Nutrition Thursday: Microwaves and nutrient loss

A little while ago I started a weekly tradition of uploading nutrition-related info on Thursdays onto instagram and calling it ‘Nutrition Thursday’. So I thought why not do the same here? It will allow me a bit more of a schedule to follow. I’ll be back with another recipe this weekend!

microwave

More recently I have been hearing some confusion when it comes to microwaves and nutrient loss. The myth that microwaving your food can cause more nutrient loss is just that…a myth. Research has shown that microwaving your food can actually help retain nutrients because it heats the food quicker. This results in less cooking time which can help preserve your heat sensitive nutrients (like Vitamin C, B vitamins, and folic acid). In fact, in one study that compared nutrient loss in spinach, it was found that spinach, when cooked in a microwave, retained nearly all of its folate. However, when cooked over the stove, it lost 77% of its folate.

Microwaving your food can actually help make nutrients, like the carotenoids in tomatoes and carrots, more bioavailable and it also makes the biotin in eggs more digestible. In addition, the heat from microwaves kills the bacteria in food that can make us sick.

Of course there is some nutrient loss no matter how you cook your foods. Especially if water is involved. One study found that cooking broccoli in the microwave resulted in more nutrient loss as opposed to cooking it over the stove. However, for the most part, boiling results in a significant amount of nutrient loss because cooking times are longer, a large amount of water is used, and the water soluble nutrients are lost in the water. So unless you incorporate that water back into your meal somehow, you’re losing out on a lot of nutrients.

Apparently microwaving your meat prior to cooking can even have some benefits. A recent article stated, “microwaving meat before pan-frying or grilling can substantially reduce the formation of potentially cancer-causing chemicals, caused heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which cause cancer in animals, and may be linked to colorectal, pancreatic and prostate cancer in humans,” (http://www.foxnews.com/health/2014/03/08/7-nutrition-myths-debunked/).

Bottom line: Microwaves are generally one of the best options for retaining nutrients because they cook food quickly, expose the food to heat for the smallest amount of time, and use minimal liquid.

Question of the day:

Is there a nutrition related topic you would like to know more about?

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7 thoughts on “Nutrition Thursday: Microwaves and nutrient loss

  1. YES! I’m so glad you posted this because I microwave all the time! And I’m glad you included eggs as well because my mom is always worried that I microwave the eggs. But frankly, I’m too lazy to hard boil it or fry it! Microwaves are just so convenient.

    • Glad it could help! i’ve seen a lot of mis-information being spread across the media and social networks so I thought it would help to address it once and for all. i love my microwave. don’t know what i would do without it.

  2. Wow – thanks for the clarifications on microwave cooking. I wonder about steamed broccoli as far as nutrition loss. I’ve seen many health oriented recipes that nuke in the process, so this is really helpful.

  3. I’m surprised at the information about microwaves! It’s a relief to know that microwaves are not destroying as much nutrients as I thought; however, you made me a little anxious about all my stove-top cooking! We frequently cook spinach in soups, on the stove.

    I think my biggest nutrient question would be protein. I’m getting so confused about all of this talk about “complete” proteins. I understand that animal proteins are complete, and that most plant proteins (aside from soy) are incomplete (meaning they do not contain all 9 amino acids). However, I don’t understand how important a protein being “complete” is. For example, when they recommend an amount of protein for daily intake, is that recommendation general protein (like, my nuts have x grams of protein in them), or “complete” proteins?

    Additionally, how many hours, days, or weeks do I have to complete the proteins? For example, if I eat almonds, and they have x, y, and z amino acids, and later eat some brown rice, will those combine to make a complete protein? & how long do I have to make that process happen?

    I hope all of that was clear, and if not, just ask me so I can clarify.

    (Also, I’m not sure where I’m suppose to be noting this, but this comment, as well as a few of my others, is for one of the Rafflecopter giveaway entries!) : )

    • I’m glad my post could help clear up any confusion you had about microwaves! When it comes to spinach, because many of spinach’s nutrients, including vitamin C, folate, B vitamins and thiamin, are water soluble, spinach loses a large portion of its nutrients when it is boiled or steamed. For maximum vitamin retention, use quick-cooking methods that do not include water, such as sauteing, stir-frying or blanching, to reduce the amount of nutrients lost from cooking.

      in regards to your question about protein, I think it might help if I direct you to a blog post I did not long ago discussing protein and amino acids. You can find that post here: https://f00dventures.wordpress.com/2014/01/27/handy-dandy-little-reference-for-protein-rich-foods/. Hopefully that will help answer your questions 🙂

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