I remember the first time I read about microwave ovens being toxic. I was 13 years old, connected to my parents’ dial-up internet, and got an email chain-letter explaining how they (as well as soda cans) caused cancer. I’m pretty sure I hit the delete button without much thought. Funny how now, 15 years later, I’m the one penning the message.
Papa Bear and I got rid of our microwave about 18 months ago. I’d like to say it was a sacrifice we made for health, but the honest truth is there wasn’t enough space for it on the counter (and not to mention a few of the buttons didn’t work), so it got tossed.
To my surprise we didn’t miss it one bit! This unintentional health move turned out to be a great one for our family, especially since we now realize it has helped us to avoid some unwanted toxins! Counter space or no counter space, I really can’t imagine us ever owning a microwave oven again.
Microwaves Zap More Than Just Food
- THEY KILL VITAMINS & NUTRITION. The truth is that some nutrients will be lost in all forms of cooking, and microwaving may actually retain more of them than boiling would. Still, microwaves aren’t exactly what I’d call innocent bystanders; according to a published study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food, vitamin B-12 (needed for red blood cell formation, prevents anemia, essential for a healthy nervous system) is reduced 30-40% in foods like beef, pork, and milk when microwaved. Flavonoids (anti-cancerous & anti-microbial) are reduced by 97% in a microwave oven, and of course vitamin C can’t survive the heat either.
- THEY DESTROY BREAST MILK. Yeah, yeah, we know microwaving breast milk can be dangerous for babies due to potential hot spots & accidental burns. But according to this study, there are far more reasons not to nuke human milk; e-coli growth was 18 times higher in milk microwaved at high temperatures than in non-heated milk, and 5 times higher when zapped at medium heat. Microwaved milk, regardless of what setting it was heated on (low, medium, or high), showed notable decrease in enzymes and antiinfective factors. So, that’s a no-go.
- THEY ENHANCE CHEMICAL LEACHING & CARCINOGENIC ACTIVITY IN FOOD. I definitely talk about chemicals in food storage a lot & different ways to avoid it. Microwaving absolutely enhances chemical leaching when sub-par packaging is used. Maybe you’ve already made the switch to mason jars and glass for your food storage, but there are still “microwave-safe” prepackaged frozen foods to consider. Most of these “microwavable” foods come wrapped with materials that contain bpA, PET, benzene, toluene & xylene. Thanks, but no thanks.
- POTENTIAL RADIATION PROBLEMS. Truthfully, I’m on the fence about this one. On one hand, studies have found the radiation microwaves emit to affect heart rate & variability. A Swiss study also observed a troubling decrease in white blood cells, hemoglobin, & cholesterol values, and an increase in luminescent bacteria in humans after consuming microwaved foods. Then again, microwaves have come a long way and go through vigorous testing to ensure safety. I have seen many claims arguing things like, “the frequency is so low they don’t have enough energy to damage the DNA in our cells,” or that microwave radiation is no different from that emitted from computers, mobile phones, and televisions. This may actually be true, but unfortunately seems more concerning to me than reassuring. One avenue on its own may or may not be dangerous or health threatening, but constant exposure and accumulation of all of these can not be a good thing! For our family, reducing some of this exposure has been easily done by ditching the microwave and our tv.
The Good News: There are Plenty of Safe Alternatives
There really isn’t much that can’t be prepared on the stove top. Here, also, are also a few other alternatives for some commonly microwaved items:
- DEFROSTING – Most things are best to defrost in the fridge for the least possibility of bacterial growth or compromised nutrition. Need to speed things up? Put the frozen food in a bowl of lukewarm water & change out every 10 min. Some frozen meats (like chicken) can be cooked in a crockpot without even defrosting, and frozen veggies can be cooked covered on stove top with a 1/4 cup water in about 5 minutes.
- REHEATING FOOD – Depending on food type, your best options will likely be the stove top, oven, or using a turbo oven. Major tip: Store leftover food in glass mason jars or Pyrex and they can go directly into the oven (and jars can become a make-shift double boiler on the stove top) for reheating.
- POPPING POPCORN – Don’t do the bag thing; you’ll likely face PFOA-lined bags (the same toxic chemical found in Teflon pots & pans), and who knows what other big, bad monsters lurk in that flavoring?? Actually, I do, and it’s not good. Instead, cook 1/4 c organic/non-GMO kernels & 1 1/2 Tbsp coconut oil, covered on the stove top.
- BOILING WATER – This, obviously, can be done on the stove top too, but if you are looking to speed things up then an electric kettle might be for you. We use this stainless steel one constantly & LOVE it. It was a little on the pricey side, but it is bullet proof and will last.
- HEATING BREAST MILK – Place a bottle of milk (use glass or stainless steel) in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes.