The Microwave: Friend or Foe?

Since the last two blogs were about CrossFit addicts, I guess I should start by saying, Hi my name is Kelly C. and I am a CrossFit-oholic.  I’ve been coming for 6 1/2 months now and I can’t stop.  I eat, drink and sleep CrossFit.  My friends think I’m nuts (they did before too).  I would like to say thanks for having me, encouraging my addiction,  and putting up with my nuttiness.  So I am also known as The Food Nazi (the people at the school I work at call me this), a hippie, organic girl or granola girl and nature lady.  I obviously have passions in life that I must share.  I am a teacher, heart and soul.  So this entry I want to tell you what I know about the evil microwave.


In 1984 my family got our first microwave.  My dad said it was the WAVE of the future.  My mom was super excited because now left- overs could be zapped in a minute and dinner would be served.  Funny though, my parents made my brother and I run clear across the room while it was on.  They said the radiation wasn’t good for us.  But the food that came out was?!  We started calling it “The Nuker”.  I was stoked because I could put a marshmallow in it for 30 seconds and watch it almost explode.  It would burn to a crisp on the inside and be slightly soft on the outside.  And the hotdogs, talk about explosion!!


What a convenience the microwave has become. No more prep work for cooking.  We have a Hot Pocket that has it all and the commercials prove that they taste good (sarcasm)!  But that food is another tangent.  The microwave has cut heating up food by 3/4’s of the time of using a stove top.  However convince has a price.  Our society has become slaves to convince to the point that people don’t want to hear how bad the long term effects are.  The list of hazards is a long one.  One hazard to consider when using a microwave is what kind of container are you using to heat up the food.


The January/February 1990 issue of Nutrition Action Newsletter reported the leakage of numerous toxic chemicals from the packaging of common microwavable foods, including pizzas, chips and popcorn. Chemicals included polyethylene terpthalate (PET), benzene, toluene, and xylene. Microwaving fatty foods in plastic containers leads to the release of dioxins (known carcinogens) and other toxins into your food.  One of the worst contaminants is BPA, or bisphenol A, an estrogen-like compound used widely in plastic products. In fact, dishes made specifically for the microwave often contain BPA, but many other plastic products contain it as well.


Microwaves also deplete your food of it’s nutrients.  This list is from Dr. Mercola’s website:

  • A study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli “zapped” in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97 percent of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11 percent or fewer of its antioxidants. There were also reductions in phenolic compounds and glucosinolates, but mineral levels remained intact.
  • A 1999 Scandinavian study of the cooking of asparagus spears found that microwaving caused a reduction in vitamin C .
  • In a study of garlic, as little as 60 seconds of microwave heating was enough to inactivate its allinase (enzymology), garlic’s principle active ingredient against cancer[7] .
  • A Japanese study by Watanabe showed that just 6 minutes of microwave heating turned 30-40 percent of the B12 in milk into an inert (dead) form[8] . This study has been cited by Dr. Andrew Weil as evidence supporting his concerns about the effects of microwaving. Dr. Weil wrote: “There may be dangers associated with microwaving food… there is a question as to whether microwaving alters protein chemistry in ways that might be harmful.”
  • A recent Australian study[9] showed that microwaves cause a higher degree of “protein unfolding” than conventional heating.
  • Microwaving can destroy the essential disease-fighting agents in breast milk that offer protection for your baby. In 1992, Quan found that microwaved breast milk lost lysozyme activity, antibodies, and fostered the growth of more potentially pathogenic bacteria[10] .

Another interesting fact I found was that the Microwave was first invented by the Nazis (this really doesn’t surprise me).  I know the microwave is like a cell phone, “What did I ever do without this thing?!” It’s like the thneed in the Lorax, it’s something that everyone needs.  But honestly for people like us, people who want to be in the best shape and health, using a microwave depleats all the nutrients in your food.  Research shows that food cooked in a microwave suffers molecular damage. When eaten, it causes abnormal changes in human blood, and in the immune system.  But we aren’t told these things because the microwave is big business.  Just look at all the microwavable food you can buy and have a family meal cooked in minutes. Look at the ingredients of these foods.  Can you read or even know what any of them are?!

A Swiss food scientist named Dr. Hans Hertel was the first scientist to study the effects of microwaved foods on the blood and physiology of human beings.  Hertel wrote:  “There are no atoms, molecules, or cells of any organic system able to withstand such a violent, destructive power for any period of time. This will happen even given the microwave oven’s low power range of milliwatts.” He also stated that microwaving food increased cholesterol levels, decreased numbers of leukocytes (white blood cells) which can suggest poisoning, decreased numbers of red blood cells, created production of radiolytic compounds and decreased hemoglobin levels, which could indicate anemia.   Unfortunately in 1992 a Swiss trade organization filed a gag order against Hertel.  Because their were only 8 participates in his study, including him, his observations did not have a leg to stand on against the scientific big guns in his field.  However, his study does raise red flags about what this form of radiation is doing to our food and should be a stepping stone to more studies done on this cooking thneed, which everyone doesn’t need.

So I guess my point to this blog entry is what we think is helping us at the present time (breakfast, lunch and dinner) can be actually causing a lot of health problems in the future.  As a society we have been taught to hurry and do it now, and don’t worry about the consequences later, we’ll create a band-aid for it.   I’m not telling you to get rid of your microwave and change your lifestyle.  I am a single mom myself, I rush to work in the morning, workout in the evening, and rush home to prepare a wholesome meal.  It’s crazy. Yet I schedule my time around cooking food, in my cast iron pans, so I know my child and I have 3 nutritious meals a day, i.e. The Food Nazi. It’s interesting to visit other countries who revolve their lives around food and family.  They actually have time to do this.  And these countries do not tolerate all the food chemicals that the FDA allows in our food here in the US of A.  But that’s a whole other tangent as I stated earlier.

Other soap boxes I have include:  Monsanto The Evil Empire, Organic/ Superfood Eating and most recent the Paleo Lifestyle,  Montessori Education; Prepare your Children for Life, Protect Mother Earth and all it’s creatures, and why all who want to be fit and healthy should try CrossFit.

Thanks for reading.  I hope it wasn’t too much…I have those tendencies.


(7)Song K and Milner J A. “The influence of heating on the anticancer properties of garlic,” Journal of Nutrition 2001;131(3S):1054S-57S

(8)Watanabe F, Takenaka S, Abe K, Tamura Y, and Nakano Y. J. Agric. Food Chem. Feb 26 1998;46(4):1433-1436

(9) George D F, Bilek M M, and McKenzie D R. “Non-thermal effects in the microwave induced unfolding of proteins observed by chaperone binding,Bioelectromagnetics 2008 May;29(4):324-30

[10] Quan R (et al) “Effects of microwave radiation on anti-infective factors in human milk,” Pediatrics 89(4 part I):667-669.


~  Kelly Crabtree


Posted on: April 17, 2012admin

10 thoughts on “The Microwave: Friend or Foe?

  1. Wow! That’s a good read! Kellie and I were just talking last night about cast iron pans (mainly because Teflon can kill her birds… sorry darlin :), and we are planning to hit up my new favorite store Smith & Edwards this weekend. Good job Kelly! Very interesting!

  2. If I might add a little to what it does to water. The “radiation or wave” changes the waters structure affecting hydration and detox capabilities of the the water molocule itself. Next to breathing Water is the most important thing we can take into our bodies. Body weight in half equals ounces is a minimum of what we should be drinking. Check out a book “Hidden Messages in Water” or look online at some of the pictures or different water structures it might suprise you what you will learn. If you want to see your hydration level I can do that at Herbs for Health (27th and Washington) free of charge. Just tell me you are a crossfitter!
    Jeremy (Water Nazi)

  3. Sometimes I worry that these ideas about returning to “natural”/paleo/hunter gatherer life style come full circle, and we forget some of the reasons why we moved “forward.”

    Don’t cast iron pans contain lead? Can’t the lead be leached/deposited into the food you are preparing? Did we forget about kids eating lead based paint chips? =P.. I guess I turned out ok.

    I’m sure someone will have reputable research to suggest why cast iron pans are safe, I just want to see it.

  4. Actually, cast iron is just iron. When my son was a year old he had a high lead level from a vinyl lunch box I was using for his snacks. We live in Baltimore MD where they routinely test for lead because of the old homes. Long story short, after going to John Hopkins Hospital once a week to check blood and going to many specialists, hands down each one said use cast iron to cook, because it is the only natural, non-invasive way to get rid of lead (another heavy metal). And it is an excellent source of iron.

  5. Right, I was worried about the casting process used to make them. The cast material can leech elements from the casting tool.

    All of those bad boys are likely sand cast though, the finish looks pretty rough.

    Lead from vinyl is pretty crazy though.. wouldn’t have expected that.

  6. I don’t want to send you off on a tangent.. If the cast Iron is in fact pure Iron and not some alloy, I seriously doubt there is any significant amount. For sure those suckers are sand cast..

  7. My background is in chemistry and chemical engineering. In my field I also deal with many chemical reactions and the corresponding infrared (IR), ultraviolet (UV) and visible (VIS) light given off by such reactions, and how those types of light, or radiation, are absorbed by other objects, materials, and molecules.

    It is absolutely false that microwaves somehow alter the structure of water at some molecular or subatomic level… not out to burst a bubble, but the only thing worse than the lack of information is misinformation. Water is heated by absorption of energy (and conversely, cooled through energy loss).. this could be UV/VIS radiation (e.g., sun), IR radiation (e.g., heating element), microwave radiation, etc. It is all radiation, and the only difference is wavelength, which basically corresponds to how much energy the particular waves are packing. These different types of radiation do not change water’s structure and therefore do not change hydration potential. The only thing that changes is the energy content of the water molecule, which we typically measure indirectly by assessing water temperature. The higher the temperature the faster the average movement of water molecules moving around randomly. When they cool down, they move more slowly. Ultimately, if enough energy (heat) is removed, the molecules slow down enough in their motion that the forces from hydrogen bonding overtake forces exerted from the natural random motion of fluid molecules (aka “Brownian motion”), at which point you get ice. Once heated back up, the ice melts, and you are back to where you started. Water is water, and a microwave doesn’t change that.

    As far as breaking down some of the nutrients in certain foods and causing the release of certain chemicals in plastics (like BPA in polycarbonates), it is true, since enough heat (from any source) will lead to the same thing. However, the idea that a microwave makes food or drink more dangerous to consume is untrue… a microwave is simply another means to deliver energy to something to bring up the temperature.

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