Updated: August 8, 2021 7:13:35 pm
Many of us swear by the microwave to heat up our food, and sometimes even cook it. Just pop the food in a microwave-safe container, set the timer, and enjoy! But while there is no denying the convenience and accessibility of a microwave, have you ever thought if it could be harmful to your health?
To help you understand more, Eshanka Wahi, a culinary nutrition coach shares some important point highlighting why microwaves may not be a piece of healthy equipment after all.
1. Microwaves are a form of “electromagnetic” radiation
Electromagnetic radiations are waves of electrical and magnetic energy moving together through space. “Microwave food changes our body chemistry precipitating a change in the pH level from alkaline to acidic. And an acidic body can neither lose weight nor absorb all the nutrients from food. One of the reasons for weight gain. Eating microwaved food causes loss of memory, concentration, emotional instability, and a decrease of intelligence,” the nutritionist explained.
2. Heating your food in the micro oven can strip away its original nutrients
Wahi added that “vegetables lose some of their nutritional value in the microwave. For example, microwaving has been found to remove 97 per cent of the flavonoids – plant compounds with anti-inflammatory benefits – in broccoli. What may have started as a nutritious plate of food quickly evolves into “dead food” due to the dielectric heating of microwaves. Just like in the case of broccoli, it goes through a third more damage than by boiling.”
“The health benefits of the vitamin B-12 present in food items are also instantly negated once heated in a microwave,” she said.
She further highlighted the harm of microwave heating during breastfeeding. “If you are breastfeeding, the powerful bacteria-fighting agents that are present in breast milk are also destroyed by microwave heating. It also damages the nutrients and antibodies that are present in the breast milk. Sometimes because of uneven heating temperatures, microwaves can cause what are called “hot spots” in a baby’s breast milk.”
3. Food heated in plastic can have life-damaging impacts
The nutrition coach said “foods that are cooked in microwaves in plastic containers can put you at risk of infertility, diabetes, obesity, and cancer. It can cause high blood pressure, affect fertility, and damage brain functioning. The plastic containers used to heat microwave meals release the carcinogens along with the other harmful toxins into your food which is then absorbed by the body. As food is microwaved mostly in plastic containers and wrapping, risk against ingesting phthalates. As when exposed to heat, plastic additives can break down and leach into food. Phthalates are one of the most commonly used plasticisers, used in plastic things and have been found to disrupt hormones and our metabolic system.”
4. Changes in blood and heart rate
“Microwaves can produce effects on your body instantly due to the 2.4GHz radiation- the frequency of radiation emitted by microwave ovens. The levels are within federal safety guidelines but tend to cause immediate and dramatic changes in the heart rate. If you experience irregular heartbeat or any chest pain and regularly eat microwaved food, it is best to discontinue use. The non-ionizing radiation of the microwave can affect changes in your blood and your heart rate. Microwaving food leads to food degeneration which can lead to elevated blood sugar levels,” she added.
5. Weakens your immune system and gut health
According to the nutritionist, “microwaves can weaken your immune system. It reduces your resistance to bacterial and viral infections. It affects our digestive system negatively, making weight loss difficult, killing nutrients in our food thereby silently impacting our immune system. It’s the reheating of food in the microwave that was messing up the digestive system. Continuous ingestion of microwaved food causes immune system deficiencies through lymph gland and blood serum alterations.”
While Nutritionist Karishma Shah agrees that nutrients do get affected because of the high temperature of the microwave, she says: “The harmful effects of eating food cooked in a microwave are rare and happen only when used in a large-scale manner. The adverse effects happen when you are using a microwave to cook daily, for all three meals. Thus, I don’t feel there is any need to be scared of using microwaves. You can use a microwave for baking cookies, muffins, pizzas or french fries.”
She, however, suggests you “keep the usage as limited as possible”.
“If you are someone who really struggles with time management, occasional use of microwave is completely okay and won’t have any significant harmful impact on your health. It is feasible to use a microwave to have home-cooked food when you are running short on time, as opposed to completely shunning its use and having food outside. Use a microwave in a smart, balanced and effective manner,” she tells indianexpress.com.
Agrees nutritionist Soumya B Hegde. “The microwave has several harmful effects as it isn’t a natural way of cooking. It can, however, be used when you are in a hurry as it saves a lot of time. Breastfeeding mothers can, sometimes, use a microwave if they are running short on time. They shouldn’t solely depend on it.”
“I would suggest using microwaves for western dishes as opposed to traditional Indian dishes that require a range of methods and techniques,” she adds.