Earlier this year as I was changing my diet/lifestyle and just getting started on my journey toward true health I read quite a bit about microwaves. Up until then I used my microwave a lot. Every day for lunch I would quick nuke something for Rebecca and myself. If I needed to defrost something, into the microwave it went. If I was in a rush and didn’t have time to bake something, the microwave to the rescue – casseroles, leftovers, baked potatoes, etc.
Fast forward to today…I haven’t touched my microwave in months. And honestly I want it out of my kitchen. It’s huge. And it takes up so much space above my stove. I’ve learned that warming leftovers on the stovetop is faster and healthier than using a microwave. Plus it makes the food taste a LOT better. So, what made me rethink the microwave? Here is some of the info I ran across while learning how to eat real food.
First there is the whole cancer issue. Do they/don’t they cause cancer? “Studies have been conducted on food that have been thawed, cooked and heated in microwaves. The results showed that many food molecules were converted into carcinogens. The glucoside and galactoside present in frozen foods gets converted into carcinogenic substance. Plant alkaloids in vegetables were converted into carcinogens. Milk and cereals heated in microwaves also had some of their amino acids converted into carcinogens.” Carcinogens in my food? No thanks. And even if there is still debate, I’d rather take my chances with avoiding it. If it was a definitive no I think we’d know that by now.
Personally I think the food just tastes worse. The texture, consistency, etc. changes. And food is heated unevenly. You can get hot spots. Take one bite and you think your food is ready. Take another and you burn your mouth. It can even be dangerous to heat liquids because they might have such uneven heating. There are some foods that can explode or catch fire in a microwave. Ever tried microwaving carrots? I’ve seen a few too many sparks from those 😛
What does it do to the food? A lot. It changes it completely. And basically takes away any bit of nutrition that was in your food. According to author Nina Plank “The microwave destroys antioxidants, enzymes, and vitamins dramatically more than conventional heat.” If all of the nutrients are gone from my food after heating it in the microwave what’s the point of eating it? If it doesn’t nourish my body I’m just eating empty, useless and potentially harmful calories. And making less room for good stuff. Here are a few specifics:
“Microwaves significantly decrease the nutritional value of the foods up to 60 to 90% of the normal level. There is reduction in vitamin B 12, that is necessary for red blood cell formation and building up nervous system. The flavonoid content of the food decreases by 97% when cooked in microwave oven. Flavonoids contain anti cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. There is significant decrease in vitamin C, vitamin E, essential mineral and lipotropic factors in food. Glucosides, nitrilosides, alkaloids present in the vegetables are damaged significantly.”
“The radiations decrease the immune system of humans and regular eating of microwave cooked foods causes memory loss, emotional problems and decrease in IQ. Microwave cooked food also can lead to decrease in hormone production.”
There are so many microwaveable convenience foods available. Eating them is about as healthy as eating the box or bag they come in. What little nutrition was in it to begin with is gone after cooking it in the microwave. You can even “steam” vegetables in the microwaves now. But you’re left with a pile of bland, nutritionless, harmful food.
Aside from the direct effects on food itself, heating any kind of plastic (containers, plastic wrap, etc.) in the microwave is dangerous. The plastic leaches toxins (BPA, phthalates) into the food. Ever wonder why you can’t get that spaghetti sauce residue out of your tupperware? Because it has soaked into the plastic…while some of the plastic soaked into your food. Even my fertility specialist, who doesn’t give much advice on diet/lifestyle when it comes to fertility, gave a stern warning about never heating food in plastic and never heating plastic in general…don’t even wash it in the dishwasher. It can have serious effects on your fertility (low sperm count, altering hormones) and overall health. “The cancer causing compounds in the plastic containers and plastic wraps percolate into the food cooked in microwave oven. Bisphenol A is a chemical toxin present in plastic bottles that can percolate into foods and cause cancer, early puberty, obesity and diabetes”
I was quite disturbed this morning while reading Cooking Light to see their advice about microwaves while answering a reader’s question:
“Is it true that microwaving veggies removes all of their nutrients?”
“Any cooking method reduces nutrient levels in vegetables to some degree…the good news: Because microwaving uses less heat, less water and requires shorter cooking times, it has a less destructive effect on nutrients, particularly water-soluble, heat-sensitive vitamins like vitamin C.”
It’s sad that people are getting this kind of advice from a “healthy” magazine. I think this Q&A might have been the final appalling “health” advice in this magazine to warrant a review sometime. For now I can say I will not be renewing my subscription.
There is plenty more information out there about microwave use (for and against). There is a lot of information about the science behind it and what is happening to the food at the molecular level. Quite fascinating…and disturbing. What was once food is turned into something totally different at a structural level. It is a personal decision. But I have decided it is best for my family to avoid it as much as possible. Note to self…ask Justin to remove microwave and replace it with a regular stove hood 🙂 I grew up eating microwaved eggs…a nutrient powerhouse turned lifeless. I can’t undo the potential damage that was done. I can’t control how food is prepared when we are eating in restaurants (which is thankfully VERY rare) or other people’s homes. I can’t change the fact that my husband has to use a microwave to heat his lunch at work. But I can do my part to eliminate our use of/exposure to microwaves at home.
So, how about you? Do you rely heavily on your microwave for cooking? Is it just an eye sore in your kitchen that is collecting dust? Or are you microwave free?
If you’d like to read more here are a few good articles: