A good home cooked meal. Phones down. TV off. Everyone around the table, eating something amazing mom made, talking, and laughing. It’s not just in Norman Rockwell pictures, you know. We all know home cooked meals are not just a great experience, but they’re healthier. They taste better. We can control what is in the food we cook. So… why do people prefer microwavable meals over healthy, home cooked goodness? Are we really that lazy? Or is it that we don’t care about our health?
My mind drifts to the stereotypical single guy in front of his television with nothing in his frig and a freezer stocked with 10 different Lean Cuisines. I feel sorry for his taste buds, lost somewhere in the radio waves of the microwave.
Are ready meals good for you?
Surely, you have heard that microwaves chemically change the substance of food or how their electromagnetic radiation is bad for you. There’s plenty of research proving the contrary and others supporting these statements. Some studies have also found that heating up food in the microwave destroys important nutrients necessary for proper bodily function. Who is right? Who is wrong? No clue, but I have to wonder whether eating something that has been zapped to raise its temperature is good for you.
One concern is the way these foods are cooked. Cooking processes can be just as important for our health as the sugar, salt and fat content. Beetroot turning cooking water purple is a vivid example of how nutrients (antioxidants called betalains) can be lost. But other nutrients disappear unnoticed into the cooking water, such as B vitamins from leafy vegetables, and anticancer glucosinolates from members of the cabbage family. At home, we can minimise this by steaming vegetables or using the cooking water. But we have no control over the making of convenience foods and ready meals. Do firms that make these products take care to prepare ready meals in ways that preserve the nutrients? We simply don’t know. independent.co.uk
So is the microwave bad for your health?
If you’re as old as I am… ehhhmm… you would remember when microwaves first came out. We would be in the next room whenever it was on. You were also the really cool kid on the block because you owned one, and it cost a lot of money. They were terribly large, nothing like the sleek, modern ones you find now. It was only used to heat up leftovers. And there definitely wasn’t a whole section in the grocery store devoted to it.
Yes, I have one. My dad gave it to me a million years ago, or I never would’ve bought one. I never use it except every now and then for popcorn. For me, it takes away from the experience of cooking.
How does microwave work
Understanding how microwave ovens work can help clarify the answer to these common questions. Microwave ovens cook food using waves of energy that are similar to radio waves but shorter. These waves are remarkably selective, primarily affecting water and other molecules that are electrically asymmetrical — one end positively charged and the other negatively charged. Microwaves cause these molecules to vibrate and quickly build up thermal (heat) energy.
Does the microwave kill nutrients?
Some nutrients break down when they’re exposed to heat, whether it is from a microwave or a regular oven. Vitamin C is perhaps the clearest example. But because microwave cooking times are shorter, cooking with a microwave does a better job of preserving vitamin C and other nutrients that break down when heated.
As far as vegetables go, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients leach out into the cooking water. For example, boiled broccoli loses glucosinolate, the sulfur-containing compound that may give the vegetable its cancer-fighting properties (as well as the taste that many find distinctive and some find disgusting). Is steaming vegetables — even microwave steaming — better? In some respects, yes. For example, steamed broccoli holds on to more glucosinolate than boiled or fried broccoli. health.harvard.edu
Bottom line: Any form of cooking kills the nutrients in the food. It is up to you if you do your cooking in a way that preserves as much as nutrients possible. Anyways, in my opinion the real danger is in the ready-made convenience meals. They are generally of low nutritional value and you have no control of what is inside. And they taste just bland if not awful (compared to home made meals).
My favorite time of the day: drinking some wine while making dinner. True, we can’t deny the existence of something that is in every household. However, we can limit our exposure. Our lives can’t be THAT busy that we can’t make a home cooked meal on the stove especially with all the time-savers available.
If you’re one of these microwavable meals addicts, try eating something with homemade chicken broth. You will undoubtedly taste the difference. Happy Cooking!
Chicken Broth Recipe
Leftover bones from chicken
Salt and Pepper
In a large stockpot, add all the ingredients. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 4 hours. Skim the foam on top every so often. Remove the bones and strain. Store in an airtight container or freeze for later use.