Microwave ovens have maintained popularity for at least four decades because of the convenience factor. After all, who doesn’t have a hectic schedule? And how would people manage without them? Microwaves cook food easily and quickly, so that you can take food from the freezer, microwave it and have it ready for dinner in a very short time frame. But the question remains – do microwaves pose a health hazard for us? Is it the healthiest cooking option? Here are the results of my research on the subject – points to consider when deciding if microwave ovens are a heath hazard…
How microwaves cook food
First – let’s briefly look at how a microwave cooks the food. Microwaves are a form of radiation (non-ionizing). The food is literally zapped (or ‘nuked’ as they say) with high frequency radiation waves, which could be harmful. The way that microwaves cook food so quickly at such extremely high temperatures is by causing the water molecules in the food to vibrate at an astronomical rate per second (possibly as much as 2.5 billion times per second), which changes the chemical structure of the food. Since the water content is not uniform throughout the food, the heating often becomes uneven. Some parts of the food become overcooked, and other parts of the food are undercooked which increases the risk of food poisoning.
Why would microwave cooking be hazardous to your health?
Here are 6 points:
1. Loss of nutrition in the food.
The whole microwave process causes the food to lose a significant amount of nutrition, particularly with vegetables. Everyone needs to be consuming food that is nutritionally dense in order to have optimal health and energy. You don’t need to be consuming food that is nutritionally depleted.
One could argue that other forms of cooking also cause the food (vegetables) to lose nutrition – and that would be true. When vegetables are boiled – many nutrients end up in the water. On the plus side, the cooking water can be saved to make a nutritious soup. Frying is generally not a healthy cooking option for veggies, unless it is stir-frying that is done quickly at a moderately high heat and the vegetables are still partially raw (still crisp). Steaming is a better option, particularly when vegetables are lightly steamed and still crisp or partially raw (the water can be saved to use in healthy soups). Baking at a lower temperature is also a good option for retaining nutrients. Of course, the best way to get the most nutrition from vegetables is to consume them raw, if possible. Understandably, that isn’t possible for every type of vegetable.
2. Change in the food’s structure.
Even though very few scientific studies have been conducted to absolutely prove that microwaving is hazardous to health, one study was done in 1991 by Swiss food scientist Dr. Hans Ulrich Hertel. Dr. Hertel explored the effects of microwaves on the food – specifically how it changed the food’s molecular structure, and the effect it had on the human body. He noted that microwaved food had a negative impact on HDL (good) cholesterol and the body’s red and white blood cell count.
3. Negative effects of microwave’s extreme high heat cooking.
The high heat of microwave cooking also causes exposure to carcinogenic compounds that are not found in raw foods (heterocyclic amines or HCAs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, and advanced glycation end products or AGEs also known as glycotoxins).
4. Food toxicity.
One of the biggest negative aspects about microwave cooking is that it increases the toxic load of the food in three ways:
• First, the food itself is damaged by microwaving it.
• Secondly, most microwavable convenience foods are highly refined foods that are loaded with chemicals, poor quality fats and excessive amounts of salt, and very little or no nutrition.
• Thirdly, prepared microwave foods are very often packaged in plastic, which contains even more harmful chemicals. Or if you cook your own foods in plastic ‘microwave safe’ dishes or in plastic wrap…
The packaging or plastic dishes you use can contain harmful chemicals (many are known to be carcinogenic), such as dioxins, polyethylene terpthalate (PET), toluene, benzene, xylene and BPA. BPA is an estrogen-like plastic that has been linked to many serious health issues, including hormone problems, mental health issues, allergies, high blood pressure and more.
When the food is microwaved in plastic packaging, plastic dishes or plastic wrap the high temperature can cause the chemicals from the packaging/wrap to be absorbed into the food. This is definitely a health concern for all microwave users.
5. Biological harm.
In an article written by Dr. Joseph Mercola, he explains how microwave exposure causes biological harm. Dr. Mercola cites research done by Professor Emeritus Martin Pall, Ph. D. His research found that the effect of microwave radiation exposure includes damage to your cell’s DNA and mitochondria. This is very harmful, particularly to your nervous system, your brain, and your immune system. Another study mentioned in Dr. Mercola’s article was done in 2010. This study documented how microwave radiation affects the heart.
6. Electromagnetic field (EMF or EM) health issues.
Microwave ovens have a frequency that is almost the same as cell phones, cell phone networks and other high frequency radiation emitting (EM) devices. Being exposed to microwaves and other high levels of EM energy daily is now being considered a possible health risk. EM radiation could cause such issues as insomnia, headaches, dizziness, depression, vision and eye issues, immune system problems, loss of appetite and more.
Microwave ovens have become such a convenient form of cooking in our fast paced lives and many people can’t even imagine living without one. Almost all restaurants rely on microwaves to a certain extent to cook the foods they serve every day. We are indeed a culture that loves fast meals, the latest technological devices and the quick solution or instant gratification.
Whether or not microwave ovens are safe or a health hazard for you is up to you to decide. As for my husband and I, we gave up our microwave oven a number of years ago. And I have to say that we don’t even miss it! We place a very high value having the best health we possibly can, and we strive to live a healthy lifestyle on a daily basis. What we have found by giving up the microwave is that we simply had to become a little better at planning our meals and taking a little more time to cook by other methods – no big deal, really.
There are some online Resources listed below about the pros and cons of microwave ovens, and cooking with microwaves. The controversy surrounding microwave ovens and microwave cooking rages on! Some sources are for the microwave oven; some are against it. This is probably one of the health and nutrition issues that will be controversial for many years to come.
Global Healing Centre – Why You Should Never Microwave Your Food
Global Research – The Dangers of Microwave Radiation Cannot be Ignored
Dr. J. Mercola – How your Microwave Oven Damages Your Health in Multiple Ways
Harvard Health Publications – Microwaving Food in Plastic: Dangerous or not?
YourMedicalSource.com – Is Microwaved Food Dangerous? The myths & the facts.
US Food & Drug Administration – Radiation Emitting Products
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