Thriving Thursday: What’s in Your Microwave?

I’m not sure when or how the thought entered my head. I don’t know if my super health conscience Momma put it there or if it was the stirrings of the health community in general, but it’s time to make a change. A big one. I’m going to throw away our microwave. *GASP!*

Microwave

I did a lot of research for this post. I checked out articles from Harvard Med, GreenMed, New York Times, and Dr. Mercola, among others. People are divided. These very smart, highly informed sets of people can’t agree: are microwaves bad for you or not?

This is how it is now, though. Our current system doesn’t work. People are sick and more people are dying prematurely than ever before. I don’t believe we can implicitly trust the medical model for anything other than emergency care, but then who can we trust? How the heck do you figure out who’s right?

I know this sounds a little wonky but I tend to trust my instinct. If you put your face too close to a microwave, you will absorb small amounts of radiation, this is known. But your food is in there! Your food is being heated up in that box full of radiation. Then you’re gonna eat it! Doesn’t that seem a little backwards? However, I know most people don’t make their judgements based on my own personal judgement so here are the facts as well as I can decipher them (with a few opinions thrown in):

How it Works:

Microwave ovens heat food with oscillating electromagnetic waves. The waves energize the water molecules in your food. The polarized water molecules bounce off each other causing friction. That friction heats up the food. Microwaved water heats much more quickly than conventional methods resulting in shorter cooking times.

This form of cooking heats the food from the inside out. But wait a minute. I mean from the inside of the molecules on the outside of the food. It break and reforms the water molecules on the outside of the food in the heating process. Sometimes the distribution of water molecules is uneven which is why you sometimes get microwaved “hot spots.” Conventional cooking heats differently, from the outside of the molecules in.

Part of the opposition’s argument is that less heating time means higher nutrition retention. In general, I agree, but it’s not the length of the heating with microwave ovens, it’s the type of heating that’s the problem. If these electromagnetic waves can reach the interior of the food molecules, what else are they changing other than just the energy of the water?

Radiation:

When I was little I LOVED to stare into the microwave and watch the food spin around in circles, ever so slowly. Every time an adult caught me they slapped my hand and told me to back away, this crazy stuff called radiation leaked from that thing and you didn’t want it getting into your brain!

Since they were invented, the FDA and other regulatory organizations have closely monitored the manufacturing of microwave ovens. There have been major improvements in the level of radiation emitted from the ovens. This is good. However, radiation doesn’t die, it accumulates. So depending on how frequently you use your oven and how old it is, your kitchen is very likely full of microwave radiation. This is bad. Also, the adults were right, the radiation increases exponentially as you move closer to the source and it’s more easily absorbed by your eyes. Don’t sit and watch that plate spin!

Also, a recent study by Dr. Magda Havas of Trent University tested the effects of certain frequencies of radiation on the heart. She concluded that 2.4 GHz of radiation (which is emitted by microwave ovens AND wi-fi routers) changes the heart rate and heart rate variability. Scary.

Nutrients:

As mentioned before, my common sense tells me that if microwaves can break apart and alter water molecules, what are they doing to the very delicate nutrients and minerals in our food? It is now well known that our food has lost a significant percentage of nutrients compared to food produced in the early 20th century. Crappy soil, terrible manufacturing methods, and tons of pesticides definitely play a part in this decline, but how big a role do microwaves play?

  • A study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli “zapped” in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97 percent of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants. There were also reductions in phenolic compounds and glucosinolates, but mineral levels remained intact.
  • A 1999 Scandinavian study of the cooking of asparagus spears found that microwaving caused a reduction in vitamin C.
  • In a study of garlic, as little as 60 seconds of microwave heating was enough to inactivate its allinase, garlic’s principle active ingredient against cancer.
  • A Japanese study by Watanabe showed that just 6 minutes of microwave heating killed 30-40 percent of the B12 in milk .
  • A recent Australian study showed that microwaves cause a higher degree of “protein unfolding” than conventional heating.
  • Microwaving can destroy the essential disease-fighting agents in breast milk that offer protection for your baby. In 1992, Quan found that microwaved breast milk lost lysozyme activity, antibodies, and fostered the growth of more potentially pathogenic bacteria.

While many of these studies were done using older microwaves, the evidence is clear. Microwave ovens ARE NOT a healthy way to heat your food. If you want to retain the precious nutrients still left in modern produce, eat it raw or heat it from the outside in.

* Word to the wise: If you continue to use your microwave, NEVER heat anything in a plastic container. It is undisputed that the toxic chemicals from the plastic heat and leach into your food not only killing nutrients but filling you up with lots of really terrible chemicals.

GAH! What do I do with all this information? I’m just going to cite Dr. Mercola on this one:

“Am I asking you to toss your microwave oven into the nearest dumpster? Not necessarily. It can be a useful tool for cleaning. But if real estate in your kitchen is at a premium, it should probably be the first thing to go.

You really CAN survive sans microwave—people are living quite happily without one, believe it or not. You just have to make a few small lifestyle adjustments, such as:

  • Plan ahead. Take your dinner out of the freezer that morning or the night before so you don’t end up having to scramble to defrost a 5-pound chunk of beef two hours before dinnertime.
  • Make soups and stews in bulk, and then freeze them in gallon-sized freezer bags or other containers. An hour before meal time, just take one out and defrost it in a sink of water until it’s thawed enough to slip into a pot, then reheat it on the stove.
  • A toaster oven makes a GREAT faux-microwave for heating up leftovers! Keep it at a low temperature — like 200-250 degrees F — and gently warm a plate of food over the course of 20-30 minutes. Another great alternative is a convection oven. They can be built in or purchased as a relatively inexpensive and quick safe way to heat foods
  • Prepare your meals in advance so that you always have a good meal available on those days when you’re too busy or too tired to cook.
  • Try eating more organic raw foods. This is the best way to and improve your health over the long run.”

I hope you’re all having fantastic days! Just let me know if you have any questions. Love and hugs – Ash

Sources (articles):
Why Did the Russians Ban An Appliance Found in 90% of American Homes? – Mercola.com
Studies Show Microwaves Drastically Reduce Nutrients in Food – GreenMedInfo.com
The Claim: Microwave Ovens Kill Nutrients In Food – New York Times
Do Microwave Ovens Destroy Nutrients? – Livestrong.com
Microwave Cooking and Nutrition – Harvard Medical School

Sources (studies):
Vallejo F, Tomas-Barberan F A, and Garcia-Viguera C. “Phenolic compound contents in edible parts of broccoli inflorescences after domestic cooking”
Kidmose U and Kaack K. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica B 1999:49(2):110-117
Song K and Milner J A. “The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic,” Journal of Nutrition 2001;131(3S):1054S-57S
Watanabe F, Takenaka S, Abe K, Tamura Y, and Nakano Y. J. Agric. Food Chem. Feb 26 1998;46(4):1433-1436
George D F, Bilek M M, and McKenzie D R. “Non-thermal effects in the microwave induced unfolding of proteins observed by chaperone binding,”
Quan R (et al) “Effects of microwave radiation on anti-infective factors in human milk,” Pediatrics 89(4 part I):667-669

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4 thoughts on “Thriving Thursday: What’s in Your Microwave?

  1. EyeCandyPopper

    Great article! I have NEVER owned a microwave in my life nor did we have one growing-up, and yes, we live perfectly fine! haha heating things up on the stove or in the regular oven takes almost the same amount of time and tastes much better!
    My mom lived in Switzerland in the early 60’s and at that time, she said that microwaves were actually illegal due to their health concerns. That always stuck with her and that’s why we never had one, even in North America, and I continued by never buying one. I have eaten some because I used it at work for a while but my throat seemed to be hurting everytime, so I eventually stopped. 🙂

    Reply
    1. ahappylass Post author

      That’s really interesting. I know that they are still banned in some Northern European countries and in Russia. There isn’t much science out there about it yet but people will start realizing it’s effect soon enough.

      Reply
      1. EyeCandyPopper

        I do remember of one simple study that was done, but I can’t remember from who, where he simply watered 2 identical plants for a few weeks, 1 with regular (spring) water and the other with the same water that was previously microwaved and cooled down. The plant with the microwaved didn’t last long.
        To me, that’s a simple proof that it destroys the nutrients.
        If you do more research on the subject, perhaps look into Dr. Vogel, from Switzerland (he’s dead now), I think he had done some studies on it.

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