Ditch the microwave… Hunh?!? What?!?
Wait, now… Just hear me out for a second. Those of us born more than a couple of decades ago can honestly attest to the fact that there was life before the microwave oven. Is it a convenient small appliance? You betcha’! Is it a healthful small appliance? Well, that’s a little more difficult to answer. Sam and I both believe it is not, even though we approach this issue from two completely different directions. There’s a lot of information out there to back us both, but I’ll just keep it simple and share what I know from personal experience, as well as what I have learned from Sam. (He has a Science and Physics background, and knows an awful lot about an awful lot of things.)
Okay, so for the sake of this post, I’m going to assume you have no background knowledge about microwaves. Ready? First, watch this short clip:
As the presenter Ben said, microwaves are a type of wave on the electromagnetic spectrum. The density of the waves determine where they are plotted on the spectrum. Radio waves are the least dense, followed by television, followed by microwave, followed by infra red, then visible light, then ultra violet light, and finally X-rays — which are the most dense. When I asked Sam how things are heated, he told me that your microwave oven “…is attenuated to the natural frequency of molecules being vibrated to produce heat.” (I wrote that bit down so I could quote him directly. You should seriously hear our nightly dinner conversations!) Ben explains it in more simple terms: “Waves in this frequency range have an interesting property: they’re absorbed by water, fats and sugars. Once absorbed, they’re converted directly into atomic motion — heat.” So, basically, a microwave oven acts as a food molecule agitator. In other words, it causes the molecules to vibrate, and the movement of food molecules at just the right vibration (frequency) creates heat. With me so far?
So, why should you ditch your microwave oven? It’s easy to use! It’s super convenient! It serves you hot, pre-packaged deliciousness in under 3 minutes! You can’t imagine life without it!
In a nutshell? Two reasons: one is about science and the other about habit. Both reasons have a huge impact on your health.
Reason 1, The Science:
During our discussion, I asked Sam if, in his opinion, microwave ovens are unsafe. Here’s what he had to say: “I could see how the uneven heating — because molecules are not all homogenous and even within foods — could be problematic.” He then went on to tell me about recent news releases by the World Health Organization, who have begun publicly backing findings about the dangers of overheating meat protein, red meats in particular. Basically, if you overheat meat protein to a specific extent, it creates carcinogens, which we all know have the potential to cause cancer.
Reason 2, Habituation:
This is where I come in — the crazy lady who took our microwave oven out of the kitchen. I didn’t do it for the “sciencey” reason, although it is a compelling one. I did it because after much self-reflection, I realized that I didn’t own or have access to a microwave oven during the healthiest periods of my life! By nature, I am a very habit-bound creature — I easily fall into rhythms which allow me to do a lot of stuff on autopilot, saving both time and effort. Over a period of years, the microwave oven became a very bad habit, one which encouraged me to subsist on a steady diet of completely processed convenience foods which were full of bad fats, sugars, sodium, chemical preservatives and colorants, as well as empty calories and very little nutrition.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “What the heck does all of this have to do with the holidays?” Please check back later in this holiday series for Part Two — and the answer to that very question!
Creative Commons Photo Credits:
“A Lonely Microwave Dinner” courtesy of Corie Howell