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The Microwave Oven: Your New Friend

Por Lic. Nina Nazor Robles* -

Today, most kitchens have a microwave oven, a really useful tool in the busy lives we lead today. But we do need to be careful how we use them. How do microwave ovens work?
Microwaves are waves of energy that move through space. These waves have three particular qualities that you might find interesting:
• Metal reflects microwaves.
• Microwaves move through materials like glass, paper, and plastic.
• Food absorbs microwaves.

A tube in the oven sends the microwaves into the oven’s metal box. The waves then bounce around until the food absorbs them. The microwaves make the water molecules in the food move. This movement produces heat to cook the food. Foods with higher water content, such as vegetables and fruit, cook faster in microwave ovens.

Cooking with a microwave does not decrease the value of food any more than any other cooking process. Food cooked in microwaves retains more of its vitamins and minerals. It cooks more quickly and without any added water.

How safe are microwave ovens?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been evaluating the safety of the microwave oven since 1971. Microwave ovens sold in this country are probably very safe.
You should remember the following points when using these devices:

  • Use the right dishes for heating. Choose dishes that are glass, plastic or ceramic. It is important to use dishes that microwaves pass through without overheating them.
  • Be careful when taking the dish out of the microwave. The dishes do get hot when the temperature of the food rises. Similar to a conventional oven, you can burn yourself on hot dishes taken out of a microwave oven.
  • Not every kind of plastic dish is safe for the microwave. Some of them can melt due to the heat of the food.
  • Finally, you should never use metal or aluminum foil containers in microwave ovens. The microwaves bounce off them and damage the inside of the oven, as well as potentially send a spark which can result in starting a fire.

Be careful when boiling water in a microwave. People have burned their hands and face because the water continued boiling outside the microwave. This can happen if the water reaches very high temperatures, especially when you heat water by itself. The risks are much lower if you add another substance such as coffee or sugar to the water before heating. This happens most often when we boil water by itself and overheat it in the microwave. When we take it out of the oven and stir it or add coffee or sugar, it can cause an explosive reaction that can cause burns.

Here are some tips on how to use your microwave oven safely:

• Read the instruction manual carefully before using the oven for the first time.
• Use dishes made for use in microwave ovens.
• Take care not to go over the suggested cooking time for heating water or liquids.
• Don’t turn on the oven when it is empty.
• Clean the inside of the oven and the hinges of the oven door with water and a mild detergent. Do not use abrasive cleaners.
• Be sure to close the door correctly before you turn on the oven.
• Try not to stand in front of the oven when it is on.
• Make sure children do not play near the microwave oven or open the door when the oven is on. Teach them how these devices work from an early age.

 *Dietitian of the MyDiet™ Team


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