Microwave Ovens Reduce Food Nutrient Content
If you’re old enough to remember life before microwave ovens, then you certainly remember all the discussion that happened a few years after they became popular about a possible link to cancer. While that has never been proven in any large scale studies, what we do know for sure is that microwaving destroys much of the nutrient content in food, far more than traditional cooking, and that can impact health over time.
Inside and Out
Traditional ovens heat slowly from the outside in, whereas microwave ovens heat very quickly from the inside out. Microwave ovens use alternating current to bombard the molecules, cells and atoms of food with electromagnetic radiation at very high frequencies, causing them to reverse polarity up to one billion times per second. This extreme agitation of the water molecules in the food creates friction, which forces them to convert to steam, heating the food from the inside out in a fraction of the ordinary time. Simultaneously, this violent action damages the chemical structure of other molecules in the food through a process called structural isomerism, rendering them dead or inactive. Because of this effect, microwaving food destroys much of its nutrient content.
A study published in The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture showed that microwaves cause broccoli to lose up to 97% of its beneficial antioxidants, compared to just 11% when it was steamed.
Scandinavian researchers found asparagus, high in antioxidants and anti-cancer properties, loses a significant amount of its vitamins when exposed to microwaves. An Australian study found that microwaves alter the structure of protein in food more than conventional ovens when heated to the same temperature and cause a greater level of protein unfolding. Garlic is an extremely powerful food for healing, but it only takes 60 seconds of microwave exposure to render its anti-cancer active ingredient, the enzyme alliinase, useless.
Since the dawn of the microwave oven, it has become very popular to use one to heat a baby’s bottle in a matter of seconds. For the obvious reasons, however, that’s not a good idea. Microwaves have been found to destroy the immune-boosting agents in breast milk that are essential for babies to develop a strong immune system. They also cause a decrease in lysozyme activity and antibodies in breast milk, which aids the growth of pathogenic bacteria. In fact, research shows more damage is done to breast milk by microwaving than any other form of heating.
A Japanese study found that 40% of B12 is destroyed in milk after just six minutes of microwave heating. Although it might take a few more minutes, it’s very important to maintain the time-honored tradition of either heating a baby’s bottle under warm tap water or in a small pot of water on the stovetop.
An additional concern with microwaves heating to high temperatures so quickly is the opportunity for chemicals in plastic containers to leach into the foods they contain. Many of these chemicals, like bisphenol A (BPA) are powerful endocrine disruptors. When exposed to heat, this leaching process accelerates. In fact, when plastic is exposed to boiling water, the leaching of BPA is 55 times greater than at room temperature.
Although many food containers are labeled as “microwave safe”, it’s highly recommended that if you choose to microwave your food, to empty the contents into a glass bowl before doing so. Although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that all plastic food containers intended for microwave use be labeled as microwave safe, it’s much better to err on the side of caution.
Plastic is still a petroleum product that contains many chemicals vulnerable to heat exposure. So if you’re choosing nutrient dense food as part of a healthy lifestyle, as we all should, be sure to get the maximum impact from it and consider investing a little more time in conventional cooking. Your body will thank you for it.
For more health insights from Dr. Sadeghi, please visit beingclarity.com to sign up for the monthly newsletter or check out his annual health and well-being journal, MegaZEN here. For daily messages of encouragement and humor, follow him on Instagram at @drhabibsadeghi.