Induction cooking has gained popularity in recent years due to its numerous benefits, such as speed, energy efficiency, and ease of use. However, many people still have concerns about its safety and whether it is safe for pregnant women.
Is induction cooking safe for pregnant women? Let’s learn and find out!
How does induction cooking work?
Induction cooking uses an electromagnetic field instead of conventional heat transfer— no open flames, no hot surfaces. How can that be?
When the cookware is placed on the induction cooktop, an alternating electric current passes through a coil underneath the cooktop, creating a magnetic field. The magnetic field generates electrical currents within the cookware, which then heats up the cookware and the food within it.
For this to happen, the cookware used for induction cooking must be made of a magnetic material such as cast iron or stainless steel. Otherwise, the vessel will remain cool.
With this, induction technology boasts precise and fast temperature control and energy efficiency because of less heat lost in the environment during usage.
Is cooking on induction safe?
There are a few safety concerns when considering induction cooking, but instead of diving head first into the naysayers, let’s look at the relative safety advantages of induction cooking instead.
In comparison to traditional gas, induction cooktops do not have open flames. According to the California Air Resources Board, natural gas stoves can deteriorate indoor air quality by releasing carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and other harmful pollutants that are hazardous for you and your pets.
Aside from toxins, you must also be aware of the fire hazard that open flame poses. If left unattended, it might catch combustible materials nearby.
Electric cooktops have smooth surfaces like induction, but that’s the most of their connection. They have lower energy efficiency and might cause severe burns when accidentally touched during use.
Induction cooktops have minimal heat loss because it directly heats the vessel, not the surface, nor does it create a flame as a heat source. This decreases the risk of fire and accidental burns.
Caution: The surface will get hot as heat transfers from vessel to surface, especially with high-temperature settings. However, you’ll have a relatively minor injury.
Be that as it may, hot cookware is still a potential hazard. Given that the surface is cool, you might not register quickly that the vessel is still hot.
However, some brands offer an array of built-in safety features. For example, some have sensors that detect when cookware has been removed and will shut off automatically. Additionally, many induction stoves have indicator lights that will remain on even after the stove has been turned off, letting you know that the surface is still hot and should be avoided.
EMFs from induction cooking and its link to human health
A safety concern that people may have for induction cooktops is the potential for electromagnetic radiation to be harmful to human health. Among all safety concerns, this is probably the least understood and often fueled by fearmongers.
This will not be a physics lecture, so don’t worry much. Suffice it to say electromagnetism is born from the fact that magnetic fields only ever occur when electric current flows. In the case of induction cooktops, electromagnetic fields (EMFs) directly cause the vessels to respond and release heat.
EMFs are classified into two: high-frequency ionizing radiation, e.g., X-rays, UV, and gamma rays, and non-ionizing low- to intermediate-frequency radiation, which includes radio, microwave, and infrared rays.
So, what seems to be the problem?
A 2002 study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer reported that extremely low-frequency EMFs are classified as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”. Most of these focus on leukemia and brain tumors.
There’s no consistent link between cancer and non-ionizing radiation in children, and only a few that state an increased risk in adults. Unlike ionizing radiation that damages DNA, the carcinogenic effect of non-ionizing radiation remains speculated and not proven.
Conclusive and well-corroborated evidence against non-ionizing EMF as linked to induction cooktops is yet to be made. Hence, it’s better to exercise the same presence of mind in the kitchen as you do for any other cooktop.
Most electric appliances emit low-frequency, non-ionizing EMF. Induction cooktops are more on the intermediate frequency but still non-ionizing. Treat your appliance like your cellphone, microwave, or infrared lamp. Use it in moderation and with awareness!
Is induction cooking safe for a pregnant woman?
The controversy around EMFs may lead some to wonder if induction cooking is safer for pregnant women, who may be more sensitive to high temperatures and potential chemical exposure.
If you are pregnant, it is essential to note that a few scientific journals reported a negative association of low-frequency radiation on pregnant females. An analysis of 18 studies, with 4 of them conducted among pregnant women, shows the following probable effects:
- maternal and fetal fluctuations in temperature and heart rate variability
- miscarriage and premature birth, along with low birth weight,
- small head and chest circumference of the infant
- hyperactivity/inattention problems in the infant
- speech problems in the infant
It is crucial, however, to note that this analysis utilizes self-report tools, which may result in bias. It also did not differentiate the low and high-frequency types of EMF in the outcomes discussed for both the mother and infant. Lastly, there are no particular impacts of EMF that were correlated with gestational week.
A recent 2021 study investigates the effect of intermediate- EMF from induction heating on pregnant women and their infants. However, it shows no association with low birth weight nor with small gestational age. Moreover, it reported an independent association between induction cooking to a reduced risk of preterm birth (PTB).
Overall, the effect of radiation on fetuses isn’t as scientifically researched as it would be an unethical practice to do so. The Centers for Disease Control sets a limit of 50-100mGy of ionizing radiation but not on non-ionizing types.
Precautions against EMFs
The science is hazy, and the Internet is either fear-mongering you or acting like a desperate salesperson. It can be frustrating, and sometimes with all the hazy reports, you’re a deer caught in the headlights.
So what else can you do?
To reduce exposure to EMF while using induction cookers during pregnancy, follow these tips:
- Keep a good distance from your body to the cooktop. A 2012 study reports that most induction cooktops comply with the standard set by the International Commission on Non-ionizing Radiation Protection at 300 mm distance. However, overexposure starts at closer distances.
- Aside from distance, avoid spending a long time cooking with an induction cooktop.
- Invest in low-frequency EMF blockers as a precaution.
- Maintain your cooktop properly and get it inspected to ensure it is still working correctly.
Benefits of induction cooking while pregnant
Aside from safety, there are numerous benefits to using induction cooktops if you are pregnant.
1. Lower bills
Pregnancy can be expensive! And you might wince at getting and maintaining a fancy induction when a baby is coming. But an induction cooktop is your trump card. Since the heat is generated directly in the cookware, there is minimal heat loss, resulting in faster cooking times and lower energy consumption.
2. Precision Nutrition
If there’s one thing you shouldn’t shrug off when you are pregnant, it’s nutrition. Did you know that overcooked meals not only affect palatability but also can result in nutrient loss? Lots of chemicals, like Vitamin C, get depleted due to high temperatures.
Meal preparation is an important task for a healthy baby and mommy, and what helps with that is precision in your cooking. Induction cooktops offer precise temperature control, allowing you to cook food at a consistent temperature without overheating or undercooking.
3. Easy cleaning
A woman’s body goes through many changes during pregnancy. It’s a happy moment, for sure, but it can also add stress to your life. Tasks you did with a bit of grumble before might bring too much discomfort and exhaustion now that you are pregnant.
For example, if you have a traditional gas cooktop, cleaning the grease caught in between crevices and grooves around the burners might be challenging to get to.
Since induction cooktops have smooth surfaces, they are easy to clean and maintain. Spills and splatters can be easily wiped away, and there are no grates or burners to clean.
Food is one relationship you cannot take for granted during your pregnancy. The kitchen, from the cooktop to the food, should provide peace of mind and not a sense of dread.
Remember that current scientific studies have yet to come out with solid evidence against induction cooktops. In contrast to the ill rumors, cooking might lessen overall stress from bills, cleaning, and meal preparation.
Pick a cooktop you can rely on in a journey that changes your life. And with all its benefits, induction might just be that for you.