My name is camille.
I ask a lot of questions.
MICROWAVES: PART I
Are microwaves really the UFO's of our kitchens, as depicted here? (Okay, maybe without the "flying" part).
I've been asked a lot of questions recently concerning the effects of this technological revolution. Does it kill the "good things" in the supposedly "healthy" foods we're heating up? Isn't this counterproductive? Are we exposing ourselves to cancer by using it?
I started thinking about these questions when I moved into my last place. It was temporary, and lacked a microwave when my roommates and I moved in. Being the broke and somewhat misguided college students we were, we never got around to buying one.
I never quite understood the saying, "you don't know what you have until it's gone" until I lived without a microwave for a year. Before, I never thought twice about heating up my coffee. But suddenly, I had nowhere to turn. No screen to stare at, no conveniently labeled settings to press.
I'm slightly ashamed to admit that the question of how-one-actually-heats-up coffee-without-a-microwave did initially pass my mind. But I quickly kicked into gear, grabbed a small pan, and set my heat to low.
I cannot lie, heating food on the stove does take longer. At times (again, ashamed to admit) I wouldn't bother because I knew it would take the time. But soon, I found that heating my food on the stove made my food taste better. And as I learned the satisfaction of patience, I began touting the belief that I would never return to the microwave ever, ever again. And enlightened-ol'-me moved off...to her next place...with a microwave.
While at first I resisted, it soon became too tempting to pop my coffee in the microwave rather than to forget I left my coffee heating on the stove (again) to find it burnt (again).
So I made the decision to only use the microwave to heat coffee.
Then one day I found myself late, running out the door, holding a cold plate of leftovers in my hands. I looked at my food. I looked at the microwave. I looked at the time.
That's it, I caved. But if it is any consolation, I didn't want to! I still don't, but the truth is that the microwave is so much easier. But because I am devoted to the best ways of life, and not the easiest, I decided to find out the truth about these little heating devices.
So from my most devoted attempts to be unbiased about this situation (though you can see where I lean), I present the research:
THE MICROWAVE DEBATE: IT'S REALLY NOT
It appears the debate between whether-microwaves-leech-ingredients-out-of-your-food-or-not isn't actually much of a debate at all.
It turns out, there is really only discretion between scientific opinion and pseudoscience. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide (June 2008 update) encourages families to use microwaves if they are cooking healthy meals. Apparently, some vitamins and minerals break down under heat, but that applies to any type of cooking, whether in the microwave or the oven (Harvard 2008). In fact, in general, the longer these nutrients are cooked, the more they deteriorate. Because microwaves heat foods in a significantly shorter amount of time, medical journals have gone so far as to say, "cooking with a microwave probably does a better job of preserving the nutrient content of foods because the cooking times are shorter." (Harvard 2008).
Can you believe that?!
I couldn't. So I looked some more.
But It turns out that the more science-based sources actually do agree with this opinion.
The opposing views were not able to retaliate this conclusion quite so well. They mostly condemned microwaves for their radiation levels (more on this in a minute). When they did decide to blame microwaves for destroying the nutrition itself, they used a lot of questionable language, such as quoting an Australian study that claimed microwaves "cause a higher degree of 'protein unfolding' than conventional heating" (Mercola). Here, one has to be aware of scientific jargon because really, any cooking of a protein will cause protein unfolding. But like in a beaded bracelet (where the amino acids are the beads and the whole bracelet is the protein), changing the shape ("unfolding") of the string (the protein) will not add or delete any of the beads (the amino acids--the important part!).
Another specific word chosen by "all-natural" sources for this pseudoscience debate is "dead". Specifically, they claim that microwaves cause food to be "dead". CAUTION: this is a vague attempt to persuade readers that there is no nutritional value in a food, when, as Steven Novella of the Science-Based Medicine site explained, food cells are nearly ALWAYS DEAD WHEN THEY REACH YOU. In most cases, they have been killed or started dying once picked! In any case, it is not nutritionally valuable that a cell is alive or not--the importance lies in the nutritional components of that food (Science-Based Medicine). Still, in any case, cooking alone will kill the cells of the food you are choosing to cook, whether in a microwave or oven. The fear of a food being "dead" is another matter altogether (one that would lead a person to choose a "raw" diet or not).
So we now know that microwaves don't necessarily deplete the nutrient content of our foods! That really depends more on the effects of our cooking method (cooked, raw, steamed, boiled, etc).
If you want to hear about our last concern with microwaves--whether or not they're considered carcinogenic--come back next week! We're going to simplify how a microwave works in order to investigate! Stay tuned :)
http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/updates/Microwave-cooking-and-nutrition.shtml (accessed Aug. 31, 2014).
http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/microwaves-and-nutrition/ (accessed Aug. 31, 2014).
http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/21/health/upwave-microwaving-food/ (accessed Sept. 1, 2014).
http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/studies-show-microwaves-drastically-reduce-nutrients-food (accessed Sept. 1, 2014).
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/05/18/microwave-hazards.aspx (accessed Sept. 1, 2014).
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kp33ZprO0Ck (accessed Aug. 31, 2014).
My name is Camille.