Microwave cooking is one of the most important causes of ill health. It is certainly one of the most ignored.

When food is exposed to microwaves, the destruction and deformation of the molecules produces substances called radiolytic compounds, and the effects of these substances upon health is unknown.

Microwave cooking changed the nutrients so that changes took place in the participants’ blood; these were not healthy changes but were changes that could cause deterioration in the human systems.

A simplified explanation of the dangers:

In a study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli cooked in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97 percent of the beneficial antioxidant chemicals it contains. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost only 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants.

When microwaving, carcinogenic toxins are leached from the plastic containers or plastic wrap used to microwave foods.

In test subjects who ate microwaved food, the following changes in blood chemistry were observed:

  • Decrease in hemoglobin values
  • Decrease in HDL Cholesterol (the good kind)
  • Decrease in lymphocytes and leukocytes (white blood cells, the ones that kill germs)
  • Increase in luminous power by luminous bacteria exposed to blood of volunteers (in essence, radioactive energy was passed on from the microwaved food to the blood cells of those who ate the food)
  • Increases cholesterol
  • Increases white blood cell numbers
  • Decreases red blood cell numbers
  • Causes production of radiolytic compounds (compounds unknown in nature)

The implications are that a person who eats microwaved food for an extended period could become anemic due to destruction of hemoglobin, have an increase in heart disease from the decrease in good cholesteral and the ratio between good and bad cholesterol, and could become subject to a host of contagious diseases due to immune system compromise.

Microwaves are not recommended for heating a baby’s bottle. The bottle may seem cool to the touch, but the liquid inside may become extremely hot and could burn the baby’s mouth and throat… Heating the bottle in a microwave can cause slight changes in the milk. In infant formulas, there may be a loss of some vitamins. In expressed breast milk, some protective properties may be destroyed…. Warming a bottle by holding it under tap water or by setting it in a bowl of warm water, then testing it on your wrist before feeding, may take a few minutes longer, but it is much safer”.

Microwaving food in plastic: Migrating chemicals

When food is wrapped in plastic or placed in a plastic container and microwaved, substances used in manufacturing the plastic (plasticizers) may leak into the food. In particular, fatty foods such as meats and cheeses cause a softening agent called diethylhexyl adipate to leach out.

The FDA, recognizing the potential for small amounts of plasticizers to migrate, closely regulates plastic containers and materials that come into contact with food. Before approving a container, the FDA conducts tests to make sure that it doesn’t leak unsafe amounts of any substance into food.

According to Dr. George Pauli, a retired associate director in the Office of Food Additive Safety at the FDA, these tests measure the migration of chemicals at temperatures that the container or wrap is likely to encounter during ordinary use. For microwave approval, the agency estimates the ratio of plastic surface area to food, how long the container is likely to be in the microwave, how often a person is likely to eat from the container, and how hot the food can be expected to get during microwaving. Because microwaves heat the water in food, the peak temperature is the boiling point of water – 212º F, or 100º C. The only exception is microwave popcorn and other packages that come with the instruction, “this side down.” Such packages, says Pauli, are made with small amounts of metal to create a “frying pan effect.” They get hotter than the boiling point of water and are tested accordingly.

The scientists then measure the chemicals that leach out and the extent to which they migrate to different kinds of foods. The maximum allowable amount is 100-1,000 times less per pound of body weight than the amount shown to harm laboratory animals over a lifetime of use. According to the FDA, this limit takes into account differences between laboratory animals and humans as well as individual variations in the use of plastic for microwaving. Only containers that pass this test can display a microwave-safe icon, the words “microwave safe,” or words to the effect that they’re approved for use in microwave ovens.

The FDA tests all containers that come in contact with food, but only those labeled microwave safe have been tested and found safe for that purpose. A container that’s not labeled safe for microwave use isn’t necessarily unsafe; the FDA simply hasn’t determined whether it is or not. According to the American Plastics Council, some unlabeled containers are made of the same kind of plastic as microwave-safe containers, but they may not be safe because their walls are thinner and could melt in the microwave.

Remember when using the microwave:

  • Most takeout containers, water bottles, and plastic tubs or jars made to hold margarine, yogurt, whipped topping, and foods such as cream cheese, mayonnaise, and mustard are not microwave-safe.
  • Microwavable takeout dinner trays are formulated for one-time use only and will say so on the package.
  • Don’t microwave plastic storage bags or plastic bags from the grocery store.
  • A recycle symbol does not mean a container is safe to use or reuse in the microwave oven. Only a microwave-safe icon or wording to that effect does.
  • Before microwaving food, be sure to vent the container: Leave the lid ajar, or lift the edge of the cover.
  • Don’t allow plastic wrap to touch food during microwaving because it may melt. Wax paper, kitchen parchment paper, or white paper towels are alternatives.
  • If you’re concerned about plastic wraps or containers in the microwave, transfer food to glass or ceramic containers labeled for microwave oven use.

Alternatives

  • You can heat food quickly in a convection oven. It’s just an ordinary oven with a fan.
  • You can also easily and quickly heat up food, even frozen pasta, by using a saucepan with a lid and a little water, to moisten it from the steam.
  • If someone is coming home late, and you want to give them warm food when they arrive, put a saucepan lid over the food while it is on a plate. Put the plate of food on a simmering saucepan of water. It will stay warm without drying up.
  • If you want to cook food, do it the old fashioned ways – it tastes much better that way!

Sources: Relfe, Health Harvard

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