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What Is Your Microwave Doing To Your Health?

by Tiffany in A Green Home, Healthy Eating

When we moved last year we finally said goodbye and good riddance to one popular appliance… the microwave. The old one stayed with the house and I knew that we would not be purchasing another. It was time to say goodbye.

We didn’t use our old one very much but the very presence of it meant that we did use it occasionally… say for melting butter or to heat up leftovers quickly. I didn’t want to use it, but it was hard to resist the convenience. It was just one of those things that required some cold turkey action I guess. Now, a year later, I wonder what the big deal is about a microwave. If we can’t eat it raw, or heat it or cook it on a stove top, then we don’t it eat it… end of story.

But why exactly did we want to get rid of our microwave? What is so bad about microwaving your food? Well, the very fact that you can heat food in mere seconds without the microwave being hot to the touch should tell us that microwaves heat our food in a very different way than a stove. Microwaving food is essentially irradiating our food.  According to Robert O. Becker M.D.’s and his book The Body Electric, it is unhealthy to even be in close proximity to a microwave. There is a lot of data out there to suggest that microwaves change the chemical make-up of our food, making it unrecognizable to our body as food, creating an immune response in the body, and possibly changing our food to something unfit or even dangerous for us to consume.

If all a microwave did was heat the food and not change the food, then why would a woman have died in a 1991 Oklahoma case after blood for a transfusion was heated in a microwave? The blood for transfusions was usually heated before procedures but not in a microwave. After receiving microwaved blood the patient, who was getting hip surgery, reacted to the blood and died on the table.

For years we have been told by experts not to microwave breast milk since it kills the beneficial elements found in it. We have also been told not to microwave formula, but the reason given is usually the chance that “hot spots” will burn the baby. I think it is because most experts know that microwaving the formula is rendering it lifeless and maybe even toxic. If even some of the research on the effects of microwaved food can be proved conclusively true then it is a travesty how many children have been raised drinking microwaved milk or formula. Could this be another reason, in an ever growing list of reasons, why kids are so unhealthy today?

In that same article (linked to above) it shows how a Swiss biologist and food scientist Dr. Hans Hertel studied the effects of microwaved food and found that the blood of people who ate microwaved foods showed a decrease in hemoglobin and cholesterol values, in the HDL (good cholesterol) versus LDL (bad cholesterol) ratio and in white blood cells, weakening the immune system, and an increase in leukocyte levels, which tends to indicate poisoning and cell damage—conditions ripening the body for degenerative diseases and/or cancer. On the cover of a magazine that published one of his studies there was a picture of the Grim Reaper holding a microwave oven in one of his hands.

Another research paper worth reading is by Lita Lee Ph.D (chemist, enzyme therapist, nutritionist, author and lecturer that has been in private practice since 1984). In this paper she discusses how microwaves are labeled as health hazards in Europe and other developed countries. They are even outlawed in some countries, such as the Soviet Union. It goes on to explain exactly how they work and why they are harmful.

You have probably also done some field work on your own that confirms these findings. Put a lovely dish of fresh food in the microwave and look at how it comes out… a lifeless, melty blob. Microwaved food is VERY unappealing because of the way it looks on the outside… it is just as unappealing on the inside though.

The data on microwave ovens shows that they change the chemical makeup of the food they cook and that those changes can and do lead to changes in our blood that can cause deterioration within our bodies. While there may be much we don’t know about microwaves the things we do know are sufficient enough for me to take an item that I rarely used and ensure it is an item that I never use. After one year without one, I wonder why it was I even thought that having one was necessary. The only area I need to address is the rare time when I might eat out… I need to make sure that any restaurant that I patronize hasn’t used a microwave to heat the food because there are some restaurants that I know of (Applebees for instance) that do.

How do you feel about microwaves? Do you use one? Is getting rid of it hard for you?

  • I use my microwave more for it’s exhaust fan feature because it’s built in over my stove than for cooking food. My research showed that you can as much radiation from a microwave as you would from sitting in front of a computer screen or TV, which I do often. Not much if ever do I stand in front of the microwave when it’s running.

    I’m curious about the food studies and the information about the woman who died because of the blood transfusion during surgery – where they peer reviewed? It sounds like there could be a lot of mitigating factors in the transfusion case since it was an isolated incident. For the most part the microwave stays because it’s built into my kitchen cabinets and it’s an exhaust fan and light over the stove.

  • Interesting post! I have been wary of microwaves for a long time. My mom never let me stand in front of ours when we were growing up, although we still used it quite a bit. I try not to use ours too much, but for reheating coffee and leftovers, I definitely do… Guess I need to start some research!

  • Bucky

    I’m usually a big conspiracy theorist on most things … but I’m totally unconvinced on the microwaved food conspiracy.

    I’ve heard for years about that woman that died from the nuked blood transfusion … but it doesn’t make much sense to me. First, there are accepted ways to warm up blood that doesn’t apply high heat which denatures the proteins (i.e. hemoglobin — which carries oxygen). Microwaves isn’t one of them. Any more than pouring the blood into a hot skillet.

    There are a few “studies” that claim that microwaved food is bad for you … but again, they are relatively few.

    I have a microwave “oven” that came built-in to my current kitchen. Otherwise I wouldn’t have one. Not because I’m afraid, but because I don’t like the way that they cook and it really isn’t that difficult or much more time consuming to good good food the right way.

    Microwaves do have one BIG advantage, and that is that they are environmentally very green in that they use much less energy than any other form of cooking food (except solar cooking).

    I mostly use mine to quickly boil water and for the occasional bag of popcorn.

    In terms of things to be concerned about, I think that pesticides and chemicals and hormones in our food are much more of a problem.

    • Goin’Green

      Bucky, I’m with you on this. “Study” results that have been disseminated through popular media, like magazines and even the nightly news often focus on one piece of a study and present the findings out of context so that it makes for a better story. Even when the whole study is made available, there’s no guarantee that the researcher is credible or that the study was conducted appropriately. Having worked in this arena for many years, I can tell you that what gets written up is determined by a few things, 1) (and this is the most important one) Who commissioned or funded the study (industry, fringe groups, political interests) ? What do they have to gain? 2) The researcher’s personal motives – does this researcher need to publish lots of material, very quickly in order to keep their academic apppointment? 3) The researcher’s reputation – sometimes because the researcher is well respected, they’re material gets printed even when it’s shoddy science. Sometimes researchers will leave out key findings because they don’t support the researcher’s original assumptions. Like any other field, research is subject to egos and corruption.

      Bottom Line: Question everything, use common sense, and remember the old saying, “believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.”

      • I highly doubt that there is much profit in being anti-microwave. How exactly would a scientist create steady profit by “inventing” science that falsely portrays microwaves. In many areas I would and DO agree but not this area. It is nonsensical.

  • Bucky

    One more thought:

    I think that if people find they are using their microwaves constantly, then the bigger concern is not the microwaves, but the processed food that they are putting into the microwave.

    That over salted, high fructose corn syrup laden, fat infused pre-processed food alternative swill that most people buy at the grocery store will kill you.

  • We still have ours. I only use it for heating up stuff, but you have got me thinking about using it less.
    I don’t love using it for the reasons mentioned, but like a pp said I don’t think it’s the worst thing going on with our food supply either.

  • ecoMILF

    I wrote a blog entry a few months ago about how we banished the microwave from our home- best decision I ever made!!

  • saltwater

    We got rid of our microwave a couple years ago and I don’t miss it at all. To reheat food we just either steam it or put it in a pot on the stove. It really doesn’t take long at all. And we pop popcorn kernels in a pan on the stove with some olive oil which takes the same amount of time as in the microwave but without the teflon coating from inside the popcorn bags!

  • Bridget

    The microwave might be on the list of things to research but it’s at the bottom. Ugh. Feel like I have my mind full working on slowly improving our food & living more green. We use ours quite a bit…mainly for dinner leftovers. We tend to make something that lasts a couple meals & maybe a lunch…I can’t imagine re-heating it w/o a microwave. I don’t even know how! ha Thx for the post…gotta let that one soak in some more. Ugh. : )

  • Bridget

    Complete off topic but curious what you know/think. I think we eat pretty good compared to most folks but always room for improvement. I’m chaning/adding some kitchen items & was wondering about a salad spinner. I’ve never owned one. I purchased one (and can still take it back) the was BPA free. It was the only one I could find (easily)…I think it’s the Progressive brand. Anyway, thoughts on if it’s plastic worth buying?? Something I’ll use & love lots? We’ve started buying kale & want to start adding more greens…so thinking it’s something that might make things easier.

    • Bridget, had to look that one up.. I am not familiar with a salad spinner. I just rinse and lay out on a towel and that works for me but if a spinner makes it easier for you and more likely that you will eat your greens then why not? When plastic is truly helpful to our lives and ensuring we eat better.. like my Vita-Mix, you can’t knock that!

  • Lynn

    Our microwave died last year and I refused to replace it. I really don’t miss it. I’ve always been concerned about the health ramifications, but have never really heard anything convincing against it. It just didn’t feel right to me. Our reheated leftovers taste SO much better steamed, baked in the toaster oven or heated stove top that I can’t believe we ever used the microwave. I think that not having one says that we place a higher priority on the quality and nutrition of our food. Creating a meal should be an experience, not 1 minute being nuked and less than 5 eating it. The microwave and the food that came with it have got to be some of the unhealthiest available. Why would a small child eat an apple when they can pop a frozen pizza in the microwave and be done in moments?
    Re: Bridget~ I’m not a big fan of plastic, but I do love my spinner. I know there are non plastic ways to accomplish the task(spinning in a pillow case, using a towel) but I still use ours. It’s also a nice all purpose colander and I will use the bowl to serve the salad in, so it’s one less dish. Just my opinion.

  • We don’t use our microwave. We haven’t in months. It’s sitting in our basement. Too many questionables about what it does to the food — and if I’m in that much of a rush, I’ll eat my leftovers cold. :)

  • for several years my husband and i did not have a microwave. guests would come to our apartment and think we were absolutely crazy. we didn’t have one because we felt it was an unnecessary item taking up space in our small kitchen. we knew microwaves were potentially dangerous anyway and just didn’t feel we had a need for it.
    well, we had two friends donate their dorm or old apartment microwaves to us and then we receieved a microwave for xmas two years ago.
    why are people obsessed with microwaves? the food designed to be microwaved and eaten is full of chemicals and preservatives and is basically crap and what is wrong with heating up leftovers in the oven or toaster oven?
    people are microwave crazy!

  • We haven’t used a microwave in years! It was difficult to convince my husband – but after a homebirth, 2 years of breastfeeding, not vaccinating and not circumcising, not microwaving wasn’t such a big deal anymore :-)

    • Goin’Green

      Not vaccinating…I’m all for the eco-friendly, conservation movement, but not vaccinating your children is just irresponsible and if enough people choose not to vaccinate, it will present a health hazard of epic proportions. Herd immunity ensures that things like measles, mumps, rubella, etc. don’t wipe out whole communities as they once did. When we don’t vaccinate, we leave our children’s health up to evolutionary principles like Survival of the Fittest. Do you want to bank on your kid being exceptionally fit? Freedom to raise our kids as we sit fit is our God-given right; however, your freedom only extends as far as the next person’s vulnerability and when you introduce an unvaccinated kid into the mix, you place both your child and mine at risk for consequences, I can assure you, you’re not prepared to deal with. And before you get into natural immunity and the “disease of the week” party argument, please remember that while many vaccine-preventable diseases have reasonably high survival rates, there is always, ALWAYS, a percentage of people who will die from one of those diseases AND there are many adverse effects associated with the infections (brain damage, blindness, deafness, paralysis, etc.) The fact that you can even choose not to vaccinate your child is based on the fact that the rest of us have chosen to do so. This is one “natural” trend that I truly hope doesn’t catch on.

      • Goin’Green… you should read some of my posts on vaccines. My son almost died from a vaccine and this was confirmed by neurologists. He ended up epileptic and with a host of other problems. He is almost 10 now and still has many issues from my choice to vaccinate. Telling everyone it is irresponsible to consider those risks and avoid them is what strikes me as irresponsible. My son is LIVING the consequences of my bad decision to vaccinate him.

      • EllianaMA

        If you truly believe that vaccines work, then it is illogical to think that someone else not being vaccinated puts you at risk. I recommend visiting the site to learn more about the dangers of vaccines. I am not vaccinating my daughter either. I have several friends with children who have had bad reactions from vaccinnations. The pharmaceutical companies would have you believe you have to vaccinate against everything under the sun. Since when do you need a chicken pox vaccine? I believe it is healthy for a child to get the chicken pox, that it helps build a stronger immune system. When I was growing up, it was sort of a rite of passage to get the chicken pox, get a little fevere, some itchy bumps…and a week off from school! Vaccines are an industry driven by profits and greed, not the best interests of the common man.

  • Ana

    We also do not own a microwave and neither do many of our friends. Not only is there an obvious difference in the taste of the food, it compromises the nutritional value as well. According to a recent study, the microwave uses a bit more energy than a cooktop and a little more than a toaster oven.
    It hasn’t been much of a sacrifice for my family of four (ages newborn to seventeen) and we do enjoy the taste of our meals more.

  • Erin B.

    Ours broke last November and because of our Slow Food lifestyle it hasn’t been a problem for us at all, but with holiday houseguests and others since then (including our contractor who was helping us remodel our master bathroom) we sure did get a lot of complaints for not having a microwave! It’s main use to me before was as a clock and now that it’s broken I don’t even notice it’s gone! But everytime we have houseguests they all offer to help me install a new one if I just go out and buy it… what the heck do I need one for? I always politely decline, but it makes me laught that so many others feel they NEED a microwave, especially for just the few days they are staying with us! Too funny…

    • iona

       They can be a bachelor’s best friend

  • Katie K

    Right on PureMothers- that’s pretty much how it went down for my fam! Funny how certain things can so quickly become so trivial. We ditched ours a few years ago and never looked back!

  • Michelle

    Thanks for the reminder! Its always nice to get a kick in the pants when you have, almost without knowing it fallen off the wagon. The info you shared is info I have read and re-read in the past. We have always lived in homes were the microwaves are built into the cabinatry. At our last house I unplugged the thing. We moved into our current home 3 months ago and it hadnt dawned on me yet. So thanks for posting this!

    For the woman who occasionally microwaves popcorn, you might do some research on that. I read some horrible articles on microwave popcorn. Apparently there is a lining in the bag and it leaches some nasties into your food, linking it to infertility. I havent touched the stuff since reading that.

    And about the salad spinner: I was watching old videos of Julia Childs and she used the pillow case method, LOL. She did have a metal spinner but she didnt like it as well as the pillow case, maybe you could look for a vintage spinner like she had on her show.

    • Goin’Green

      Another reason to avoid microwaved popcorn is that it supports an industry whose workers suffer terribly. “Popcorn Lung” is a disease that afflicts workers in the the factories where the popcorn is processed. We stopped eating it for social justice reasons, long before we considered the health effects for ourselves. Stovetop popcorn is fun to make and doesn’t take much longer than the microwave variety, plus you can control the additives (oil, sugar, salt) and avoid unnecessary chemicals in your food.

      • iona

         Try a hot air popper.

  • Mrs. B

    To Bridget,
    I have a salad spinner and use it almost daily. Between myself and my husband we eat almost a head of lettuce a day. I wouldn’t be without it.

    Regarding the microwave…I use mine for things like heating up a cup of coffee in the afternoon or my favorite…I disinfect my kitchen sponges in there. Pop them in for 2 min and that is supposed to disinfect them. I don’t buy convenience foods but I also have two college age boys living at home. I cook a meal and put it in the fridge. Then when they are ready to eat all they do is heat it up. I know they can use the stove but they are boys and won’t take the time to do that. I figure if that is the worst thing they are doing….it isn’t that bad.

  • Connie

    Glad to see others out there have gone “Microwave Free”. I got rid of our microwave over a year ago, much to my husbands surprise but he learned to live with it, just like I did. I realized after working so hard to find, prepare and plan to serve healthy foods to my family why destroy any or all nutritional value in the foods you put on your table. Not to mention the fact that it simply tastes so much better when you take a little time to slow cook it anyway. The payoff is way worth it. I get teased all the time by my friends, extended family and even my husband but he says that I do the cooking so he shouldn’t complain about the way I prepare it. He actually agrees with me that it isn’t exactly healthy but he gripes when we have left overs to reheat and I turn on the oven or use the toaster oven. But it’s really become kind of a little inside joke between us than a real battle. I actually get a kick out of the reaction from people when they realize that we don’t have one. We make out just fine without it and I’m glad I have the space instead of a giant microwave sitting on my cabinet. I’ll say that I have not conducted my own scientific study that proves the use of microwaves are bad for our health and destroys our food but my own feelings are all I really need to feel comfortable with my decision to toss our microwave forever and not even look back. I honestly don’t miss the silly thing at all. Thank you for posting this blog comment Tiffany.

  • julie

    just an FYI, we give people irradiated blood all the time, specifically for immunocompromized patients (ie. cancer patients) because it ensures the blood is the cleanest it can possibly be. and its specifically called irradiated blood.

    • I doubt the blood is microwaved though but yes I am familiar with this. I had cancer and they often tried to get me to accept blood transfusions. My answer was HELL NO. ;)

  • Amanda

    We have considered getting rid of ours and this has definitely sold us! But can anyone tell me how to warm up leftovers (ie what temp & how long to stick it in the toaster oven/ pot on the stove for?) Any other suggestions? Thanks!

    • Amanda, I almost always heat leftovers by sticking them in a pot on medium and stirring until heated through.

  • Linda

    I got rid of my microwave several years ago because of reports that it is harmful. One alternative I use is a slow cooker
    because you don’t have to watch your cooking as much and the food is much better tasting.

  • Iggyocracy Iggy

    Nope, total baseless quackery! The body either works or it doesn’t, PERIOD! A body does not keep things around to try & figure them out, it handles it or passes it, PERIOD! Dr. Becker or whomever else, just takes completely unrelated nonsense to pass them off as science. Nutrition itself is one of the world’s biggest frauds & no society in the world had anything remotely close to a balanced diet or proper water intake until 100 years ago , at the very most. I’ve tested microwave ovens on myself for the past 20 years & have absolutely none of these fraudulents that morons claim as definites & science. Natural gas, propane & electric heating elements are not natural forms of cooking & they ALL poison every home, microwave ovens don’t. And, NO, fire was not a common cooking tool, it was for meats & breads only & those were rare to the commoner or not even remotely cooked around the commoners, just handed out by grubby hands…Yet still, NO-ONE had cancer, diabetes, flu’s, autism, heart disease or meningitis! Now, we cook absolutely everything & claim it’s natural & organic, when only until 200 years ago, at the very most, was much of anything cooked or heated or kept cool or frozen. Just blind fools leading others to their laughable cult.

  • guest

    Soviet Union does not exist and hasn’t existed for over a decade. Microwaves are not banned there (or I guess I should say in the countries that used to be a part of the Soviet Union). Get your facts straight.

  • yeah_you_dumb

    90% of this information is incorrect. Please read a book before you post things on the internet

  • guest

    Changes the chemical makeup? So if I put chicken in the microwave, its not chicken anymore when I take it out? If I put a brick in there will it turn it into cake?
    You might have your microwave mixed up with your disintegration ray.
    The reason it looks that way is because its dry. Food has water in it. Water evaporates