Microwave and health issues

Is This Common Kitchen Appliance Harmful for You?

Here’s the truth about microwaves.

The microwave can be summed up as the most commonly found kitchen appliance in most homes. It’s also the most feared for its so-called ‘harmful radiation’. It will be a rare microwave user who hasn’t heard of or worried about its use on health and food. From supposedly destroying all the nutrients in food to being compared to cancer-causing X-rays and ultraviolet rays, microwaves have been subjected to a lot of fear-mongering – and that is exactly what we will be exploring. By the end of this article, you will be ready to make an informed decision about them.

The Physics of It All

Let’s start by refreshing our memory with some basic high school physics. We were taught that there are a variety of electromagnetic waves (think: beams of energy) including visible light waves, gamma waves, radio waves, and microwaves. So, microwaves are high frequency waves. They:

  1. can be reflected off metallic materials (which is why you are told you shouldn’t put metal in a microwave).
  2. can pass through materials like glass and plastic (which is why you can heat food in glass containers and plastic that is not microwave-safe gets damaged).
  3. can be absorbed by materials like water (which is why you can boil water or other liquids in a microwave oven).

Inside the microwave oven, the emitted microwaves are absorbed by the molecules in food, causing the molecules to vibrate and creating heat that cooks or heats up the food. Basically, quantum physics are at play here and water molecules in food, which tend to be electrically polarised (meaning they have positively and negatively charged ends) and can be flipped by microwaves that have a specific amount of energy. It also means that you can’t cook anything in a microwave if it does not have enough moisture in it.

Microwaves are contained within the microwave oven and, as long as the door is undamaged and closes properly, it is safe to use this appliance in the kitchen. The waves do not stay in the food – they just excite the molecules – so there is no health risk from consuming microwaved food other than the potential of burning your hands or mouth from food that is too hot. There is a lot of fearmongering regarding the radiation produced, but compared to the rest of modern technology (cars, aeroplanes, or mobile phones), microwaves are nothing to worry about.

kitchen countertop with microwave

Does Cooking in a Microwave Oven Affect Food Quality?

There has been no significant nutritional difference detected between conventional cooking methods and microwaving. In general, there are no negative effects of using microwaves over any other cooking method (just don’t burn the food, which goes for every method). As well as being super convenient and useful, sticking to healthy eating is so much easier when you know you can warm up some homemade chicken and veggie noodles at work for lunch, rather than eating it cold.

As microwaving is a fast method of cooking, it actually may help some foods like vegetables retain nutrients that are lost during longer cooking times. In fact, microwave cooking has been shown to produce the lowest antioxidant losses in 20 vegetables when compared to pressure-cooking, boiling, or frying in this study. That’s really good news.

Is It Safe to Microwave Plastic?

It is safe to microwave plastic if the product explicitly says ”microwave safe”. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognised the potential for small amounts of plasticisers to migrate into food long ago, so it closely regulates plastic containers and materials that come into contact with food. The FDA requires manufacturers to validate these containers using tests that meet FDA standards and specifications. It then reviews test data before approving a container for microwave use.

Some of these tests measure the migration of chemicals at temperatures that the container or wrap is likely to encounter during ordinary use. For microwave approval, the agency estimates the ratio of plastic surface area to food, how long the container is likely to be in the microwave, how often a person is likely to eat from the container, and how hot the food can be expected to get during microwaving.

Regulators also measure chemicals that leach into food and the extent to which they migrate in different kinds of food. The maximum allowable amount is 100-1,000 times less per pound of body weight than the amount shown to harm laboratory animals over a lifetime of use. Only containers that pass this test can display a microwave-safe icon, the words ”microwave safe”, or words to the effect that they’re approved for use in microwave ovens.

Common Electrical Hazards With Kitchen Appliances

What about containers without a microwave-safe label? They aren’t necessarily unsafe; the FDA simply hasn’t determined whether it is safe or not, so it’s your call to decide. Personally, I would use only those with the above label. Quoting my mentor and nutrition guru Martin MacDonald, “Remember, variety is the spice of life, so eat some foods raw, some others cooked, baked, boiled, steamed, microwaved. And that is about the only thing that unanimously brings about healthful outcomes.”

Ignore statements such as: microwave ovens will mess with your body’s energy fields; they use radiation that could be cancer-causing; they cause changes in HDL, LDL, white blood cells; or they will increase cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) that get easily absorbed in the gut and enter the bloodstream causing inflammation. Another classic? “They mess with your hormones.”

This is blatant misrepresentation of reality and, at best, will distract people from doing what they have to, which is to choose healthy habits to support an overall healthy lifestyle. This entails eating whole foods, moderating your food intake and matching it with your individual needs and goals, sleeping well, being consciously active, staying hydrated, and managing yourself around people and things that trigger a stress response by engaging in yoga or breathing exercises.

food vegetables in microwave

All of these are things we can focus on when it comes to prevention or delay in onset of diseases. Essentially, microwaves don’t make foods radioactive. They just heat them. It has never been proven that microwaves cause any harm through the foods we cook with them and, therefore, you shouldn’t worry every time you want to heat up that pot of soup or those leftover baked beans – as long as you follow the instructions that came with your microwave.

These include closing its door properly before hitting the start button as well as replacing old and broken microwaves. Use this nifty gadget without fear if you find it useful and convenient. You don’t need to use the microwave if it’s not your thing. I am not here to convince you to use it; I just want you to choose facts over fear.

Lovely Ranganath is a licensed clinical dietician in Dubai. Visit @good.food.guru for more information.


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Revitalise After Feasting: A Post-Thanksgiving Workout Regimen to Recharge Your Body

Revive, Recharge, Thrive

As the Thanksgiving feast fades into fond memories, it’s time to give your body the attention it deserves. In this post-feasting recovery guide, we’ll explore a tailored workout regimen designed to revitalise your body, recharge your energy, and counterbalance the indulgences of the holiday season.

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1. Wake Up the Body with Cardio Bursts:

Kickstart your post-Thanksgiving regimen with invigorating cardio bursts. Whether it’s a brisk morning walk, a jog, or a dance session, get your heart pumping and awaken your body from its food-induced slumber.

2. Core-Strengthening Pilates:

Engage your core muscles with a Pilates session to restore balance and stability. These low-impact exercises are perfect for toning and strengthening, providing a gentle yet effective workout for your post-feast body.

3. Yoga for Digestive Ease:

Explore a sequence of yoga poses designed to aid digestion and promote relaxation. Gentle twists and stretches will help soothe your stomach and release tension, leaving you feeling rejuvenated.

4. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):

Inject a burst of energy with HIIT exercises to elevate your heart rate and boost your metabolism. Short, intense intervals followed by rest periods are an efficient way to burn off excess calories and jumpstart your fitness routine.

5. Mindful Cool Down with Stretching:

Wind down your workout with mindful stretching. Focus on areas that may have tightened during the holiday festivities, allowing your body to recover and preventing post-feast stiffness.

As you embrace this post-Thanksgiving workout regimen, remember that it’s not about punishment but restoring balance. This curated routine aims to invigorate your body, clear your mind, and set the tone for a healthy and active holiday season. So, lace up those sneakers, roll out the yoga mat, and let’s embark on a journey to revitalise and recharge after the Thanksgiving feast.

Frequently Asked Questions

How soon after Thanksgiving should I start this workout regimen?

The post-Thanksgiving workout regimen can be started as early as the day after the feast. However, listen to your body, and if needed, allow a day or two for digestion before engaging in more intense exercises.

Can I customize the workout routine based on my fitness level?

Absolutely! Tailor the regimen to suit your fitness level and preferences. Modify intensity, duration, or choose alternative exercises to ensure a comfortable and effective workout experience.

Is it necessary to follow the entire workout routine, or can I focus on specific exercises?

Feel free to adapt the regimen to your needs. While the full routine provides a well-rounded approach, you can choose specific exercises based on your preferences or focus on areas that feel particularly tight or in need of attention.


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