In the last few months, I’ve been delving into my studies with great enthusiasm. Some of it I agree, with, other areas, not so much. But one area of study has me befuddled.
That area of study has to do with microwave ovens. Microwave ovens were not part of any household when I was a child. In fact, I remember our first one vividly. My sister (who is about 15 years older than me) gave my mother one for Christmas one year. I remember my mother letting it sit for a week before finally using it to make herself a cup of instant coffee. She was actually a bit scared about using it. I don’t recall her letting my brother or myself use it for quite a while.
But a microwave oven has been an part of my kitchen since I moved out. I don’t use it for cooking, more for defrosting and reheating, but I’m starting to question that usage as well after reading my book. Of course for me, I have to go through the research and find out and even there I’m not sure.
Most people are aware of the concept of how microwaves work via electromagnetic energy, heating the cells of the food rather than the container. One thing that is clear is that government regulation requires that microwave ovens contain the microwaves within them. Even so, the government recommends that people not stand in front of a microwave oven that is on. I’ve known about this for a long time. It wasn’t, and still isn’t an issue for me.
But other areas are cause for concern. Superheating is one area that while annoying, can also be dangerous, and is something I just don’t want to deal with. I’ve had this happen. I’ve heated up water in a microwave and began to remove it only to have the water “blow up” in front of me. To this day, I never heat water in the microwave alone, always with something in it (a tea bag, etc) to not have this happen. But again, I know this is a possibility and I work around it.
There are dangers when you heat foods in plastic that can then release some of the chemicals. For safety’s sake, take your food out of your plastic storageware and heat it on microwave safe glass or ceramic.
There are numerous articles about the dangers of heating baby formula in a microwave, specifically since microwaves heat unevenly and what feels at the right temperature to a parent, might be too hot in another non-tested part of the bottle for a baby.
But more important to me is the idea that a microwave might change the substances it heats up. There are a lot of references on the internet (and I did find a reference to the case) about a woman who was in the hospital for hip surgery. She received a transfusion of her own blood. While it is common for blood transfusions to be warmed, they are not warmed using microwave ovens. Apparently someone warmed the blood for the transfusion in a microwave oven and she subsequently died of a blood clot. The implication is that the microwave changed the blood. But I can’t find anything definitive on that. There are also some studies cited regarding changes in the chemical structure of the food which were done in both Russia and Switzerland. While my study book argues that this is definitive, I can’t find corroborating evidence.
The argument is that microwaving food changes the nature of the food and can be cancer causing. The evidence is mixed, and none of the actual studies can be found.
So while I’m not totally convinced that microwaving foods are bad for me, but I’m not totally unconvinced either. I don’t actually cook with my microwave and if you do, you might want to reconsider. Most of what I have used a microwave for is reheating foods and for defrosting.
I decided to try to get by without my microwave for a month. I mostly succeeded, but not totally. Microwaves make it easy to decide what to have for dinner at the last-minute. If what I wanted for dinner is still in the freezer, I can simply toss it in the microwave to defrost. Now I need to decide what to make the night before. More forethought and planning. I pretty much managed to not use it for defrosting (but did so a few times when I forgot). I also stopped heating up the ice tea mix I make. I’ve begun heating water in a sauce pan instead.
The hardest part has been heating up leftovers. It’s just so darned easy in a microwave. Also “zapping” meats that came out a little too rare for my taste. But other than that I didn’t use my microwave much at all.
While I’m not totally subscribing to the fear mongering, the idea is giving me pause. So I’m not giving up my microwave yet. But I’m not totally sure I’ll replace it when it stops working either.
What do you think about microwaves?
- Is a Microwave Dangerous? Fact vs. Myth. – ZocDoc
- The Myths About the Dangers of Microwave Ovens – HubPages
- The Proven Dangers of Microwaves – Mercola
- Does Microwaving food really change it’s chemical composition? – Yahoo! Answers
- Does Microwave Cooking Rob Food of its Nutrients – CNN Health
- Boil on Troubled Waters – Snopes
- Boiling Point – Snopes
- Safe Microwave Heating of Infant Formula – Washington Pediatric