Does microwave cooking remove the vitamins and nutrients from vegetables and other foods?

Families, Food and Fitness January 13, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF
Microwave cooking affects various types of foods and nutrients differently. Several studies have shown that microwave cooking, if properly used, does not change the nutrient content of foods to a larger extent than conventional heating. In fact, research suggests that there is a tendency toward greater retention of many micronutrients with microwaving, probably due to the shorter cooking time. The most heat-sensitive nutrients are water-soluble vitamins such as folic acid, other B-vitamins, and C which are common in vegetables. Because microwave ovens often use less heat and water than conventional methods and involve shorter cooking times, they generally have the least destructive effects. For example, using only 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to microwave broccoli can minimize vitamin C loss as compared to stove-top boiling or steaming (unless the cooking water is saved and consumed). A newer concern may be the effect on antioxidants. One recent study demonstrated significant flavonoid loss in broccoli that was microwaved as opposed to steamed or cooked. Because there are pros and cons of any cooking method, a good solution is to vary your cooking methods, minimize the amount of cooking water used, avoid overcooking, and include some raw fruits and vegetables in your diet.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.