December 23, 2015

But what about the GOOD effects?

Today's Chipotlefreude post remind of some research I did last week into a family member claim that "microwaving food ruins its nutritional value" or some such. I think the belief was inspired by someone along the lines of Mike Adams, whose piece in a 2007 posting on Organic Consumers Dot Org soft pedaled the issue thusly:

But microwaving that broccoli destroys the anti-cancer nutrients, rendering the food "dead" and nutritionally depleted. There's even some evidence to suggest that microwaving destroys the natural harmony in water molecules, creating an energetic pattern of chaos in the water found in all foods. In fact, the common term of "nuking" your food is coincidentally appropriate: Using a microwave is a bit like dropping a nuclear bomb on your food, then eating the fallout. (You don't actually get radiation from eating microwaved foods, however. But you don't get much nutrition, either.)

You get the picture. But the "other side" coming from the authoritative Harvard Medical School is that microwave cooking is among the best possible methods to preserve nutritional content.

The cooking method that best retains nutrients is one that cooks quickly, heats food for the shortest amount of time, and uses as little liquid as possible. Microwaving meets those criteria. Using the microwave with a small amount of water essentially steams food from the inside out. That keeps more vitamins and minerals than almost any other cooking method.

The loss of nutrients is really a result, says Harvard, of cooking the food at all.

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.

And cooking has a secondary benefit, or perhaps primary if you're trying to run a successful Chipotle franchise, of killing food-borne pathogens.

Now back to Mister Adams. What is his advice for the best way to prepare food?

When you need to heat something, heat it in a toaster oven or a stovetop pan (avoid Teflon and non-stick surfaces, of course). Better yet, strive to eat more of a raw, unprocessed diet. That where you'll get the best nutrition anyway.

Ummm. Yeah. Maybe a little irradiation first please?

Click continue reading for an interesting aside on Adam's preoccupation with, and complete misunderstanding of "irradiation."

Adams again:

Microwaving is, technically, a form of food irradiation. I find it interesting that people who say that would never eat "irradiated" food have no hesitation about microwaving their food. It's the same thing (just a different wavelength of radiation). In fact, microwaves were originally called "radar ranges." Sounds strange today, doesn't it? But when microwaves were first introduced in the 1970's, they were proudly advertised as radar ranges. You blast your food with high-intensity radar and it gets hot. This was seen as some sort of space-age miracle in the 1970's. Perhaps someday an inventor will create a food heating device that does not radically alter the nutritional value of the foods in the process, but I'm not holding my breath on this one. Probably the best way to heat foods right now is to simply use a countertop toaster oven, and keep the heat as low as possible.

The "irradiation" of food is a process where it is subjected to "ionizing" radiation from sources such as x-rays or gamma rays. Electromagnetic radiation or "radar" waves from, say, a microwave oven, are "non-ionizing" radiation. It is completely different, unless you are a junk science fear monger. And if you still want to disagree, stop recommending the use of a "countertop toaster oven" which heats things by showering them with infrared radiation! "It's the same thing [as microwaving] (just a different wavelength of radiation)."

Perhaps someday our schools will produce an adult citizenry whose average member has a better understanding of science, or at least some understanding of what he doesn't know - but I'm not holding my breath on this one.

Food and Wine Junk Science Posted by JohnGalt at December 23, 2015 2:29 PM

Bringing to mind the greatest Junk Science meme of all time: plants which withered and died because they were watered with microwaved water (cf. Lack of Water Harmony).

Posted by: jk at December 23, 2015 3:38 PM