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 Statisticshas 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—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 , 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 . 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 . And other studies have found microwaving does indeed alter the protein structures in foods . Bottom line – Microwaved meals alter food and change blood chemistry .
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 .
- As a microwave oven seal ages, leaking tends to exceed FDA leakage limits .
- Microwaves can affect eye health, resulting in cataractogenic effects and weakening of the retina, if we look at them directly while they’re operating . 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.