Is microwave food healthy? Is it or is it not? On days like this I wish I could have an advisory board of science professors living in my basement.
While I’m still pondering and chewing on my upper lip the frozen blueberries circle the microwave unclear of their destiny. After 2 min it’s over. A sharp ping announces the end of my misery and assures me that there is nothing I can do to change the outcome of my action.
Sometimes you have to make decisions regardless of your nutritional believes. And one of them is defrosting blueberries in the microwave and providing a colorful, quick topping for todays oatmeal.
A thought soothes my guilty conscience like honey running down a sore throat. The blueberries were already kind of dead. They rested on ice for approximately the last month. And maybe now thawed and fully revived they would be happy to end up on my breakfast plate.
However, I’m not convinced that my cardiac massage using micro electro waves restored the life force of the blueberries. I seek answers at my nutritional role models. Some state that it’s fine to use the microwave oven and only advise not to use plastic containers in the heating process. Others especially raw food enthusiasts swear that the invention of the microwave oven is an unmitigated health disaster that converts substances cooked in it to dangerous organ-toxic and carcinogenic products.
So who is right? Damn, wouldn’t that be nice if the scientists would have migrated into my basement already?
Well, let’s approach this question “Is microwave food good or bad” (in this situation blueberries) with proof by affinity and with the exhaustless service of Google.
I know that any food or liquid placed into the microwave leaves the time-sharing accommodation more or less hot and depending on the operator’s skills and settings more or less dried out.
Microwaves, x-rays, radio waves, Wi-Fi, visible light and brain waves for instance are all waves of energy that travel super, super fast. Think spaceship Enterprise fast. Only a very small range of waves (visible light) is actually observable for us super humans (and we think we have seen it all? 🙂 ). What differs the waves is their frequency, meaning how often the waves peak in a second. Think like jumping a rope every 5 seconds or every 10 seconds.
For instance: When the neurons in our brain fire simultaneously, while we try to remember whether we let the cat in last night or not, we create a brain wave with a rate of 10 to 100 cycles per second (10 to 100 Hz). Does this sound like a fantastic accomplishment to you?
Well, then wait for this. A microwave oven operates with frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. If I’m not mistaken and Google converted MHz right into Hz than this means the microwave oven manages to create waves that cycle at least 300,000,000 times per second. No wonder things get excited and hot in the microwave oven when hit by microwaves, don’t you think?
But to us a more scientific voice: The microwaves affect the water in the food or beverage. Basically anything that contains water absorbs microwave energy, which causes molecular structures to vibrate, which then is converted to heat.
It’s like this: You and a lot of other people are standing packed very still in a room like sardines. Now the server with the appetizer tray comes in and everyone get really excited. People start to move around and bump into each other creating heat.
So now we know why things get hot in a microwave oven.
I know that some containers have the ability to be terribly hot when they come out of the microwave. This results in burned fingertips, spills over the kitchen floor and loud curses that echo through the room.
Microwaves are reflected, transmitted or absorbed by materials in their path. Metallic materials reflect microwaves while non-metallic materials like glass or plastic containers are mostly transparent to microwaves. This is why glass and plastic containers usually won’t get hot in the microwave oven. If the material like some ceramics or their glaze contains water (or other material that vibrates close to microwave radiation) the dish gets hot too.
The reason why you should never use plastic containers or plastic wrap for microwave food is the following.
Depending on the temperature and duration of the heating process harmful chemicals used to make plastic containers or the glaze of ceramics may leak into your food. And this is particular important for fatty foods because plastics have a high affinity for fats. Have you ever wondered why your delicious fatty Bolognese sauce always irrevocably alters the plastic container and never becomes truly clean again? Well, what is plastic made of? Right! Of oil. And foods that are high in fat may cause leaching of the original oil-based substance into the food. No matter if you used it in the microwave or not.
I know that any living object, for this purpose let’s say a fly that accidently happens to be in the microwave while operating, will definitely not leave the metal box with any life force left. (No, I did not try this myself. This information is based on hearsay).
Depending on our hydration practice the human body is approximately 65% water. I’m not quite sure what the percentage would be for a fly. But since we have learnt that water absorbs the microwave energy and turns it into heat it makes sense that a fly would not survive such a scenario. I mean think how hard the human body tries to maintain a steady body temperature. Sweating begins almost precisely at a skin temperature of 37 degree Celsius.
Food heated in the microwave oven becomes rubbery and lacks savory smells.
This just shows that cooking is an art. It’s not just turning a raw steak into a well-done steak. It’s about chemistry. It’s about the oxidation of fat at the right temperature creating a delicious scent. It’s about the combination of different ingredients and the marriage between macronutrients that occurs in a slightly moist, hot environment. A microwave oven will seldom produce any aromas. Microwave food is bland.
So does that answer the question “Is microwave food healthy?”
Anything that is alive dies of heat stroke in the microwave.
Now it matters on your point of view. Do you consider your food to be alive or dead matter? Or even better: Is there life below the level of the cell?
If you think of your food only as assemblage of protein, carbohydrates and fat that fills your tummy then have a look at these wonderful Kirlian images, which basically show the “aura” of foods. Well, our brains create electromagnetic fields, who says that mushrooms don’t have a vital energy field? Just because we can’t see it, it doesn’t mean that it can’t exist.
“Kirlian photographs capture the electromagnetic radiation patterns emitted by objects across a wide spectrum of electromagnetic energy. These light patterns are beyond what is visible to the naked eye.” (Eating for Beauty, David Wolfe)
So if it matters to you what lies beyond the limitations of our eyes and other senses, then the preference of cooking method might be important. Everything in nature has a vital energy field. After all that’s all there is. Cells break down into molecules. Molecules break down into atoms. Atoms break down into protons, electrons and neutrons = energy.
However, I have not found a Kirlian picture that compares a raw vegetable and a nuked vegetable. So I can’t tell how the microwave oven influences the electromagnetic energy of food. But there are studies available that claim microwave exposure causes a significant decrease in nutritive value as well as a structural collapse of all foods that were researched. Who would have thought. Show me one dish that looks delicious after it leaves the microwave oven. Except maybe popcorn, but it is not healthy.
However, the topic of how destructive the microwave oven is sparked the scientific curiosity in me. So I conducted an experiment and watered one organic sprouting mix with spring water another one with cold tap water that I had nuked in the microwave oven first. To my disappointment I must say, both sprouting mixes developed just fine. I have heard that there have been different outcomes from similar experiments.
Science is cruel and awesome. Isn’t it?
So where does that leave us?
Well, I’m an explorer and considering how young science is in regards to nature, I would say don’t mess with nature until the method is really proven safe. And as long as there are two sides none is defitely proven right or wrong. After all microwaves can harm or kill.
In regards to the use of microwave food I will stick to emergencies uses only and keep heating my foods in stainless cookware. If you want convenience then buy yourself a battery-powered spaghetti-twirling fork. Nourishing the body has nothing to do with speed and nutrient depleted foods nuked at high temperatures. But if you must, please consider the following:
- Never use a microwave oven with a damaged door or compromised seal.
- Don’t press your face on the glass door to count how many cycles your food covers.
- Only use microwave safe and food safe containers.
- Microwavable takeout dinner trays are only for one-time use.
- Never use any plastic containers, plastic bags or plastic wraps, especially not in the microwave (even though they are cleared microwave safe).