Does microwaving food cause nutrient loss?

Microwave ovens provide an easy way to quickly heat food when hunger strikes. But does the convenience of microwave cooking come at a cost by zapping nutrients out of foods?

The answer may surprise you.

Any kind of cooking method will result in some nutrient losses, so a better way to look at the issue is to what degree nutrients are depleted, explained Scott A. Rankin, professor and chair of the Department of Food Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And "typical microwave heating results in very minimal loss of valuable nutrients in food," Rankin said.

The factors that affect nutrient losses in foods during cooking include time (the longer the food is cooked, the more nutrient loss); temperature (the more heat, the more losses); and the amount of liquid the food is cooked in (the more water, the more nutrients you will probably lose as they leach into the cooking liquid).

Steaming in the microwave is preferable to submerging foods in water, which can result in a loss of nutrients.

So whether you choose microwaving or conventional cooking methods, keep your cooking times low when possible. It's also best to use methods that require minimal added liquid.