Someone’s been talking smack about my microwave, and I set out to find out why. If you’re like me, you probably belong to some social media mama clubs, and you’ve heard about so-and-so ditching their microwave.
Always a skeptic, I just didn’t believe all the trash-talking about my easy-to-use appliance. Is it really “bad” for us?
After a discussion with a scientist-friend, and some scholarly research, here’s what I found:
- Microwaves work by using radioactive waves to cause molecules in the water of the food to vibrate very quickly, which creates friction and produces heat. While we know that radiation is bad for human health, modern microwaves are extremely safe, and do not leak unless the door is broken. Once the food is heated, the food is not radioactive.
- “Nuking” food in plastic containers can be dangerous. If the food is fatty, it releases dioxins (carcinogens) from the container. Other containers may contain and release nasty toxins such as polyethylene terpthalate (PET), benzene, toluene, and xylene. Heating food in a glass container is safer.
- Cooking meats in the microwave has been shown to cause “protein unfolding,” which has to do with a very basic structural component of the protein. This is due to the process of microwaving itself, and not the thermal change. We don’t yet know if “unfolding” is “bad” for humans.
- Although microwaving creates new compounds that are not found in humans or nature, all cooking methods create new compounds, which are not necessarily health-promoting.
- Microwaving foods decreases the nutrient value of food, as do other methods of cooking.
My conclusion: Using a properly functioning, modern microwave may not be harmful to human health, but it may not be beneficial to health, either. Eating raw foods or very mildly and briefly cooking or steaming food in chemical-free containers or pots and pans is really the only way to avoid the things I mentioned above. It’s not necessarily the microwave that is “bad.” More research really needs to be done to determine if the chemical changes in food, when cooked by any method, are detrimental to human health.
So what are your thoughts on this hot topic? Have you given up your microwave? Are you considering it? Why or why not?