Is Microwaving Your Food Unhealthy?

Is microwaving your food unhealthy? // Microwave safety for healthy eating: how to use microwaves properly to preserve nutrients and limit toxic chemicals from leaching into food (hint: microwave-safe containers!)

Is microwaving your food unhealthy?

Nahhh, not really.

But with some caveats:

First, microwaves aren’t your best bet for healthful eating or quality cuisine, because they don’t typically involve fresh produce or other whole foods. (And microwaveable-only packaged foods are, for the most part, not real food.)

But for reheating otherwise-healthy, whole food meals, the microwave is a lovely convenience and occasional use isn’t harmful—if you use it properly. Here are our tips for practicing good microwave safety:

Microwave safety tips

  • Don’t microwave plastic. (Or Styrofoam. Or metal, of course.) Even if a plastic container says “microwave safe,” that just means it won’t melt—but it still contains harmful compounds that can leach into your food. Heating plastic releases endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which are linked to reproductive cancer, infertility, immune and neurological problems. The “no-microwaving-plastic” rule also applies to splatter covers and pre-packaged microwavable single-serving meals.

  • Don’t overheat your food. Set the timer for less time than you think you’ll need, and add additional time if needed. (In general, the more you heat your food, the fewer nutrients remain.)

  • Don’t stand right next to the microwave while it’s cooking. Microwaves do emit small amounts of radiation, which does the same thing to your cells as it does to your food—cooks them! Microwave radiation diminishes quickly over distance, so standing a few feet farther away reduces exposure significantly.

But what should I microwave my food in?!

Glass is your best bet!

Microwave-safe containers for a healthy kitchen

We share our favorite healthy kitchen products—including microwave-safe containers and splatter-proof covers—in our free Healthy Kitchen Guide.

Get our free guide to creating a healthier kitchen:

Healthy eating: focus on real food & slow food

The basis of a healthy diet is fresh, whole foods like vegetables, whole grains, and organic and responsibly raised animal products. (Here’s more on our simple principles for healthy eating.)

And, break out your slow cooker. In general, slower, lower-heat cooking methods (think: stew) preserve more nutrients than faster, high-heat methods (like grilling or frying).


Use your microwave sparingly, and be sure to practice good microwave safety when you do!

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