Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Glimpse into Eco-Babyz #22: Life without a microwave

Mug in Microwave 1

Why would you want to live without a microwave anyway? How about some proof it is actually harmful? Is it even possible to live without a microwave? Isn't there no substitute that would be as convenient? Those are all questions that moms ask me when I tell them we don't have a microwave in our house.

Why we don't want one and how is it harmful: To me personally just the fact alone that microwaving changes the chemical composition of food is reason enough to not use it [1][2][3][4]. Humans, like me, are biologically designed to digest edible things - like plants and vegetables. If we in some way change the basic protein and nutrient structure of what we eat, how do we know what it will do to our bodies? Or should I say, how is it possible it would do nothing?

The thing is, there are very few studies that explore how the human body responds to consuming microwaved food. In other words, this freely distributed device present in nearly every home has never been adequately studied for safety. Those who tried to shed light on the subject with their research findings, such as Hans Hertel of Switzerland, were silenced by industry [5].

Is there any common sense in saying that microwaves destroy many vitamins and protective properties of breast milk (and formula), and then saying it doesn't do anything to other food or drink? How can it alter one and not the other? Are we supposed to buy this sort of 'science'?

"In the April 1992 journal Pediatrics, research appeared warning that microwaving human milk, even at a low setting, can destroy some of its important disease-fighting capabilities. Pediatrician John A. Kerner, Jr. and his co-workers at Stanford University reported that when breast milk was microwaved it lost lysozyme activity and antibodies, and fostered the growth of more potentially pathogenic bacteria. These adverse changes, which occur at even low temperatures, suggest that the process of microwaving itself may in fact cause some injury to the milk above and beyond the heating. Milk heated at a high setting (72 degrees C to 98 degrees C) lost 96 percent of its immunoglobulin-A antibodies, agents that fend off invading microbes."
"Microwaving baby formulas converted certain trans-amino acids into their synthetic cis-isomers. Synthetic isomers, whether cis-amino acids or trans-fatty acids, are not biologically active. Further, one of the amino acids, L-proline, was converted to its d-isomer, which is known to be neurotoxic (poisonous to the nervous system) and nephrotoxic (poisonous to the kidneys). It's bad enough that many babies are not nursed, but now they are given fake milk (baby formula) made even more toxic via microwaving."
To put it simply, I am not willing to sacrifice the health of my family for the sake of convenience. That's a pretty high price to pay, don't you think?

How we survive without one: Living without a microwave is easier than you think. When I became pregnant and discovered how uncertain microwave safety is, here is what we did and the benefits we've gained.

1. First, we simply unplugged and removed the microwave from the kitchen. We placed it in the laundry area where it would be impossible to use it (to later sell it or give it away, which we did).

2. Whenever we need to reheat leftovers, I use our toaster oven. Amazingly our cheap Oster one has been working great without any issues for 4 years. I usually just heat solids at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

3. For liquids I use our stove top. It takes about 30 seconds to bring something to room temperature out of the fridge and about three minutes to heat soup. It's not like I spend an eternity standing there waiting for it. For lunch I put soup on the stove, after I change baby E's diaper the soup is ready to eat. I always heat in our stainless steel pans.

4. Not having a microwave has caused me to be more intentional and thoughtful about the food I feed my family. Instead of throwing something pre-made in there one minute before dinner time, I make more nutritious meals that rely on raw ingredients from scratch. I also make a lot more salads since it is fast and convenient without needing any heating method. I also make a lot of sandwiches with the bread I make, it is fast, convenient, needs no heating, and absolutely delicious! We eat fresh vegetables almost with every meal. This was not the case when we had a microwave just because convenience topped nutrition at that point in our lives. Again, it comes down to what you value more, health and nutrition, or convenience.

5. Ever since we started eating more real food and ditched out microwave, we feel better physically. Of course this doesn't prove anything, except that it makes a world of a difference to us.

Have you experimented with living without a microwave? Would you want to try it? Why or why not? What makes you hesitate?

Photo: Dave Kennard

If you haven't yet, check out numbers 1 through 20 of our Glimpse into Eco-Babyz:


  1. I've been thinking more and more about reducing the use of our micro... this is very encouraging! Thank you.

  2. Terrific post! I'm a "non-microwaving mom" too!
    I find that my little one eats a wider variety of foods than the children of my friends who are "Microwaving Moms." I'm sure that is because the food he eats actually tastes like food!
    I'm following you from Stop by if you have a moment!

  3. I don't think going without one would be hard at all! :)

  4. Great info.! We got rid of our microwave too! I rarely miss it or the super processed food we used to cook in it. :)

  5. I already do alot of cooking from scratch, and use the crockpot, stove and oven for cooking, but for reheating, use the micro. We have never had a toaster over, wouldn't dry the food out? Could you just use the regular over to reheat leftovers? The kids mostly eat leftovers for lunch.

  6. Jennifer, to answer your question, the food dries out in the toaster oven only if I heat at at high temp for short time (if I need it fast). If I have more time on my hands for reheating, I heat at 250 degrees for 10-15 minutes so it doesn't dry out. You can also cover it with foil, that works. Lately I've been reheating a lot of left overs right on the stove in stainless pans, easy as well with a few drops of water.


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