A report from the nutrition department of Cornell University should convince you that microwaving food does not destroy its nutritional value. Dr. Gertrude Armbruster and her colleagues showed that fruits and vegetables lost the least vitamin C when microwaved, compared to other cooking methods. Vitamin C is a good indicator of the amount of nutrients lost because it is both water soluble and sensitive to heat (Newsweek, March 14, 2008).

Microwave ovens use electromagnetic waves that vibrate water molecules inside food to produce heat. Most nutrients in food are not destroyed by microwaving because they are not in the watery layer. An earlier study from Spain, widely reported in the news media, claimed that microwaving broccoli destroyed all of its antioxidants (Journal of Science in Food and Agriculture, November 2003). However, the researchers in this study cooked the broccoli in almost a cup of water for five minutes at full power. The antioxidants were destroyed by the long cooking in water at a high temperature, not by the microwaves. The length of time vegetables are exposed to hot water determines the amount of water-soluble nutrients lost, whether the cooking is done in a microwave oven, steamer, pot or pressure cooker. For nutrient- rich vegetables from your microwave, use very little water (no more than a tablespoon or two) and short cooking times.

Contrary to myths spread by a popular natural health newsletter, the radiation from microwaves is not harmful and has no effect whatever on food other than to heat it up. Once the food comes out of the oven, there are no lingering effects of the microwaves. If you are worried about chemical changes to the nutrients in your food, avoid broiling, grilling, frying or any other method that browns foods. The reason food cooked in a microwave oven is so bland is that the chemical changes caused by high surface temperatures don’t happen. That’s why most people use their microwave ovens to reheat food instead of for cooking.


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Dear Dr. Mirkin: Does vitamin C improve athletic performance?

Some exercisers take vitamin C because they think that it will help them recover faster and therefore become better athletes. However, a study from the University of Valencia in Spain shows that vitamin C pills can make an athlete tire earlier during long- term exercise (The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2008).

Every muscle cell has hundreds, and even thousands, of small inclusions called mitochondria that turn food into the force that drives muscles. They do this by shuffling electrons to produce energy. After the electrons are moved, they can end up stuck on oxygen molecules to produce poisons called oxidants that make muscles burn, and feel sore and tired. The human body produces antioxidants that help protect a person from cell damage from these oxidants. Large doses of vitamin C have been shown to block antioxidants, so giving large doses of vitamin C to either humans and animals before they exercise would make them tire earlier.


Dear Dr. Mirkin: My husband’s doctor recommends that he take testosterone; what are the pros and cons?

Men who have low blood testosterone levels are often given that hormone to bring their levels to normal. This increase sexual desire and performance. However, many men are concerned that it may harm them in other ways. A recent study from England shows that after getting testosterone, the arteries leading to the heart widen and blood flow to the heart increases, reducing their chances for suffering a heart attack (American Journal of Cardiology, March 2008). Long term use of testosterone decreases heart pain caused by blocked coronary arteries in men with low plasma testosterone and coronary heart disease.

Other studies show that, after receiving testosterone replacement for low levels of that hormone, men have more aggression and confidence, lower cholesterol levels, and greater strength. However, many doctors think that it may spread existing prostate cancers. No data yet show that taking testosterone increases prostate cancer risk.


Recipe of the Week

Quinoa with Eggplant

Be sure to read:
Eggplant in the Microwave

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