Microwave ovens are a great time saver in the kitchen. In just a few minutes, we can heat up our dinner, even make a bowl of porridge for breakfast or make popcorn for a snack.
However, the controversy over the safety of microwaves has been growing for years. Some people believe that microwaved food is not quite the same as food cooked with a conventional heating source.
Readers write in with their concerns about microwaves
And that’s a concern for an HSI member named Deloris who starts off an email titled ‘Microwave Ovens’ with a reference to an article she read by US natural medical physician, Dr. Joseph Mercola. Deloris writes: ‘I’ve been using one [a microwave] for over 25 years, as I imagine many folks have. If he’s [Dr. Mercola] right then its only my vitamins and supplements that have kept me alive as I’ve lost a lot of nutrition in reheated food, not to mention possibility of getting cancer. Any comments on this subject?’
There are so many it is a question of where to start. Given how common microwave usage is, Dr.Mercola’s article is just one of several he and others have written about microwaves, and the information usually discussed can be generally summed up with this comment from US HSI Panellist Dr Allan Spreen:
‘What studies exist are all bad news for microwaving they universally describe some type of damage. One study showed breakdown of vitamin B-12 to inactive degradation products in microwaved foods. There’s also a problem with release of potentially toxic molecules into the food from packaging designed to help brown food during microwaving. This includes items such as pizza, French fries, waffles, popcorn and breaded fish.’
These unsettling details about microwaves generally go from bad to worse.
Argument #1: Microwaves cause a significant loss of nutrients in food.
Microwaves are thought to destroy and deform food molecules. In fact, one study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli ‘zapped’ in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97 percent of the beneficial antioxidant chemicals it contains. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants.
Other research has found that microwaves destroy the nutritional value of protein in meat.
Besides the loss of nutrients, microwaving forms new compounds (radiolytic compounds) that are unknown to humans and nature. Its not yet known exactly what these compounds do in the human body.
Instead of cooking your vegetables in the microwave, why not steam them instead. It would appear that steaming is the best way to avoid losing valuable nutrients.
Argument #2: Microwaves leak.
In the book, Health Effects of Microwave Radiation Microwave Ovens by Dr. Lita Lee, she states that every microwave oven leaks electromagnetic radiation, harms food, and converts substances cooked in it to dangerous toxic and carcinogenic products.
There has been contradictory research linked to EMFs (electromagnetic fields) produced by appliances like microwave ovens.
Dr. David Carpenter, Dean at the US School of Public Health, State University of New York believes it is likely that up to 30% of all childhood cancers come from exposure to EMFs. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warns ‘There is reason for concern’ and advises prudent avoidance.
EMFs can be measured with an instrument called a Gauss meter. In fact, here is what one reader has to say when he used a Gauss meter to test microwaves: Measuring with a Gauss meter, every microwave I tested leaked, and was detectable up to six feet away.
So just to be on the safe side, it is best to stand back from your microwave when its running.
Alternatives to microwave ovens
Unfortunately, there has not been an abundance of research done on the subject of microwaves. But if you are concerned about using your microwave:
*Get rid of it. That way you wont be tempted to use it.
*Try eating a lot of your food, like vegetables, raw. Ideally, at least one-third of the food in your diet should be raw, since this is the form that will give you the maximum amount of nutrients.
*If you do want to cook some food or heat up leftovers, use your oven or stove.