Do you use a microwave in your kitchen? People have used these devices since the 1970s, and they have become a hallmark of convenience in modern life. But the truth is, as with many modern advents to make our lives easier, we are paying a high price with our health for using these types of devices.
Research has shown microwave ovens to incur serious damage to food during the heating process – from tearing molecules in food apart, causing some nutrients to become inert, to altering the composition to make a healthy substance carcinogenic. There are also issues with plastic containers leeching into the food and exposure to radiation coming from the microwave during the cooking process.
According to Powerwatch, a non-profit independent organization with a central role in the microwave radiation debate:
“Even when the microwave oven is working correctly, the microwave levels within the kitchen are likely to be significantly higher than those from any nearby cellular phone base-stations. Remember also that microwaves will travel through walls if the microwave oven is against an inside wall.”
The actual safety of current regulations about radiation leakage from microwave use is unknown because microwave emissions can change over time, even during “normal” use.
From a recent study conducted at Trent University by Dr. Magda Havas, the effects 2.4 GHz radiation (which is the frequency of radiation emitted by Wifi routers and microwave ovens) on the heart was examined. The results showed “unequivocal evidence” that microwave frequency radiation affects the heart at non-thermal levels that are well below federal safety guidelines.
From Dr. Havas:
“This is the first study that documents immediate and dramatic changes in both heart rate and heart rate variability caused by an approved device that generates microwaves at levels well below (0.3 percent) federal guidelines in both Canada and the United States.”
In this guest post from Isabella York, she discusses 5 immediate dangers to cooking your food in a microwave oven and discusses the tried-and-true traditional ways to prepare and cook food which people have used for thousands of years, and the health benefits of each method. Thank you, Isabella, for this great information on how microwaving affects the nutrient content of our food!
Admittedly, convenience is something we value. In a high speed world of instant communication and 2-minute meals, we sometimes forget that convenience has its price. When it comes to convenient food, that price is our health. What affects our health is not always the food we eat, but more often how it’s prepared. We boil, bake, fry, and microwave our food, and nutrients are always altered in some way -some for better and some for worse. Microwaving is a top choice of those who are hungry and feel they don’t have the time to use traditional cooking methods.
While boiling and frying can somehow deplete the nutrients originally found in food, I’ve found out through research that microwaving does the worst damage to cuisine. The whole concept of microwaving degrades food from the inside and this ruins any attempt at nutrition, no matter if your vegetables were organic or from a can.
Below are five ways that microwaving causes harm. Read on to revisit traditional cooking and preparation methods and understanding how they affect our food.
- Milk is greatly affected, breast milk in particular. After a few minutes in the microwave, the immunity characteristics provided by breast milk are completely destroyed. Some studies found that heating up milk and cereal in the microwave creates carcinogens in the protein hydroselate compounds in milk. Some of the amino acids in milk are also converted into cancer-causing agents.
- Certain microwaveable foods have packaging that is designed to ‘crisp’ the top of the food to simulate an oven-cooked dish. In the high temperatures of a microwave, PVC leeches from the packaging and into the food, especially food with a high surface-fat content. Plastic wrap is often used to cover food heated in the microwave, but it transfers 10,000 units of carcinogens into food that we ingest. To prevent doing this, cook food only when ready to eat and use the stove when heating leftovers.
- Microwave technology causes food molecules to break down; this is the same technology used to alter genetic makeup. Meaning, the food we microwave is irrevocably changed. Electrons are disabled by the cooking process causing them to produce not carbon dioxide and water, but hydrogen peroxide and carbon monoxide – chemicals used to clean wounds and found in car exhaust, respectively.
- Defrosting food in the microwave produces a chemical known to have toxic effects on the human body. Even a brief exposure to microwaves of vegetables caused this change, found to have nitrogen after a few seconds of heating in the oven. Defrost the natural way, by removing frozen food early from the freezer, or steaming it in boiling water.
- Root vegetables after heated in the microwave are chemically altered and found to release free radicals, substances that are known to cause cancer in humans. Root vegetables like yams and sweet potatoes are generally known to be healthier than most, but are depleted of nutrients after a stint in the microwave.
Hail, hail, tradition!
Here are six traditional methods of preparing and cooking food. Some people relate to one or two methods more than others; the idea here is to provide information and inspire.
- Baking and Roasting
- Slow Cookers
The Weston A. Price foundation advocates raw food, even parts of raw eggs, as they promote production of glutathione, a substance that detoxifies the cells and is called a “master antioxidant”. People who ingest raw (uncooked, unpasteurized) milk, fruits, and vegetables get a boost of glutathione in their cells. This ingestion of raw food is better done with protein and amino acids, as these help in the absorption of the glutathione into the system. Heating these items, especially milk, can deplete the nutrients (in the case of milk, whey protein) to 87% less than in its raw state.
Boiling has long been advocated as the low-fat alternative to frying food. But this process makes food lose flavor and nutrients when cooked at too high a temperature, or for too long. An alternative to boiling is called blanching. It keeps the nutrients and taste of vegetables while making them more palatable. To blanch bring water to a boiling point and drop the vegetables in for several seconds, then remove them. You can also soften the boiling process by: 1. Use less water than it takes to cover the food; 2. Heat the water first before dropping the food in; 3. Introduce spices and herbs into the boiling water to make it a broth; 4. Boil food in less time than usual, enough to kill bacteria.
This is the method of cookery using heat by convection to cook the food from the outside in. This is an alternative to frying, and can retain food flavor and nutrients better than boiling and frying. Vegetables and meat products benefit from baking, as they retain nutrients while eliminating bad bacteria in the food. Roasting enhances the flavor of vegetables, making them a bit crisp, and retains their nutrients much in the same way that baking does. Roasted root vegetables are known to have cancer-fighting nutrients, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research.
Many folks view frying as a kiss of death for the arteries, but there are health benefits if you fry with healthy oils and fats such as butter, tallow, lard, coconut, and palm oil. Butter and coconut oils are useful for heat up to 350 degrees F., and tallow, lard, and palm oil are better for higher heat cooking (up to 450 degrees F.). The sweetness of coconut oil gives an authentic taste to healthy Asian dishes, and adds great flavor to oatmeal.
In my opinion, a slow cooker is truly the most convenient method of cooking. Slow cookers cook the food at a low temperature all day. I chop the vegetables and the meat, put in the broth, and then begin my day. The kids come home from sports practice at 5 p.m., screaming in hunger. By then, dinner is ready and I feel that I didn’t do a thing. The ceramic or porcelain pot doesn’t leach toxins into food, but the downside is that some vegetable nutrients are lost because of hours of cooking. If you’re looking for convenience without putting toxins into your food or destroying valuable nutrients (such as with microwaves), then a slow cooker is a great choice.
An article at The Nourishing Gourmet advocates lacto-fermentation to process food. Article author Kimi Harris puts it succinctly: “Lacto-fermentation happens when the starches and sugars in vegetables and fruit convert to lactic acid by a friendly lactic-acid producing bacteria.” This process increases vitamin content, and many people find its tangy flavor appealing, such as sauerkraut.
What about leftovers? Reheating food.
Leftovers are generally reheated. According to the nutrition data table at by Self Magazine, while the mineral content of vegetables remains unchanged, the vitamin content loss during reheating varies. It ranges from 5% (riboflavin and niacin) to 50% (vitamin C). Even more loss occurs in the microwave. But reheating on the stove is easy – simply add a bit of water or oil to your food to produce steam and retain moisture within the food. This process will take a few minutes longer than it would in a microwave, but what’s a few minutes when the benefits are so evident?
Microwaving is convenient, but that seems to be the only good thing about it.
Creating a nutritious meal using traditional methods is simple: Doing a chicken roast is quick and requires minimal supervision. While the chicken, vegetables, and potatoes are cooking in the oven, you can wash the dishes, do your tax returns, or spend some time with family. Traditional methods are convenient in unique ways.
Isabella York is a mother dedicated to living organically and sustainably without giving up her life in the process. Along with raising her son, she works for Balsam Hill, a purveyor of Artificial Christmas Trees and Christmas Trees.
For more information on the dangers of microwave ovens, read:
Why Did The Russians Ban An Appliance Found in 90% of American Homes? from Dr. Mercola.