Microwaves are good not just for reheating food, but also cooking it! They offer a number of advantages when it comes cooking vegetables because vegetables contain a lot of water.
Microwaves heat water molecules
The first microwave ovens for home use appeared in the 1970s. Since then, the models have changed, but the principle behind how they work has stayed the same. An electrical current generates high frequency waves in a magnetron. These waves enter the food directly or through reflection off the metal walls, leading to consistent heating. Within the food, a magnetic field forces water molecules to rub up against each other, generating heat that is used to cook or reheat the food. In other words, microwaves are particularly good at cooking foods with a high water content. As it turns out, that means they are great for cooking vegetables!
Microwaves enhance vegetables
The main advantage of microwaves is obviously the time factor. The magnetic field makes it possible to quickly boil the water within the vegetables and thereby cook them in just a few minutes. But microwaves have three other major nutritional advantages:
- The short cooking time helps preserve heat-sensitive vitamins (like vitamins C and B9).
- The internal temperature also goes no higher than boiling which helps preserve the flavor of the vegetable.
- Since there is little to no water in the container, few nutrients (like water-soluble vitamins and minerals) are lost during cooking.
Microwaves work well for vegetables
Some vegetables are delicious when cooked in a microwave like eggplants, zucchini, and other vegetables with a high water content. This is not always the case with other vegetables like potatoes, for example, which are starchier (except for new potatoes). Of course, prepared vegetable dishes (which sometimes come in bags for steaming) are easy to cook in a microwave. But using a microwave does not change the basic concepts for all cooking methods: the longer the cooking time and the more water used, the more nutrients are lost. Now you know!