Why We Don’t Use Microwaves

If you clicked to read the article, bravo! because the topic of whether to use a microwave oven is a highly controversial and loaded one. On the one hand, nearly every home in America (90% according to the US Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics[1]has one.) They’re super convenient, we’re told they’re safe, and most people rely on them to reheat or cook their food every single day. But, there are some very real and under reported issues surrounding the dangers of microwave ovens and their negative effects on our health.

How Microwaves Degrade Nutrients in Food

Let’s start by answering a simple question: what is the most fundamental reason we eat? To nourish ourselves of course. And no matter what nutritional philosophy you subscribe to, everyone agrees to maintain health and prevent disease and deficiencies, we must eat a wide variety of whole foods. And for many of us, that’s a big enough challenge in and of itself, isn’t it? But, let’s assume you stick to a pretty clean diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, healthy proteins, whole grains, etc. and limited amounts of junk food and sugar. And you put a good bit of effort into eating this way and preparing healthy meals.

Now, when you put that nutritious food into a microwave oven it is heated from the inside out instead of the outside-in, as it is in traditional cooking methods. Think of it like a little explosion happening within the food molecules, which alters their natural composition and nutrients at a cellular level. Plus, microwaves use a highly-concentrated amount of unnatural electromagnetic energy—a type of radiation[2]—to heat the food, resulting in creation of foreign food particles your body does not want or need.

Here’s the Controversy

Many “nutrition experts” will argue that studies have shown that microwave ovens do NOT degrade the nutrient/vitamin levels of food [3], therefore microwave ovens are safe. Yet, that truth does not prove that the food is not denatured in some way.  Other carefully controlled animal studies show clearly that eating microwaved foods alter biochemical parameters! It can result in the reduction of red blood cells, white blood cells, and hemoglobin concentration as well as increase immune cells involved in the inflammatory process. Microwaving impacts and lowers antioxidant enzyme activity which translates to a significant decrease in antioxidant protection and may be implicated in the development of degenerative diseases [4].  In addition, it is widely accepted that you never heat a baby’s bottle in a microwave because it alters the nutritional profile and protective nutrients in breast milk and formula [5].   And other studies have found microwaving does indeed alter the protein structures in foods [6]. Bottom line – Microwaved meals  alter food and change blood chemistry [7].

Other Impacts of Microwave Radiation

Beyond its negative consequences on food, we must consider how microwave radiation can directly impact our bodies. Yes, we are told that microwave radiation is only absorbed by the food and it doesn’t impact us, however, consider the following facts:

  • Microwave leakage damages human cells and tissues [8].
  • As a microwave oven seal ages, leaking tends to exceed FDA leakage limits [9].
  • Microwaves can affect eye health, resulting in cataractogenic effects and weakening of the retina, if we look at them directly while they’re operating [10][11]. This is due to the impact that inside-out cooking has on water molecules—of which our eyes are chock-full of.
  • Those with pacemakers are still advised to take care around microwaves even though more stringent FDA limits have been put on manufacturers.

The FDA has regulations in place for manufacturing safety. However, it’s pretty impossible for the average person to tell if their microwave is leaking radiation, and that’s a concern for those of us wishing to create healthy, radiation-free homes.

Microwave Alternatives We Use

Based on this research, avoidance of all use of  microwave ovens is recommended. However, that doesn’t have to mean giving up convenience in the kitchen.

  • A Slow Cooker: These are excellent for make-ahead meals, casseroles, etc.
  • An Instant Pot: Many people like this option even better than a slow cooker as you can sear meats, steam and sauté vegetables, and cook pretty much anything quickly.
  • Conventional Oven or Toaster Oven: A toaster oven is a great alternative to a microwave at the office.
  • Convection Oven: These ovens significantly speed up roasting, baking, etc. by circulating hot air.
  • Stove Top: For fast stove top heating, just add a splash of water to a pan with your leftovers, cover, and your food will be hot in about 5 minutes.

In closing, when I studied food as medicine and became a medicinal cook years ago, one of the first things we were taught was that if someone is ill and they are trying to recover, they should absolutely avoid the use of  microwave ovens since the food quality is compromised and the use of the microwave exposes you to high frequency electromagnetic fields. Plus, food tastes so much better when it’s not microwaved, and thanks to new innovations like the Instant Pot, you’ll barely miss the few extra minutes it takes to heat something up the “old-fashioned” way.

References:

1: https://www.bls.gov/cpi/quality-adjustment/microwave-ovens.htm

2: https://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/facts/info_microwaves/en/

3:https://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/17/health/17real.html

4:https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1687850717300481

5: https://www.thefreelibrary.com/Microwaving+can+lower+breast+milk+benefits-a012100730

6: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18240290

7: http://shenmenfengshui.com/tag/comparative-study-of-food-prepared-conventionally-and-in-the-microwave-oven/

8: https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emittingproducts/resourcesforyouradiationemittingproducts/ucm252762.htm#Have_Radiation_Injuries_Resulted_from_Microwave_Ovens_

9: https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emittingproducts/resourcesforyouradiationemittingproducts/ucm252762.htm#Have_Radiation_Injuries_Resulted_from_Microwave_Ovens_

10: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9304438

11:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2488031

 

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26 Comments

  1. I have a question regarding warming up ‘corn bags’ or ‘rice bags’ in a microwave for an alternative to using a heating pad. Do you feel that this is safe? Thank you!

    1. Hi Jackie. Assuming that the seal on your microwave is still good, it is fine to warm up rice bags in terms of the usage.

      1. This entire article is about why we do not use microwaves and includes good studies / references.
        Rachel, I am unclear on why you say to use the microwave for the rice bag?
        Marilee, Thank you for this article and spreading this message.
        Please clarify Rachel’s response

      2. Hello Sarika.

        These rice bags are used as heating pads, and not rice that you eat, so Marilee feel it’s okay to heat them up in the microwave.

        Thanks!

    2. Thank you Marilee! Informative and helpful. We have been happily without a microwave for several years. We rely on our toaster oven, stovetop, and my personal favorite – a convection steam oven. Our food tastes so much better without the microwave. We absolutely do not miss it.

  2. Thanks for writing this!!! My husband and I haven’t had a microwave since we got married (3 years) at first it was because of cost/space but after a few months I realized we never really needed it. Now we have a house and plenty of space and people come over “Oh, where is your microwave?” And I’m like well…we don’t need one! I use the stove top and oven to reheat food, a saucepan to melt butter, and no buddy like microwaved coffee anyway so I either heat it up on the stove or make a fresh cup. I’m always annoyed by studies saying microwaves are healthy and okay. Because at the end of the day you can just tell… nothing tastes better when made in the microwave. In fact, I think things loose their flavor and authenticity. This post is helpful because it affirms my instincts telling me that microwaves are not healthy. Thank you!!

  3. Thank you! I pitched mine years ago and never missed it! It felt unsafe and quite frankly, in this sped up world it seemed lazy to use it.
    I have reheated the old fashioned way on the stove and the time difference is minimal.

    1. Great for you!
      There are so many safe good ways to reheat many foods And many other ways of cooking, reheating or cooking, baking etc.
      enjoy your inventiveness

  4. What about if you have a
    Microwave that doubles as a convection oven? Is it safe to use the convection option?

  5. If you’re against microwave ovens, I would assume you’re also against 5G small cell towers. What are you doing about that?

  6. Thank you Marilee! Informative and helpful. We have been happily without a microwave for several years. We rely on our toaster oven, stovetop, and my personal favorite – a convection steam oven. Our food tastes so much better without the microwave. We absolutely do not miss it.

  7. I gave up Microwaves over 25 some odd years ago. A d do not miss it at sll I read a d studied much literature on Microwaves and did not trust my health to having ine in my home This us an excellent article with a pure sense of giving this information thrust fully
    With now having family members doing tyhe same thing of not having s microwave in the kitchen
    Thank you

  8. Wow, this article is just a fountain of misinformation. While there’s a grain of truth here, much of what’s said is false or debunked, repeated “wisdom” passed around the blogosphere like a beachball in a crowded amphitheater. Even the part about microwaving breastmilk skipped over the fact that the very container you use, a glass or plastic bottle, is vitally important.

    I don’t want to get into a parroting of who’s right or wrong but the post by Sarah Ballantyne(thepaleomom) on “Are Microwaves Safe to Use?” disqualifies this presentation. I’d trust what she says over anything referenced from the FDA/Monsanto pundits.

    For the record, I still appreciate the products by Branch Basics and highly recommend them.

    1. Hello Sandy.

      We recommend using a pan on the stovetop to re-heat coffee or tea. A kettle is great for heating water for tea.

  9. What about reheating food in the office if you don’t have a toaster oven at work? You couldn’t bring anything that doesn’t require reheating! What would you suggest doing? Bringing as alternatives?

    1. Hi Hannah.

      Thank you for your question. You could consider a mini crock pot or a small hot plate to reheat food. Or, you can heat the food at home and bring it in a thermos container so that stays hot and ready to eat.

  10. Why didn’t you answer:
    ‘What about if you have a Microwave that doubles as a convection oven? Is it safe to use the convection option?
    AND
    Why didn’t you answer:
    ‘I would assume you’re also against 5G small cell towers. What are you doing about that?’
    ??????

    1. Hello SN. Thank you for reaching out to us! Yes, I answered the convection oven question, and it’s just fine to use. As for the 5G question, here are our thoughts. We suggest avoiding electromagnetic exposure when possible, which is why we put our phones in airplane mode at night. The implications of 5G exposure on human health are unknown at this point, especially in the long term, so we suggest caution.

  11. My microwave is really useful – for keeping food that needs to stay out of the fridge for a while away from the cat!

  12. Hi!
    What are your thoughts on air fryers? I was thinking of replacing my microwave with one, but don’t want to go from one unsafe appliance to another!
    Thanks

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