If you choose to not read the rest of the article, here’s the answer - yes. Microwaves and microwaved food is absolutely safe for pregnancy.
You SHOULD read the rest of it though because if there’s any niggling doubt about it’s safety, this article will fix it for you.
A Microwave is a kind of radiation. When we think of the word radiation we only think of harmful stuff like X-Rays and maybe radiation coming out of nuclear reactors.
But even the light with which we are able to see things is a kind of radiation and so is sunlight!
While X-rays and UV radiations CAN be harmful and cause diseases like cancer, Microwave and Visible light radiations do not behave the same way as these and therefore do not cause the same damage.
Microwaves are actually very versatile. They are used in TV broadcasting, in Radios and in cellphones and even in bluetooth and wifi! Even natural sunlight and lightning has some amounts of microwave radiation. These waves are naturally found in nature in small doses.
Higher doses of these same Microwave radtions are used in microwave ovens for cooking because they are readily absorbed by things that contain water - like food.
Microwave ovens are designed in a way so that the microwaves stay within the unit. Just like a bulb which emit lights only when turned on, microwaves only start being generated when the microwave oven door is shut and the switch is turned on. And again just like a bulb which stops emitting light when the switch is turned off, microwaves emission stops when you turn the microwave oven off.
While there may be some minor amount of microwaves which leak through the oven, the amount that is allowed to leak is regulated by the government and is far far lower than the levels at which they can be harmful to our health.
If you are using a properly functioning, non-broken microwave, there is no evidence of threat to you and your health.
But what about the food you eat? Does that contain the radiation?
No. The waves are absorbed by the water in the food and are changed to heat energy. This heat is what cooks the food. The microwaves aren’t in the food anymore so when you are consuming this food, you are simply eating food that has been heated by microwave energy versus energy produced by electric or chemical means in a stovetop unit.
The food also retains most of its nutrients because the cooking time in a microwave is far shorter than the cooking time on a stovetop, and a lot of nutrients get destroyed on exposure to heat and long cooking times.
In fact, vitamin C is a nutrient which gets destroyed on exposure to heat and light. But, when you cook vitamin C rich food in a microwave versus on a stovetop, the microwaved food retains more of the vitamin C because the time exposed to heat is less comparatively.
Another common misconception people have about microwaves is that they alter the chemical composition of food, make it radioactive and therefore cause damage to the body - that is just not how microwaves work!
X-rays and UV light CAN do that, which is why you always see x-ray technicians wearing those safety suits and why you are advised to always wear sunscreen. But microwaves don’t interact with your body cells in the same way so the changes in DNA and mutations that can cause cancer or any other diseases don’t occur through microwaves.
Realistically, you probably get a more direct dose of microwaves when you put your cellphone to your ear or when you sit too close to the TV than from using a microwave for cooking!
There are some precautions to take while using the microwave though:
- Because you can't stir food it can get unevenly heated and this may be a food safety issue especially if you are cooking meat.
- Food gets heated pretty quickly in a microwave so be careful you don’t burn yourself when handling said food.
So if you are using one, maybe cook your food in short burst and keep turning and mixing it up so that It gets cooked properly and evenly.
To sum it up, microwaving is safe and can be a more energy, time and nutrient-efficient way of cooking food. Stove-top cooking, of course, has its benefits, but don’t be afraid or feel guilty if you occasionally need to use your microwave for food preparation! If you are eating your balanced diet, you’re already doing a fab job for your yourself and your baby, whether the food being cooked is cooked on the stove top or in the microwave.
Amrita Kotak is a Nutritionist from Mumbai, India. She received her MSc in Nutrition from Boston University. She is also a Certified Diabetes Educator with the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and has worked with renowned Endocrinologist and Diabetologist Dr. Nadeem Rais for 2 years. She is particularly passionate about working with people who have Diabetes and with Pregnant women, to use food and nutrition to maximise and optimise health outcomes in both these populations
Amrita now works as a full-time Nutritionist and Diabetes Educator under the name RealLife Nutrition, teaching people all over the world how to optimise their health while continuing to eat all their favourite foods.
Her food philosophy is that all foods can and do fit a balanced diet; she believes that your food should be able to support your health whatever you are going through in life and wherever you are in the world. Through a combination of resources and recipes, she teaches her clients how to tweak their foods to fit their needs in a realistic manner, in a way that suits their real lives.
Amrita is super passionate about debunking nutrition myths and frequently dishes out no-nonsense nutrition information on various social media platforms. You can connect with her on:
Youtube: Frise and Shine