Research Show Why Heating Your Food With Microwave Radiation Is Dangerous
Written by: Kat Gal
We got our first microwave at home when I was about 10-12 years old.
I remember how my scientist mother would warn us before each use that the invisible waves were dangerous and would make us step away every time we heated something up. Her strategy worked; I became so fearful of the machine that for the past 20 years I have never stood in front of a microwave that has been turned on.
It is still a mystery that, even when knowing about the dangers of microwave radiation, it didn’t occur to her or anyone else that having a microwave was a bad idea…
Having a microwave – a cool microfridge combo! – was a lifesaver in college; heating up all kinds of things from frozen corn with melted cheese to hot fudge for my ice cream was the life. The junk food ‘magic’ that was happening in our dorm is almost shameful to admit… my excuse is: I didn’t know any better.
When I moved into my first apartment and realized the lack of a microwave, I nearly died from shock. I couldn’t image life without one. How would I heat up my leftovers? On the stove top? That had to be a joke!
It wasn’t though and I quickly realized that life without a microwave is actually easy. I haven’t owned or used one for nearly 10 years.
I have now realized that my choice was a particularly healthy one.
The microwave was invented in the mid-40s, but didn’t gain popularity until the 80s. By 1986, 25% of American households had a microwave and by 1997 this number rose to 90% with most people using them on a daily basis.
How is microwaving different from steaming or heating your food on the stovetop or in the oven?
Microwaves are convenient, there is no doubt about that – BUT they actually change the chemical structure of your food through the heating process by deforming and distorting the molecules in your food. In other words, they are stripping your food significantly – if not entirely – of nutritional value. Other conventional heating methods do not do this.
Did you know that microwaves have also been used at hospitals to heat up blood before blood transfusions? Turns out, this is not a good idea either, as microwave radiation damages the blood component. One patient actually died after a blood transfusion using microwaved blood.
Obviously, you are not preparing for any blood transfusions at home. You are simply heating up your dinner. I get that. But you may be playing with your health.
A 2003 study published in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli lost up to 97% of its beneficial antioxidants after being microwaved, whereas steamed broccoli lost only 11%.
Another study in Australia found that microwaves cause a significantly higher protein unfolding than conventional heating methods when heating at the same temperature.
Only 60 seconds of microwaving can destroy all of the alliinase content of garlic. Since this is the principal active ingredient in this powerful plant, microwaving basically takes away all of its healing effects.
Microwaving even destroys all immune-boosting agents that are found in breast milk that are necessary for children to fight disease. With other heating methods, the damage was much smaller.
It is becoming clear that microwaving at high-temperatures destroys essential nutrients in foods.
Is this the same when using lower temperatures?
Turns out, it is.
Only 6 seconds of microwaving made 40% of B12 found in milk useless without any nutritional value. A Scandinavian study noted high vitamin loss in microwaved asparagus. Other studies found 40% of declines in several minerals and protein in lightly microwaved food.
Does the container make a difference?
Don’t even get me started on plastic. Many plastic products contain hormone-disrupting chemicals that can transfer to your food more easily when heated. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes that not all containers are safe, hence enforcing the labelling of plastic containers for microwave use.
But even microwave-safe or BPA-free plastic can be dangerous. Microwave-safe doesn’t mean that chemicals are not leaching into your food at all, just that the chemicals are simply below the level that’s considered harmful. It is important not to use #7 polycarbonate plastic in your microwave, regardless of labels, because the hormone-disrupting bisphenol A (BPA) drains from the plastic when heated.
What can you do?
The best course of action is obviously to get rid of your microwave all-together. However, a completely microwave-free life can be difficult at first: it may be your only option to heat your lunch at work, for example. Do your best. Limit your microwave use as much as possible.
When at home, heat your food on the stovetop, in your oven, or in a dehydrator.
If you are using plastic containers, make sure they are microwave-safe and BPA-free. However, the best is to use glass containers, mason jars, ceramics and other non-plastic dishware.
Do you have a microwave at home? How often do you use it? What strategies do you suggest to reduce microwave use? Share your experiences and tips below, we always love hearing from you.
Kat Gál is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. She is a Certified Holistic Health and Life Coach who encourages others to embrace their unique authentic selves, follow their heart and find their own version of freedom in life.
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