Our food supply has gone through many changes. Some have made foods less nutrient dense, others have made life easier with more variety. How are these both related? Microwaving Foods.
From what we have learned, it’s the nutrient count that satiates the body, not the total calories consumed. We need to protect our food’s nutrients more than ever before. It is vital that we take into consideration not only what types of foods we buy, but also how we cook them.
Microwaving foods makes life convenient and quick. On the one hand it helps us to eat more vegetables because it allows us to prepare a variety of foods with little effort and less mess. On the other hand, there’s controversy about the loss of nutrients when cooked in this method.
We will explain what we’ve learned and give you the scientific data collected around the world. Then let you decide what’s better… Convenience? Health? A little of both?
Microwaves heat by causing the water molecules inside of the foods to vibrate or resonate at very high frequencies which eventually turns into steam that heats and cooks the foods. Areas in the food with higher water content cook quicker than those with lower.
When we heat food the conventional way in the oven or on the stove, the food is heated by convection where heat transfers from the outside to the inside of the food items.
Why is this important? The molecular structure of the food is less damaged by convectional heating than by microwave combustion.
What are some of the dangers?
- Microwave ovens weaken the cell structure of everything put in them. No one is disputing the documented evidence that carcinogenic toxins leach out of the plastic and paper containers/covers that you use to cover your microwaved foods. The January/February 1990 issue ofNutrition Action Newsletter reported the leakage of numerous toxic chemicals from the packaging of common microwavable foods, including pizzas, chips and popcorn. Chemicals included polyethylene terpthalate (PET), benzene, toluene, and xylene. Microwaving fatty foods in plastic containers leads to the release of dioxins (known carcinogens) and other toxins into your food. One of the worst contaminants is BPA, or bisphenol A, an estrogen-like compound used widely in plastic products.
- Molecules in both people and things can be effected by microwave radiation. The water molecules in the body of someone standing close by will be agitated to some degree by the microwave radiation. Eyes are particularly vulnerable, as they contain large amounts of fluid and a lower blood supply to take away any heat. High exposure is known to cause cataracts. Avoid letting your children stand nearby or yourself if you are pregnant because the ovens emit up to 400milliGauss of radiation and a mere 4 milliGauss exposure has been linked to leukemia.
- There are very small amounts of radiation leakage through the viewing glass and seals, but the FDA reports these levels are “insignificant” and “well below the level known to harm people.” There was more of a risk with earlier models than with recent ones, which undergo more rigorous testing. This is more of a problem in older ovens than in new.
- Microwaving causes the sensitive compounds in food, such as amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and phytonutrients to change and/or get destroyed.
- Microwaving creates new compounds that are not found in humans or in nature, called radiolytic compounds. We don’t yet know what these compounds are doing to your body. In addition to the violent frictional heat effects, called thermic effects, there are also athermic effects, which are poorly understood because they are not as easily measured. It is these athermic effects that are suspected to be responsible for much of the deformation and degradation of cells and molecules.
What scientific studies around the world show?
- Scientists at China Agricultural University’s College of Food Science & Nutritional Engineering in Beijing looked at different forms of cooking and their production of acrylamide, a cancer-causing chemical. They found that microwaving produced more acrylamide than boiling or frying (at 180°C), and that 750 Watt ovens produced more acrylamide than 500 Watt ovens (Yuan 2007).
- A 1999 Scandinavian study of the cooking of asparagus spears found that microwaving caused a reduction in vitamins.
- This was confirmed in a Japanese study when they found that approximately 30-40% of vitamin B12 was lost in foods cooked by microwaves (Watanabe 1998). B12 deficiency is one of several factors that can cause dementia.
- 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 study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture by Dr Garcia Viguera found that broccoli “zapped” in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97% of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11% or fewer of its antioxidants. There were also reductions in phenolic compounds and glucosinolates, but mineral levels remained intact.
- A recent Australian study showed that micro waves cause a higher degree of “protein unfolding” than conventional heating.
- Pediatrician John Kerner and colleagues at Stanford University found that milk lost lysozome activity, antibodies, and fostered the growth of more potentially pathogenic bacteria (Quan 1992). Scientists also discovered that microwaving can destroys the essential disease-fighting agents in breast milk. Note here, heating breast milk on the stove also causes it to lose nutrients.
Is there a safer way to microwave?
An occasional microwaved meal will not very be harmful. The harm comes from the frequent use of it to warm coffee, heat your eggs, cook your lunch meal, make a snack, heat water, sauces and vegetables for dinner and finally pop your popcorn. You might be surprised how often you use it.
Not only are your food compounds such as amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins and phytonutrients changing, but there’s also the constant exposure to the microwave radiation that we just don’t know enough about the safety or harmfulness of.
If you use a microwave, some ways you can limit the harmful effects are:
- Shorten your microwave cooking time and use less water or liquids to minimize loss of nutrients
- Heat foods and liquids in ceramic or glass containers with a ceramic plate or with a piece of biodegradable wax paper
- Heat smaller amounts of food and remove and cover them right away. This allows the food to continue to cook without the use of microwave radiation
We all got rid of our microwaves over a year ago.
Do we miss it now? No. Did we miss it initially. Yes.
We will admit for many of us it took a bit of adjusting and pre-planning to get use to making meals and drinks without the convenience of the microwave quick heat. Yes, it is very convenient to have a microwave, but it is even more convenient to plan ahead and know what you are eating each day. There’s a sense of self value that transcends when you take moments to make each meal purposeful to healing, building and maintaining your healthy body.
- We installed a toaster over in the microwave location – love the look, and funny that not very many people even notice the change.
- We purchased a countertop Convection Turbo Oven or NuWave Oven, that we have all come to love for flavorful, healthy…and quick cooking.
- We plan our meals ahead and take things out of the freezer to thaw overnight or during our workdays. We also love using this time to marinate our foods so they are flavorful and ready to cook on the stove, oven or grill when we get home.
- We make extra portions so that we don’t have to cook every night. We use these as a second pre-cooked meal, or as leftovers to make our favorite quick meals – check out our growing recipe section.
- We make things like sauces, stews, soups, breads, etc. in bulk and freeze them in glass containers. It only takes an hour to thaw and cook these for delicious home-cooked meals.
- We use an electric kettle to heat our water, drinks and coffee – so quick we don’t know why we never thought of using this before!
- We eat more raw foods and foods in their natural states.