I recently received an email asking if I could explain about ‘microwave ovens’, eating ‘microwaved food’ etc. So here it is.
The news is not good, if you prefer ‘ignorance is bliss’, now might be a good time to ‘accidentally’ have something better to do! When we think of ‘natural’ health & well-being, it would make sense that we would want to ‘cook’ our food in a ‘natural’ way.
It doesn’t take much intuition to realize that microwaving your food, is about as ‘unnatural’ a way to cook your food as you can get. Doesn’t the fact we use the terms, ‘zap’ it or ‘nuke’ it in the microwave, send a chill up your spine and suggest something is not quite right here?
A critical point is that microwaves don’t actually ‘cook’ your food at all. They basically just heat up the water content of the food and cause the food particles to resonate at very high frequencies. This ‘heats up’ your food, but this is very different from ‘cooking’ your food.
It’s like your food is heated but still ‘raw’. It doesn’t change the chemical structure of your food properly (and in many cases deforms the food molecules), thus substantially reducing your foods nutritional value. Worse however, is that microwaves can (and usually do) create harmful compounds that can lead to serious problems/disease (high cholesterol, cancer etc). * See the research further down.
Now, before you start cursing me again for making you feel bad (because you love your microwave and think life would be hell without it), remember, like all the health tips we give, you need to make them practical and still be able to function and enjoy life. However, while a little bit here and there won’t kill you (not immediately anyway!) – regular intakes are a real problem.
Basically, microwave ovens decay and change the structure of food by the process of ‘radiation’. Do you think if they were marketed as “radiation ovens”, they would be so popular? No way, but that’s exactly what they are. Simply put, you are interfering with/disturbing the ‘natural intelligence’ of the food (which is by far the most important part of any food).
Why wouldn’t we hear more about their negative effects if they were so bad? Basically, for the same reason we don’t hear about many of the things that jeopardize our health (until years after), vested interests and ‘heads in the sand’. Most people don’t want to give up something that is so ‘convenient’!!! And as modern science doesn’t value the fact that there is more to cooking food, than just heating it up, not enough proper research is being done. It’s just another case of modern society, trying to use ‘technology’ to save time… unfortunately at the expense of our health & well-being.
1. Avoid using microwaves/eating microwaved food whenever possible.
Yes, I know you’re busy, you don’t have time to cook and it’s so easy to just ‘zap’ it in the microwave. I know I’m being Scrooge again, and it’s all so easy to say “Don’t use microwaves”, but this really is a big one.
There’s probably not that many other things you could do to improve your long-term health more than throwing your microwave out the window… or at least using it far more sparingly.
Personally, I think you are better off to go and buy some half decent take-away (non-microwaved) than consistently eating ‘zapped’ food (seriously!)
2. THAWING FOODS is not so bad:
If you want to use your microwave for thawing frozen foods, that is not so bad. It’s still much better to let them thaw out naturally, but using a microwave for this purpose and cooking your food ‘naturally’ is not as bad as actually ‘cooking’ with your microwave.
3. ‘NEVER’ use PLASTIC:
Never heat your food in the microwave using plastic containers. When microwaving, carcinogenic toxins can be leached from your plastic and paper plates or covers and mix with your food. This especially applies to foods that contain fat. The combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin (Dioxin chemicals cause cancer, especially breast cancer) into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body.
* This comes from Cancer News at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and a statement by Dr. Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital. Full details below.
Use glass, corning ware or ceramic containers for heating your food.
4. *** MOTHERS: DON’T Heat your baby’s milk in the microwave (especially in plastic bottles): **
Most people know the enormous benefits of breast milk for infants (as natural as you can get). However, microwaving breast milk (expressed milk) has been shown to break down the essential disease-fighting ability of breast milk (which helps protect your baby) and cause ‘hot spots’ (which can burn your infants mouth).
While this is not ideal in itself, the fact that microwaving causes ‘hot spots’ in the first place, shows it does not heat things evenly/properly. Add on the general problems of using plastic bottles as highlighted above, and it really isn’t the best idea. * The same applies for formula milk/any type of milk in plastic containers.
i) Warm the milk by placing the container in a cup/saucepan of hot water or
ii) ideally boil the milk in a saucepan and let it cool down to warm drinking temperature.
* More hassle? Yes. More time-consuming? Yes. Better for your baby? ABSOLUTELY.
Practical Help: How to Reduce your Microwave Use?
i) Plan ahead:
where possible, decide what you are going to have in advance, so if you need to thaw something, you can take it out of the freezer beforehand (you may need to be before you go to work in some cases).
ii) Weigh up the health benefits of cooking ‘naturally’ versus microwaves.
Is it really that much extra time/hassle? Instead of putting something on a plate, covering it and putting it in the microwave, you’re essentially doing the same in an oven/saucepan. Add a bit of extra time for cooking and washing saucepans etc (if you don’t have a dishwasher), and you are not that much worse off time-wise.
Tips for Getting Take-Away:
i) If you get take-away and they go to cook it/heat it up in a microwave, ask if they can ‘oven heat’ it instead (just enough so it’s not ‘cold’) – so it doesn’t take that much longer!
* In addition to the health dangers, there is nothing worse than your crispy, crunchy pastry or whatever, being microwaved into a soft, soggy, mushy heap (Urgghhh!!!).
ii) If they can’t/won’t do that (i.e oven heat it), depending on the food/season, you might prefer to just have it ‘unheated’/cold. Cold is not ideal, but better than being ‘nuked’.
iii) If it has to be heated and microwave is the ‘only’ way, ask them to microwave it on ‘medium’ (for a little longer) rather than on ‘high’.
If you want to know more about microwaves/microwaving food – who invented them, the science behind them (why they are so unhealthy), the research done so far etc,read on.
History of the Microwave – The Nazi’s:
The Nazis invented the first microwaves. First known as ‘radiomissors’ (argghhh!!!), they were used for preparating meals on a mass scale during the invasion of Russia.
After the war, the Russians had retrieved some of these microwave ovens and conducted research on their biological effects. So alarmed by what they learned, the Russians banned microwave ovens in 1976.
Research on Microwaves:
More and more research is now suggesting people who regularly eat microwaved food over a period of time, sustain significant adverse changes to their blood chemistries and the rates of growth of certain diseases.
These can include:
* An increased rate of cancer cell formation in the blood.
* Increased rates of stomach and intestinal cancers.
* Lymphatic disorders, leading to decreased ability to prevent certain types of cancers.
* Higher rates of digestive disorders and a gradual breakdown of the systems of elimination.
1. Dr. Hans Ulrich Hertel was the first scientist to conduct quality clinical research on the effects microwaved nutrients (on the human body).
His small but well controlled study showed the degenerative force produced in microwave ovens and the food processed in them. This included,
Increased cholesterol levels
Decreased numbers of red blood cells
Production of radiolytic compounds (compounds unknown in nature)
Decreased hemoglobin levels (possible anemia problems).
Microwave cooking changes the nutrients in the food, and changes take place in the participants’ blood that can cause deterioration in the human system.
1. Hertel’s scientific study was done along with Dr. Bernard H. Blanc of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the University Institute for Biochemistry.
2. 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% of the beneficial antioxidant chemicals it contains.
By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11% or fewer of its antioxidants.
3. A recent study at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York demonstrated that microwaving food creates toxic compounds (known as AGE’s) that are associated with serious illness such as heart disease and diabetes etc.
AGE’s form when sugars, proteins and fats amalgamate in high-temperature cooking, the most harmful of which is microwaved food.
4. Microwaving baby formulas converts certain trans-amino acids into their synthetic isomers, which are toxic to the nervous system – this is from the British journal The Lancet (Dec. 9, 1989).
Microwaved Blood Kills Woman:
A 1991 lawsuit involving a woman who had hip surgery and died because the blood used in her blood transfusion was warmed in a microwave. Blood is routinely warmed before transfusions, but not by microwave. The microwave altered the blood and it killed the woman.
More on Microwaves & Dioxins:
This is from an email (around Jan 06), Re; Cancer News from John Hopkins. It was received from a nursing supervisor at Greenville Memorial Hospital. It was sent to their staff.
Cancer News from Johns Hopkins:
No plastic containers in microwave.
No plastic wrap in microwave.
Johns Hopkins has recently sent this out in its newsletters. This information is being circulated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Dioxinchemicals cause cancer, especially breast cancer.
Dioxins are highly poisonous to the cells of our bodies.
Recently, Dr. Edward Fujimoto, Wellness Program Manager at Castle Hospital, was on a TV program to explain this health hazard. He talked about dioxins and how bad they are for us.
He said that we should not be heating our food in the microwave using plastic containers. This applies to foods that contain fat. He said that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body.
He recommends using glass, corning ware or ceramic containers for heating your food.
You get the same results, only without the dioxin. So such things as TV dinners and soups, etc, should be removed from the container and heated in something else (* Note from Mark – re-heating/cooking frozen food – e.g TV dinners, is not highly recommended anyway). Paper isn’t bad, but you don’t know what is in the paper. It’s just safer to use tempered glass, Corning Ware, etc.
He reminded us that a while ago some of the fast food restaurants moved away from the foam containers to paper. The dioxin problem is one of the reasons. He also pointed out that Saran wrap is just as dangerous when placed over foods to be cooked in the microwave. As the food is nuked, the high heat causes poisonous dioxins to actually melt out of the plastic wrap and drip into the food.
Alternative: Cover food with a paper towel instead.
The Natural (Ayurvedic) View:
For those familiar with the Ayurvedic dosha system, the understanding from Maharishi Ayurveda is that microwaves disturb vata dosha. Vata is that ‘governing principle of Intelligence’ that governs all communication and movement in your mind-body. If out of balance it can adversely affect your nervous system, and lead to problems ranging from anxiety, disturbed sleep through to constipation and early/chronic fatigue.