We’ve all heard the stories about the dangers of microwaves—how they zap the nutrition right out of your food and leave behind toxins and harmful radiation. But how many of those horror stories are fact, and which ones are fable? Scroll through to find out whether or not you need to kick your electronic box to the curb!
The microwave heats food through microwave radiation. Before you let the word "radiation" scare you, it's important to understand that electromagnetic radiation exists over a wide range of wavelengths. Each level of radiation has different effects on the molecules they hit, thus causing different reactions. Microwaves cause the rotation of water molecules in food to create heat, warming the other food molecules around them. Ever wonder why you have hot and cold spots in microwave-heated food? Pockets of water create hot spots.
Contrary to popular belief, food heated in a microwave oven has the same reduction in nutritional value as food cooked or heated via conventional methods. False claims state microwaves denature proteins, reduce vitamins, and create toxic chemicals. In reality, all cooking denatures protein—denaturing is when a protein has unfolded and lost its three-dimensional shape. Essentially, denaturation changes the structure of protein but does not affect the nutritional value. One microwave-exposure study found no significant differences in the vitamin C, riboflavins, or protein-bound amino acids of microwaved foods. Actually, microwave cooking may allow foods to retain a greater amount of their essential vitamins and minerals than boiling since no water is added and the process is faster.
Toxins are another story. Toxins come from the containers used to heat food. Whether you are using a nonstick pan or microwaving in plastic, both leach toxic chemicals into food. A recent study published in May 2014 actually concluded BPA-free products made from acrylic, polystyrene, polyethersulfone, and plastics like Tritan leach chemicals with estrogen-like activity.
Back to the issue of radiation. Let’s compare a cell phone to your microwave. The FDA requires that a microwave emit no more than 5 mW/cm squared of radiation two inches from the box. And microwave radiation dissipates quickly. Stand just two feet away from a microwave in use and the microwaves will not interact with your body. On the other hand, a mobile phone held 3.5 centimeters from your body creates levels of 10–40 μW/cm squared during a call and 0.35–10.5 μW/cm squared on silent. The real question is how often are you actually using a headset to keep the phone 3.5 centimeters from your body?
The other good news is in terms of microwaves is that in general real microwave emissions seem to stay below the federally mandated maximum radiation. A study published in 2013 found that the microwave radiation leakage measured one meter from the microwave averaged 3.64 mW/cm squared.
The bottom line? Just because microwaves give off little to no harmful radiation doesn’t mean we aren’t still getting exposed to more radiation and a bigger toxic load than our bodies can handle on a daily basis. To lower your radiation exposure, wear a headset when using your mobile phone and position your phone as far from your body as possible, put your mobile phone in airplane mode on the far side of your room when you sleep, and whenever you are able, turn off your Wi-Fi router box at night, keep your router outside of your bedroom, and use electromagnetic field-shielding products when available. Work on a laptop? Place SYB MacBook Skin (£29) under your computer to shield your body from 100% of the magnetic fields.
To lower the amount of toxins you ingest, use ceramic, stainless steel, or copper pots and pans when cooking on a stovetop; use glass cookware to heat or cook food in the microwave; buy organic or pesticide-free produce; choose grass-fed, wild, hormone-free, nitrate-free, and organic proteins when possible; and drink from a glass or stainless steel water bottle. And remember: Never drink from an old water bottle that has been left in a warm car—plastic water bottles leach estrogen-like hormones into water.
Do you take any of these radiation- and toxin-reducing steps in your everyday life? Tell us below!