Maybe it's your aunt, or your roommate, or that darn Food Babe, but everyone knows someone who refuses to eat food that's been microwaved under the premise that it will turn you into a radioactive, cancer-riddled space goblin with holes in your reproductive system and a lifelong inability to absorb nutrients of any kind. To some, it's even become something of a badge of healthy eating: "I don't even own a microwave."
The debate has gone back and forth for decades about whether heating your food with electromagnetic radiation has lasting detriments on said food, either by rendering it somehow carcinogenic or depleting it of any nutritional value. But what's left out of the picture is that vitamin content is compromised by most forms of cooking—including steaming and boiling—and microwaves are unfairly, ahem, taking the heat.
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Last week, the American Chemical Society (the Food Babe's most staunch nemesis, one might guess) decided that they'd had enough of hokey, blind demonization of anything deemed "unnatural" when it comes to food—and released a video on YouTube specifically aiming to debunk microwave fears. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, microwaves are just fine.
First things first, the ACS explains: radiation isn't necessarily radioactive, despite popular confusion surrounding the relationship between the two terms. Plus, the amount of radiation that you would be exposed to even if you pressed yourself two inches or less from a microwave oven for the entire span of its usage in your home wouldn't even be enough to make you grow a sixth finger—let alone if you're a couple of feet away from the microwave when you use it, which is much more likely. "There has never been any research to show that microwave ovens can cause any long-term damage to people, so let's just drop it, folks," the narrator says.
The video also argues that microwaving your food is actually one of the best ways to maintain its nutritional value, in stark contrast to the popular rumors that zapping your broccoli in cheese sauce turns it into useless mush. An unaffiliated 2003 study found that aside from ascorbic acid, microwaving vegetables actually retains more of their nutrients than boiling or blanching them. And if you think that stir-frying your food is doing it favors, rule that out, too; even frying can do worse damage than throwing the stuff in the ol' hot box. All forms of cooking technically involves radiation, since heat radiates out of your stove, your oven, your grill—you name it.
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The ACS also released a second video explaining that frozen vegetables are actually just as wholesome as their fresh counterparts, due to the facts that they're flash-frozen at peak ripeness (and thus peak nutritional value), with the process resulting in only "a slight loss of some water-soluble vitamins" that is often less significant than the nutritional loss incurred by allowing your produce to overripen in your fruit bowl or your fridge.
Sure, this could all be part of the global conspiracy to force-feed us cancer-causing junk slop from the trough of the Illuminati. But more likely, it could be an earnest attempt to put some actual science behind widespread fears that continue to earn backing despite having little evidence behind them.
Lazy people, rejoice: your trips to the microwave are A-OK.