Over the years my microwave has served 3 purposes: a clock, a perch for my cat, and a timer for my hundred year old oven which lacks one. Truth be told, I've lived many years happily without a microwave in my kitchen. Then one day I had one given to me so I took it. Since then I've used it to heat my magic bean bag pillow when i've had cramps and maybe to reheat the odd meal every couple of months.
So there it sat, lonely and sad, until one day I received an email from someone needing a microwave. It took me all of two seconds to make my decision and there - it was gone. Do I miss it? Not in the least.
Do We Need Microwaves?
The fact is, following a predominantly holistic diet renders the microwave useless and obsolete. Think about it: microwaves are normally used for cooking TV dinners, pizza pops, and microwaved popcorn. Who needs these things when we have stir-frys, smoothies and kale chips! And the odd time you need to reheat a holistic entree, why not throw it in a pot? It literally only takes a few minutes longer.
How Microwaves Work
The microwave is more convenient, you say. But does this convenience outweigh the long-term risks? Let's dig a little deeper. Microwaves heat food by causing water molecules to resonate at very high frequencies creating steam which eventually heats your food. But we have to ask ourselves, by tampering with foods on a molecular level what kind of damage are we causing to its nutrients?
Microwaves and Nutrient Loss
There has been surprisingly little research done in terms of nutrient loss in microwaved food, but all studies seem to point in the same direction. A study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that microwaved broccoli lost up to 97 percent of its antioxidants, in comparison to steamed broccoli which lost 11 percent less. A study on garlic showed that only 60 seconds of microwaving was enough to deactivate allicin, it's famous cancer-fighting compound. While many of us are accustomed to using microwaves for things like steaming vegetables, we have to ask ourselves: is it really that much harder to steam it in a pot of boiling water?
Another issue with microwaves is that when foods are heated in plastic, these containers can leach carcinogenic substances into your food. Among the worst contaminants are bisphenol A (otherwise known as BPA), which mimics estrogen and can cause a slew of hormonal imbalances in the human body. BPA is so common in most plastics that newer products are now being advertised as 'BPA-free' because of rising consumer awareness.
Better Alternatives to Convenience Food
So what is there to eat if we get rid of the oh-so-convenient microwave? There are many healthy things we can grab in a pinch that don't require microwaving:
a piece of fresh fruit
raw vegetable sticks + hummus
whole grain crackers + nut butter
a handful raw nuts
home-made raw energy bars
As for reheating last night's dinner, just throw a little olive oil or coconut oil in a pot, toss in your dish, stir it often, and it'll be done in no time. As for the added fat (because I know some of you out there are thinking that), think of it this way: the added nutrients you get from these heart-healthy oils are far better than the toxins and destroyed nutrients you get in your lower-fat microwaved food. So next time you're tempted to nuke something, ask yourself if you have an extra two minutes. The nutrients you save will be well worth it.
Monica is a holistic nutritionist / Reiki practitioner / personal trainer practicing in the Toronto area. She has a passion for cooking and creative work and encourages her clients to pursue their passions. Check out her Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Singing-Nutritionist/423241491066957