Microwave Cooking – Are We Trading Convenience for Health?

Susan Patterson

The microwave, designed to be used as part of our spy efforts during World War ll, was discovered as a cooking tool quite by accident when it was found that radar waves melted candy bars. Microwave heating proved to be twice as quick as conventional cooking methods. The first microwave was unveiled in 1954.

By 1967, homes throughout America began using microwaves on a routine basis. Today, over 90% of all American homes have a microwave oven.

While what you eat is incredibly important to your overall health and well being, so are  your cooking methods.  Properly prepared, healthy food can nourish and rejuvenate the body. Food of any kind that is microwaved  becomes less than healthy and may even be dangerous.

Microwaves, a form of electromagnetic energy, are used for a number of purposes including relaying long distance phone signals, transporting computer information around the globe and cooking food. The high frequency radio waves move at about 2 billion cycles per second.

When food is heated in a microwave, water molecules within the food begin to move at a very high speed, turning to steam, which heats the food. Although the process is highly convenient and seemingly perfect for our fast paced culture, the entire chemical structure of food is altered.

No matter how convenient they may seem, microwave ovens are not particularly safe, and what they do to food is even more disconcerting.  An ever expanding body of research shows that radiation from the microwaves can leak, causing damage to human cells and tissues.

This frequently occurs when we stand too close to an oven while it is in use. Among noted side effects of this radiation are eye problems, depressed immune system function, increased risk of birth defects and cancer. It is recommended that if you must use a microwave to stand at least 3 feet back from it when it’s in use.

A 2010 study published in a peer review journal found that exposure to microwave radiation can cause irregular heartbeat, chest pain and pressure and may even elevate blood sugar.

What Happens to Microwaved Food?

Microwaved foods quickly become something they are not, forming dangerous substances known as radiolytic compounds. These compounds are not found in nature and are implicated in serious health conditions such as cancer, elevated cholesterol levels, decreased white blood cells, elevated stress and decreased hemoglobin. In addition, when you reheat, defrost or cook foods in a microwave, their nutrient quality is significantly depleted. Antibodies are reduced, and harmful bacteria can become prolific.

Other Microwave Dangers

Microwaved foods are heated unevenly, this encourages reheating which further damages the food. Another grave concern regarding microwave ovens is that carcinogenic toxins can seep out of plastic and paper containers and food covers. Common foods that are microwaved, including popcorn and pizza, have been found to leak three highly dangerous chemicals: polyethylene terephthalate, benzene toluene and xylene. In addition, fatty foods that are heated in plastic containers release dioxins, a known carcinogen, along with other toxins. Dishes used in the microwave may contain BPA, a chemical known to be an endocrine disruptor.


If the thought of going cold turkey on the microwave is too scary for you, start by cutting back on your use and making sure that you are using glass containers suitable for the microwave. Replacing your microwave for a convection or toaster oven is the best option. The long-term health implications of using a microwave have not been studied enough to rule out risks of both consuming radiated food and exposure to radiation while cooking. Health experts warn that if you must use a microwave, do so sparingly to heat up food, stand away from the microwave while cooking, and be sure to avoid processed foods that “require” microwave cooking.

Sources for this article include:

  • www.globalhealingcenter.com/health-hazards-to-know-about/microwave-ovens-the-proven-dangers
  • www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mercola/microwave-cancer_b_684662.html
  • www.safespaceprotection.com/electrostress-from-microwave-ovens.aspx
About the Author: Susan Patterson is a natural health writer with a passion for living well. Her writing includes regular contributions to some of the most visited health and wellness sites on the internet, e-books, and expert advice sites. As a Certified Health Coach, Master Gardener and Certified Metabolic Typing Advisor, Susan has helped many people move towards a better understanding of alternative health options. Susan practices what she writes and is an avid fitness enthusiast, whole foods advocate and pursuer of sustainable living. To read more articles by Susan, please visit HolisticCarePros.com.
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