As I got more into the "natural lifestyle" I found that I used my microwave less and less. It just didn't fit into my "made from scratch" ideas. Now don't get me wrong - I am not against modern conveniences...I use a food processor!, I use a yogurt maker, but once I got used to home cooked food - I found that even re-heated food did not taste "right" to me after coming out of the microwave.
Then, on the advice from a friend, I did some research on microwaves. Just how do they cook our food so quickly?
Microwaves cause food molecules to vibrate rapidly, creating friction that produces heat which then cooks the food. In other words, food cooked in a microwave simply absorbs microwave and turns their energy into thermal energy, which cooks the food.
Here are some things that I found during my research:
There was a case in 1991 where a lady went into the hospital for a hip replacement. She needed blood and for some crazy reason, the nurse heated the blood in the microwave oven, in the nurses lounge, before giving it to the lady. The lady died within minutes. I was a bit skeptical because this appeared on one of the many sites that make some pretty outrageous claims (and in making their claims, they make us who actually do our research look like fruit loops). So I did some further research and it turns out that this actually happened! I think that the case is still tied up in court - because of course, the hospital is saying that she died of something else (just minutes after receiving this microwaved blood, mind you).
Research was done toward the end of the 1980s in collaboration between a Swiss laboratory, Dr. Hans U. Hertel and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH). Dr. Hertel's startling findings showed that microwave cooking resulted in:
- Increased cholesterol levels
- More leukocytes, or white blood cells, which can suggest poisoning
- Decreased numbers of red blood cells
- Production of radiolytic compounds (compounds unknown in nature)
- Decreased hemoglobin levels, which could indicate anemic tendencies
The publication of the results caused considerable disturbance. The Swiss electrical industry threatened both scientists with legal action if they would continue to talk about the results in public. Under this pressure Prof. Bernard H. Blanc withdrew from the scientifically reached results by declaring in the modern “scientific” jargon that more research would be necessary to prove them. Dr. Hans U. Hertel, however, stood behind the honestly achieved results and was subsequently legally prosecuted and condemned, first by the District Court of Belp, Bern, then by the Upper Court in Bern and finally by the Federal Court in Lausanne. The study was finally published in 1992.
A study reports that a test done on raw broccoli found that: Microwaving raw broccoli drastically eliminates natural health-promoting chemicals. Of particular note in the research was the post-microwaving disappearance of 97 percent of flavonoids -- substances often found in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These substances are linked to a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. MURCIA, Spain, Oct 17, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX)
Translation: When you microwave vegetables it changes the food. It diminishes the "good" things in food that help to prevent heart disease, stroke and cancer.
There are also warnings in regards to heating breast milk in the microwave. This from the FDA, who although I personally think they say some pretty quacky stuff, most people take them seriously.
There is a substantial loss of the anti-infective properties of breast milk when it is microwaved. The anti-infective action is a significantly lessened. There's the possibility that other properties of microwaves may also negatively effect the anti-infective properties of breast milk.
More research is definitely necessary. I do not take these few scientific tests and run with it as the "gospel". However it does raise enough concerns, paired with the other reports I have read, that I no longer use my microwave.
And you know what?
I don't miss it! I am actually loving the extra "cabinet" space that it affords. If I want to make popcorn I use my Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper. If I need to melt butter I use my little cast iron melting pot...it really doesn't take that long to do. If I need to re-heat food I either put it in the oven or in an iron skillet on the stove top.
The only thing that I have missed in not having a microwave is the way I used to make a huge pile of pepperoni and cook it until crispy (and stinking the house up) and scarf it down. And that is probably so horrible for me that my body is thanking me for not using my microwave!