Almost every American home has a microwave oven. The convenience they offer is undeniable. But despite the widespread use of microwave ovens and their excellent safety record, some people have lingering doubts that cooking food with microwaves somehow makes food less healthy by zapping away nutrients.
Microwaving is a simple, convenient cooking option for people on the go. The microwave oven has been a mainstay in the US for 30+ years, virtually transforming society and how we view food.
Understanding how microwave ovens work can help clarify the answer to this common question: Does cooking with microwaves makes food less healthy?
How Does Microwaving Work?
A microwave is a form of non-ionizing radiation. As a matter of contrast, ionizing radiation changes the electromagnetic nature of atoms, or ionizes them. This alters the way they interact with other atoms and molecules around them. X-rays, gamma radiation, and nuclear medicine (CT scans, barium swallows, and mammograms) are types of ionizing radiation.
Microwave ovens cook food using waves of energy that are similar to radio waves but shorter. Alternating currents force atoms to reverse their polarity. This creates friction and vibrates the water inside of the food molecules causing the food to heat up.
What does the microwave oven do to our food
One study by Dr. Hans Hertel explored how microwaves change the molecular structure of food and the effects of that food on the human body. In his study, he found that individuals who consumed the microwaved foods experienced a decrease in HDL cholesterol, a reduced red blood cell count, and fewer white blood cells. Unfortunately, no studies have been conducted since to replicate Dr. Hertel’s findings, so it would be reaching to conclude that microwaving does indeed deteriorate health. Still, there are other cooking options that may be far better at retaining the nutritive quality of food.
Some nutrients break down when they’re exposed to heat, whether it is from a microwave or a regular oven. Vitamin C is perhaps the clearest example. But because microwave cooking times are shorter, cooking with a microwave does a better job of preserving vitamin C and other nutrients that break down when heated.
As far as vegetables go, cooking them in water robs them of some of their nutritional value because the nutrients leach out into the cooking water. For example, boiled broccoli loses glucosinolate, the sulfur-containing compound that may give the vegetable its cancer-fighting properties (as well as the taste that many find distinctive and some find disgusting). Is steaming vegetables better? In some respects, yes. For example, steamed broccoli holds on to more glucosinolate than boiled or fried broccoli.
Here is what microwave oven do to our food:
- Breaks chemical and molecular bonds
- Swiss scientist, Hans Hertel’s study suggests microwaving food degrades and depletes food of its nutrients
- The radiation from the microwave destroys and deforms the molecules in the food, creating dangerous radioactive compounds
- In 1992, a study from the Search for Health, researched the effects of participants that consumed microwaved vegetables
-Rapidly increasing cholesterol levels
-Decrease in hemoglobin causing an anemic-like conditions
-Decrease in white blood cells
-Increase in leukocyte (indicating poisoning and cell damage)
- Microwaved breast milk looses 96% of its antibodies
- Microwaved Infant formulas’ structure is altered, changing the components in amino acids, creating immunological abnormalities
How does a microwave oven harm our bodies
- Causes birth defects
- Cataracts – due to our eyes lack of blood vessels to dissipate the cellular stress and heat from the microwave
- Weakened immune system
- Lowered resistance to viral and bacterial infections
- More serious illnesses