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Americans Love Microwaves—But Are They Safe?

12/21/2009 12:00:00 AM

Tags: food, microwaves, cooking

With the economy still in recession, more American families are eating at home rather than eating out, but most aren’t making hearty, traditional meals on the stovetop or in the oven. They’re nuking. 

Microwaves save time, but are they putting our health at risk? Photo By agsaran/Courtesy Flickr.  

A new report from market research company NPD found that more Americans are microwaving their meals instead of making them on the stovetop. Stovetop cooking has been declining and microwave use rising since the mid-1980s, but this study, the “24th Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America,” marks an all-time high in microwave use. In 1985, 52 percent of meals were prepared on the stove top. Today that number has dropped to 33 percent, while the number of main meals cooked in the microwave has risen to almost 23 percent.  

Microwaves are fast and can save energy, but they may not the safest option for cooking food. Studies have shown that daily exposure to microwave emissions shouldn’t exceed more than 1 milliwatt per minute, but average microwave use exceeds this. Microwave cooking may also change food’s nutritional quality. 

This isn’t to say any of us is going to get rid of our convenient microwaves. It might not hurt to use them a little less often—more for popcorn, less for full meals—if you’re concerned about microwave emissions, though. 

Besides, there’s something really lovely about stirring a pot of soup on the stovetop.

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