A few years ago, I honestly could not imagine life without a microwave.
Today, I cringe any time I spy a microwave cook book. Oh, and I use the built-in microwave above my conventional oven as a spice rack.
Why the change?
The following are just a few of the facts that decided the fate of this once-popular appliance: I came to the conclusion that for me and mine, the health side effects of this favorite American time-saver far outweigh the conveniences.
Random microwave facts that surprised me:
*A study published in the November 2003 issue of 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 its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants.
*A 1999 Scandinavian study of the cooking of asparagus spears found that microwaving caused a reduction in vitamin C . *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 recent Australian study showed that microwaves cause a higher degree of “protein unfolding” than conventional heating.
*Microwaving can destroy the essential disease-fighting agents in breast milk that offer protection for your baby. In 1992, Quan found that microwaved breast milk lost lysozyme activity, antibodies, and fostered the growth of more potentially pathogenic bacteria .
How does a microwave oven work?
Microwaves cause dielectric heating. They bounce around the inside of your oven and are absorbed by the food you put in it. Since water molecules are bipolar, having a positive end and negative end, they rotate rapidly in the alternating electric field. The water molecules in the food vibrate violently at extremely high frequencies—like millions of times per second—creating molecular friction, which heats up the food.
When tissues of the human body are exposed to microwaves…
When your tissues are directly exposed to microwaves, the same violent deformations occur and can cause “microwave sickness.”
People who have been exposed to high levels of microwave radiation experience a variety of symptoms, including: insomnia, night sweats, various sleep disturbances, headaches and dizziness, swollen lymph nodes and a weakened immune system, impaired cognition, depression and irritability, nausea and appetite loss, vision and eye problems, frequent urination and extreme thirst.
So what are microwaves doing to my food?
*Russian investigators found that carcinogens were formed from the microwaving of nearly all foods tested. *The microwaving of milk and grains converted some of the amino acids into carcinogenic substances.
*Microwaving prepared meats caused the formation of the cancer-causing agents d-Nitrosodienthanolamines.
*Thawing frozen fruits by microwave converted their glucoside and galactoside fractions into carcinogenic substances.
*Extremely short exposure of raw, cooked or frozen vegetables converted their plant alkaloids into carcinogens.
*Carcinogenic free radicals were formed in microwaved plants—especially root vegetables.
Tips for surviving without a microwave. If you’re like I was a few years back, the very idea of tossing the microwave oven in the garage sale pile is almost unthinkable. After all, it’s so quick and easy to heat up- or even cook- food with it.
Here are a few suggestions if you’re weighing the option of going microwave-free:
*Cut back even if you can’t completely cut out. For about a year, I began cutting back on how often I used our microwave. I couldn’t bring myself to completely throw it out, so I just limited it’s use until it became less and less a relied upon appliance in my kitchen. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I could survive without it completely, but it didn’t start out that way.
*Reach for a skillet instead of pushing a button. I’ve found it’s very simple to heat left-overs in a skillet and it actually doesn’t take much more time than nuking them in the microwave. My kitchen cabinets are home to several cast iron skillets, which actually impart iron to your food– much healthier than depleting the nutrients from your food.
*Invest in a toaster oven or Jet Stream Oven. I have several friends who use a toaster oven in lieu of a microwave and are quite happy with the exchange. My mom replaced her microwave oven with a Jet Stream Oven about a year ago and loves it! Jet Stream ovens are a little more pricey than a simple toaster oven but yield the same time-saving conveniences (plus the health benefit of being a steam oven). I found this Nesco Jet Stream oven for just $114, which isn’t a whole lot more money than a fancy microwave.
*Plan your meals ahead. The biggest challenge of ousting the microwave is that it seems to save so much time in the kitchen, especially on hectic days when you need to zap a plate of left-overs for lunch before you head out the door. I discovered a simple solution: plan ahead. If I know I will need to heat up a larger portion of food (such as a casserole or homemade pizza for the whole family), I turn my oven on about thirty minutes before lunch time and pop the left-overs inside to warm. If you’re using a Jet Stream or toaster oven, you have the added benefit of not over-heating your kitchen in the process. I’ve managed quite well the past year-and-a-half with just my regular old stove and cast iron skillets. 🙂
Although I’m now a devout abstainer from microwave ovens, I’m not here to say that if you use one, you and your family will fall over dead in the near future. I do believe, however, that the high percentages of cancer and other diseases in our culture are due to the improper foods we eat, the unhealthy ways we prepare them, and the countless toxins that invade our bodies through various avenues (that’s another blog post in itself!).
Getting rid of my microwave didn’t make me “suddenly healthy”. I do feel that it was an important step in our family’s overall journey towards healthy and natural living.
Are any of you other homemakers microwave-free? What do you do to minimize the loss of convenience and keep things speedy in the kitchen?
This post is shared at Works for Me Wednesday