March 7

Does Microwaving Milk Destroy Nutrients? | The Truth You Can Digest


Author: Ana Stanar and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links.

Microwaving milk is a topic that may confuse quite a few people since the microwave is often the go-to method for reheating food and drinks such as milk. Some people believe that microwave radiation destroys valuable nutrients in milk.

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But does microwaving milk destroy nutrients? Before discussing the answer to this question, we should be aware of what these nutrients are in the milk.

Nutritional Components in Milk

Here are the key nutrients in cow's milk:

  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Protein
  • Vitamin D
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Niacin (vitamin B3)
  • Vitamin B12
  • Lactose

Milk is called a complete food because it contains almost all the essential nutrients needed to sustain life. Milk supplies carbohydrates, proteins, lipids (or fats), vitamins, minerals, and water.

Most adults don't get enough calcium or vitamin D which are important nutrients for bone health. Get them from milk which is a rich source of these nutrients.

Milk also contains potassium and magnesium, which help lower blood pressure, as well as other nutrients for body growth.

Does Heating Up Milk in Microwave Oven Destroy Nutrients?

a person putting a glass of milk in a microwave oven

Yes, the process of heating up the milk can destroy some of its nutrients, including vitamin C and B vitamins.

If you're heating breast milk, make sure it's not too hot. You can easily test this by putting some on your skin; if the breast milk is hot for you, it'll be too hot for your baby.


Microwave heating can lead to the loss of vitamins such as vitamin B12 and vitamin B6.

Milk contains vitamin B12 and vitamin B6. Heating milk can lead to a reduction of these two important vitamins. However, this effect is not unique to microwaving; any method of heating milk can result in a loss of B vitamins. The longer the milk is heated, the greater the loss of B vitamins.

a person pouring a milk over the cereals in the bowl

The Longer You Microwave Milk, the more Nutrients are Lost

The main way to reduce the nutrient loss that occurs when you heat up milk: shorten the length of time you microwave it. The longer you microwave milk, the more nutrients will be lost.

A study in Denmark looked at how heating up whole milk for 30 seconds, 60 seconds, and 90 seconds affected its levels of vitamins B6, B12, and C. The results: The longer the time span, the more nutrients were lost.

Pasteurizing milk using microwave leads to a decrease in vitamin B12 levels. These results were different from pasteurization by other means. The researchers suggest that this may be due to the heat sensitivity of vitamins.

Milk Proteins

A study reported that milk heated using microwave does not affect its proteins; only whey proteins are affected. Its results showed that the proteins did not denature as much as anticipated. In fact, the proteins were changed more by heating the milk at a slightly lower temperature for a longer period of time than microwaving it for a short burst.

Microwave Heating Does Not Affect Milk Proteins

Another study from Cornell University found that there wasn't much difference in the nutritional value of microwaved and non-microwaved milk. The researchers concluded that any loss would be so small that it wouldn't have an impact on our health. So don't worry if you're using a microwave to warm milk.

Any nutrient loss caused by heating is not just due to the microwaving alone; other factors such as length of time and temperature can contribute to it too. Generally speaking, longer cooking times and higher temperatures will reduce the nutritional value of foods. If you're concerned about losing nutrients when heating up food or drinks, try to do it quickly.

It is worth noting that microwave cooking has no effect on milk minerals such as calcium and phosphorous.


Comparison of Microwave Cooking and Other Methods of Cooking Food

Microwaves ovens do not "zap" nutrients out of food; they just heat it up like most cooking methods.

In fact, microwaving can actually preserve nutrients. When you cook vegetables in water, many nutrients leach out into the cooking water. Because microwave ovens can cook foods with little or no water, fewer nutrients are lost during cooking.

In one experiment, researchers compared broccoli cooked by three different methods: boiling it, steaming it, and microwaving it. They found that of all the cooking methods, boiling removed the most vitamins from the broccoli; 89 percent of vitamin C and 11 percent of folate. Microwaving was slightly better at preserving nutrients than traditional boiling because less water was used in the process.

a blue mug in the silver microwave

Cooks food Faster

In addition to preserving nutrient levels, another advantage of microwave cooking is that it saves energy when compared to other conventional methods like boiling or baking because foods are cooked faster and at lower temperatures (because microwaves directly heat the food rather than heating up pots and pans).

Is Heating Up Milk in A Microwave Safe?

Yes, it is safe to heat up the milk in a microwave. However, it is crucial that the milk reaches a safe temperature of 60 degrees Celsius in order to kill any harmful bacteria or pathogens.

There's one exception: If you're heating up breast milk for your baby, then it's better not to use the microwave because it can create hot spots which can burn your baby's mouth.

microwave timer button closeup

How Microwaves Work

Microwave ovens have been a popular kitchen appliance since the 1940s, when the first one was produced for home use. When you look at this common household item in terms of its technology, it's one of the most important inventions of the 19th century.

When you push the start button on your microwave oven, electricity flows to the magnetron. The magnetron takes electricity and converts it into high-powered radiation. When the microwave energy hits moisture, which is present in food but not in other things like plates or utensils, it causes the water molecules to vibrate very rapidly. This friction generates heat to warm your cold milk.

a person putting a cup in the microwave

It Cooks Food Faster

Microwave ovens cook food much more quickly than conventional ovens because they directly heat water molecules in food instead of heating indirectly through hot air or oil as in other methods of cooking.

Microwave radiation is non-ionizing, which means it does not have enough energy to break chemical bonds or ionize air molecules. This makes it safe to warm milk or cook food at high power levels.

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Proper Microwave Use

Only use Microwave-Safe Container

It is very important to use microwave-safe containers for microwave heating. Your container should be made of glass, ceramic, or plastic that is labeled microwave safe. If you put something in the microwave that isn’t safe, it could melt, catch fire, or release toxic chemicals into your food. Also, avoid heating food in styrofoam containers and plastic bags, which can contain harmful chemicals.

two kids with glass of milk

It is also important to be careful when removing microwaved food or breast milk. They can be very hot and, if dropped, may shatter or spill their contents, causing burns and other injuries.

Read The Instruction Manual

Treat your microwave like other appliances in your kitchen. Read the instruction manual for tips on proper use, including what foods to avoid.

Use Caution When Heating Water and Milk

When you heat water in the microwave for a long period, it becomes superheated. With milk, it will boil over. Once you take the cup of water out of the microwave when it is heated for long and disturb its contents in some way (e.g., by stirring), all of that energy can be released at once as steam. This can cause serious burns. So be careful when heating milk and water in the microwave.

Wrapping UP

In general, heating milk in a microwave oven does not destroy a lot of nutrients unless heated for a long time.

If you're warming up a cup of milk for your child, don't worry about losing its nutrient content. Microwave ovens are a safe, effective, and convenient cooking method. The key is to avoid overcooking and remember that microwaving doesn't change the nutritional value of foods more than other methods of heating.

Foods cooked in a microwave oven with minimal water lose fewer nutrients than those cooked with a lot of water. Boiling vegetables for eight to 15 minutes can leach out water-soluble vitamins such as vitamin C, thiamin, and riboflavin into the cooking water.

Now that you've read about tips about microwaving milk, you can find out more about different types of modern microwaves to suit all your needs. Check out the extracts from those reviews we shared here:

Microwave Types

Best Convection Microwave

Convection ovens have great cooking power, a child safety lock to prevent accidental usage of the microwave, and different cooking levels. Like we mentioned before, choosing a convection microwave for your needs will be influenced by these 3 main factors - capacity, features for your budget, and your counter space.

Best Microwaves For Home Use

The more features you choose to have, the more expensive the microwave oven for home use would be. The good news is that you can choose to keep things very economical by simply going for a microwave oven with minimal features that meets the size and power requirements as stated earlier.

Best Simple And Basic Microwave Ovens

To reiterate this, a basic microwave oven, in our opinion is a small to midsize, non-inverter solo countertop microwave oven. Why? because a microwave such as this is easy to operate, is affordable, does not occupy much counterspace and is easy to install.

Best 1200 Watt Microwave Ovens

Most of the ovens in this category are quite expensive. This is generally due to two reasons: high powered microwave ovens are heavy duty and thus feature expensive components, secondly, they are very large. Some of the premium ovens in this power category though offer cutting edge technology, albeit at a higher cost.

Best Midsize Countertop Microwave

A midsize model is excellent for a regular family. The smaller models are generally reserved for offices, dorm rooms or garage like spaces. Larger microwave ovens are reserved for commercial spaces, so if you are have regular sized family or 4-5 members, then a midsize microwave oven would work perfectly for you.

Our Recommended Microwave Oven

  • It has ten power levels with multi-stage cooking
  • Ideal small-space solution
  • Easy-to-view interior lighting

About the author

Ana Stanar

An Art Teacher, entrepreneur, and a mother of three, Ana considers cooking a form of art - pleasure for all senses as well as a process that requires creativity, passion and devotion. Since she leads a busy life, Ana just loves testing various kitchen appliances for Kitchen Gearoid, especially those that save her time while preparing food and cooking but also make every meal a masterpiece!


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