junk food.

However now I see that we can focus on the other 5% and actually cook healthier.

p.s. it really paradoxical how rumors expand and become almost axioms. It’s not beneficial at all.

Seppo August 12, 2010 at 10:48 am

The natural health field is just saturated with BS and unverified myths. This is just one among many.

Anyway, the point of this post was not to endorse microwaves – excessive cooking is still bad. But to dispell some of the hysteria that surrounds them.

Emkaye August 31, 2010 at 11:46 pm

hi seppo,

thank you so much for setting the record straight. i’ve avoided using my microwave for a few weeks now and although it hasn’t caused me great inconvenience it’s nice to know that i can use it if i want to.
i have been able to watch your series of videos on acne and found them to be quite enlightening and i really enjoyed them.

i’m having a difficult time managing my stress, worries and negative self-image but i’m working on it.

keep up the good work and i hope to keep in touch through comments and forums.

God bless you.

Seppo September 2, 2010 at 10:48 am

@Emkaye, keep up the good work! Remember that this post is not an endorsement for microwaves. Excessive cooking of any kind is bad. I just wanted to dispel some fears around microwaves.

Hannah September 7, 2010 at 4:11 pm

INTERESTING! I always suspected that it was more the water, as boiling broccoli turns the water green if used enough water and for long enough….

Seppo September 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm

@Hannah, glad to hear you liked this. This is just a reminder to keep your wits when you read anything relating to natural health.

karmin October 3, 2010 at 3:05 am

I have learned a lot from these natural healer type people but they always have a website full of high priced supplements to sell and they claim they’re are the best and any other supplements are a waste of money because your body won’t absorb them. Gosh don’t even get me started on the water controversy. Oh I do love David Wold but I can’t afford all those products he sells and advises you to take.

Seppo October 10, 2010 at 10:11 am


Couldn’t agree with you more.

Unfortunately most of the so-called info in natural and alternative health websites is just non-sense. Sadly the natural health field has deteriorated to senseless fear mongering engine.

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