As most of you probably did, I grew up with a microwave. I actually can’t remember life without one! But is cooking in a microwave safe for your fertility? It’s not something I ever thought about when first trying to conceive, but it is something I wonder about now.
In college, it is often the only cooking device available to those who live in the dorms.
And working full-time? Lunch in the microwave.
When I got married we used it all the time for reheating dinners and frozen foods. I used it to defrost meats, heat water, melt butter, and cook vegetables.
But then I was finally able to get pregnant and it was the first time I read any concerns about cooking in a microwave. I read multiple times that pregnant women shouldn’t stand to close to them for fear the microwaves would escape. And so I always backed away while using it, you know, just in case!
Within much of the natural health community microwaves are just about the most despised kitchen appliance that has ever been created, but are those feelings justified?
Over the last few decades (starting in the 80’s) there has been conflicting information generated by several different studies in many different countries. Some stating that using them is dangerous. Others find that when used as directed microwaves are totally safe. One study says that it destroys nutrients, others that say that it simply tweaks nutrition slightly, and still others that it’s no different from the nutrition loss and altering that happens with any type cooking.
There are also many anecdotal accounts. How microwaved water negatively impacts plant health or the death of someone who received a transfusion of microwaved blood. I would never discount these very real experiences of others though there have never been conclusive studies that replicate these instances. This does not necessarily evidence that microwaves are safe, but, without the lack of corroboration, it is hard to know what to trust.
So…. what in the world do we do?
Do we avoid them all together?
Or do we use them… because… cooking is cooking is cooking and the method makes no difference to nutritional retention?
photo credit Elnur
Why I began to wonder about microwaves
While newer microwaves, with lower radiation wave output and better, properly functioning seals are safer, concerns continue to linger for many. After I had my son and began pumping occasionally, I kept coming across literature that told me to never heat breast milk (or formula for that matter) in the microwave. One of the reasons was that it caused nutrient loss and damaged the properties that protect babies from infections.
So I wondered, if it caused nutrient loss in milk for my little baby, what was it also doing to my own food?
It’s a worthwhile question without yet a clear answer.
For some people this means they stop using it altogether. With as much radiation we are constantly exposed to they’d rather not risk it or the possible nutritional loss. Others will continue on with usage without a change. And some will change how they utilize their microwave, using it less and/or only in certain situations.
How a microwave works
In very simple laymen’s terms, and the way I understand it, microwave ovens use a form of radio waves (called microwaves) to heat food. These radio waves are absorbed by water, sugar, and fats in foods. When they are absorbed the food molecules get excited and start moving around and heating up. By exciting the atoms of the food is this way, it cooks the food. So there is no actual heating involved.
Concerns about using a microwave to prepare food
- It’s been shown that microwaves change the forms of amino acids from “L” to “D” and, while the “D” forms will not harm the body, the nutritional absorption can be affected in this form.
- Loss of nutritional value through microwaving. However, ALL cooking is considered a form a processing, and we lose nutrition anytime we process food.
- And all of us who’ve cooked with a microwave knows that uneven heating is a problem. You can have scalding hot spots and ice-cold burgs in the same dish.
How microwaves definitely affect our health
Even if there isn’t clear evidence that microwaves are harmful because of how they cook, what they cook on the other hand, and why we use them can be a big part of what affects our health.
Several years ago the statistic that would be admitted to by the American Cancer Society was that roughly 33% of cancer is preventable by a healthy diet of whole foods and a balanced lifestyle. This is a conservative estimation by any account.
And why do we cook food in a microwave? Because we’re in a hurry and we’ve got a lot going on and cooking on a stove feels overwhelming or the whole process of prep, cooking, and clean up will take more time than we have to give to cooking.
So we toss something in the microwave. And what are we tossing in there?
It’s not usually farm fresh veggies. Canned corn, peas, soups, chicken nuggets, pizza rolls and other heavily processed veggies and convenience foods are far more likely. These foods tend to be more caloric, heavy in trans fats, added sodium, and low… very low… on vitamins, minerals, micro-nutrients, enzymes and other nutrients.
Over time, these heavily processed foods and their lack of good nutrition can lead to deficiencies that tend to lend themselves to obesity and various illnesses.
On the other hand, it’s important to make time for meals from scratch cooked on a stove and consumed with friends and family. By saying “no” to microwave foods you’re saying “yes” to something else. You’re creating space for relationships, friends, connection and, yes, good, quality nutrition.
Stephanie’s post (from Keeper of the Home): Living Without a Microwave