Pregnancy is a busy time for expectant mothers to care for themselves and to prepare for their developing baby. With their increased daily demands, often times pregnant women find themselves rushing to consume meals that are quickly prepared. Such “fast food” is typically cooked or heated in a microwave oven.
Microwave ovens work by vibrating water molecules in food and producing heat that cooks the food. Foods with large amounts of water like fresh vegetables cook faster than other foods with less water. Microwave ovens change their energy into heat that is absorbed by the food. The molecular structure of food is not altered, thus microwave cooking does not make food “radioactive” or “contaminated.” As well, there is no evidence that microwave cooking reduces the nutritional value of foods any more than conventional cooking. Quite the contrary, microwave cooking may retain more vitamins and minerals in foods since microwave ovens cook foods faster without drying it out, as is the case with some conventional cooking methods.
For best practice, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers the following
Tips on Safe Microwave Oven Operation:
- Follow the manufacturer’s instruction manual for recommended operating procedures and safety precautions for your oven model.
- Don’t operate an oven if the door does not close firmly or is bent, warped, or otherwise damaged.
- Never operate an oven if it will continue to operate with the door open.
- As an added safety precaution, don’t stand directly against an oven (and don’t allow children to do this) for long periods of time while it is operating.
An additional precaution for safe microwave use includes avoiding warming foods in plastic containers. After repeated use, some plastic containers break down or melt at high temperatures from the heat inside the food. Plastics with Bisphenol A (BPA), a synthetic estrogen, are particularly susceptible to disintegration. Plastics labeled with the #7 designation or without a label should be avoided and when possible, substituted with glass for microwave cooking or holding hot foods or beverages.
When used correctly, microwave radiation and/or BPA exposure poses minimal threats to the safety of microwave oven users. The FDA reports that most microwave ovens emit little or no detectable microwave radiation leakage even with damaged door hinges, latches, or seals, and the amounts of BPA in the blood and urine of most plastic users is very small and not dangerous. Thus, when used as recommended, microwave ovens offer convenient, efficient means to prepare nutritional meals with little to no risk of harm to pregnant women or their unborn babies.