The Insidious Microwave Oven

By Rachel Oppitz, ND

Microwave ovens are ubiquitous.  Over 90% of American homes contain one.  So, how do they work and why do I recommend avoiding them?

Microwaves are high frequency electromagnetic waves that alternate in positive and negative directions causing vibration of food molecules up to 2.5 billion times per second.  This creates friction and heat that can destroy or deform the fragile molecules in the food.  All heating methods diminish the nutritional value to some extent; however, microwave heating produces the greatest losses.  A study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli heated in a microwave lost up to 97% of its antioxidants, while steamed broccoli lost less than 11%.

Besides the loss of nutrients, microwaving forms new compounds (radiolytic compounds) that are unknown to humans and nature.  It is also unknown what these compounds do in the human body.

Microwave cooked food may also cause pathological changes in your body.  Once a food’s structure is altered, it cannot perform the desired function in your body.  Clinical studies show that consumption of milk or vegetables heated in a microwave is associated with a decline in human hemoglobin levels.  Dr. Hans Hertel, a Swiss food scientist, studied the effects microwaved nutrients have on the blood and physiology of the human body:  increased white blood cells, decreased red blood cells, increased cholesterol, and decreased hemoglobin levels.

Breastmilk and baby formula should NEVER be warmed in the microwave.  This statement is widely endorsed by various institutions and organizations.  Heating either breastmilk or formula causes changes in the milk and loss of vitamins.  Breastmilk also loses its immune boosting properties.  According to Dr. Lita Lee as reported in The Lancet:  “Microwaving baby formulas converted certain trans-amino acids into their synthetic cis-isomers.  Synthetic isomers, whether cis-amino acids or trans-fatty acids, are not biologically active.  Further, one of the amino acids, L-proline, was converted to its d-isomer, which is known to be neurotoxic and nephrotoxic.”

Though microwaving food is a quick alternative, its destructive and depleting effects on food quality are risky at best.  If you choose to continue using a microwave, always place the food in a glass container, as carcinogenic toxins can be leached from plastic and paper and contaminate your food even when used as covers.  Never overcook your food.

Remember, you have options.  Food provides our bodies with the energy and nutrition we need to thrive.  Careful and thoughtful food preparation is a healthy alternative to that quick-fix meal.  Spending a little more time will dramatically enhance the value of the food you consume.