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Microwaves were a very normal part of my childhood. I can remember hearing the familiar humming and sequential beeping coming from the kitchen each morning as I got dressed for school. I’d walk in a few minutes later to find a steaming bowl of Cream of Wheat waiting for me on the counter.
When I was in Kindergarten, I even shared my microwaving know-how in our class cookbook:
“You put 1 1/2 tsp. of hot cereal, then put it in a bowl with I guess maybe 3 of the cups of milk with the cereal. You put in in a microwave for like 3 hours. When the microwave beeps you take it out and stir it, and then we do the same thing 3 more times.”
Clearly my concept of time wasn’t developed just yet! But even as a 5-year-old I understood one very important factor regarding microwaves: they were easy to use – I just had to put the food inside and leave it until I heard a beep!
Yes, microwaves are easy! They are also a “safe” way for kids to put food together on their own without the perils of open flames or 400 degree ovens to reach into.
Microwaves are also quick! In our fast-paced, on-the-go lives, they really do offer an element of speed and convenience that more conventional methods might not. I get it: Microwaves make sense in a lot of ways!
Yet I am going to tell you that there are reasons to shy away from microwaves and life can be lived quite happily without one. That reducing our microwave usage can do our bodies good.
The past two years our family has been living microwave-free, and adjusting to life without one turned out to be much less challenging than I thought it would be! My “detox period” (if we want to be so dramatic as to call it such) went something like this:
DAY 1: Oh snap, this takes how long to cook on the stove top? I don’t need breakfast anyway.
DAY 2: That wasn’t so bad. And I’m only three minutes late. I could get up three minutes earlier tomorrow.
DAY 3-5: This is easy! Wish I didn’t have to wash a pot though.
DAY 6 and beyond: —-
Yes, that space was intentionally left blank because I didn’t think about microwaving anymore. Living without a microwave was already becoming my new normal. I didn’t miss it at all and to tell you the truth I still don’t!
5 Reasons to Shy Away From Microwaves
- Flavor. We all like our food to taste good, plain and simple. Microwaves seem to have a unique ability to make things taste more bland or diluted though, and to change the overall texture based on uneven heating.I’m not talking about tv dinners and prepackaged foods that are loaded with artificial flavors and additives to counteract this problem. I’m talking about just real, whole foods. Put it to the test a few times! I’m confident you will agree with me.
- Nutrition. Preparation methods can affect the nutrition and biovalibility of your food, and to be clear, some foods lose vitamins and nutrients when heated regardless of what cooking method is employed. That being said, microwaves seem to be especially good at nutrient crushing, second only to boiling foods.Based on a published study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food, microwaving causes a 30-40% reduction in Vitamin B-12. Flavenoids also drop 97%, and of course Vitamin C can’t take the heat anywhere.Microwaved breast milk shows notable decrease in enzymes, and e-coli growth increases 5-18% depending on the temperatures used. I don’t know about you, but I get excited about the amazing health benefits that I can glean from the real food I eat. I’m just not willing to waste that on saving a couple of minutes or washing one less dish.
- Leaching. I’m sure you’ve heard about estrogenic activity and chemical leaching in most plastics (even BPA free) that can lead to serious health and hormonal issues.Unfortunately, this leaching is actually enhanced in extreme temperature situations like microwaving or freezing, and can be exaggerated even further when involving acidic or fatty foods. Even if you use non-toxic containers for the most part at home, the majority of “microwaveable” foods come in toxic packaging that is marketed as being “microwave-safe.”
- Health. Though some would argue that the frequency of modern microwaves is too low to be harmful and that the radiation they emit isn’t “the bad kind,” I think it is safe to say that microwave usage can cause some level of ill effects. Studies shows heart rate and variability affected, troubling decreases in cholesterol levels, hemoglobin, & white blood cells, and higher levels of luminescent bacteria found in humans after eating microwaved delicacies.
- Disconnect. We live in a world that has forgotten the importance of where our food comes from & how it can so beautifully heal and sustain our body. The Farmers’ Market & Support Local movements are turning over some of that ignorance, but the sad truth is that a snazzy logo across a cardboard box equals “healthy” and trustworthy food to many consumers.We seem to be ok with not knowing how something was raised or grown, what methods were used throughout processing, or even how our handling of it can affect our own well being. By letting go also of our culinary heritage for the convenience of microwaved and packaged foods, we create an even further gap between ourselves and the realization of how beautiful, healing, and celebratory food should be.
Not Ready to Ditch the Microwave Completely?
That’s ok! Try taking one or more of these smaller challenges to start reducing exposure:
- Make all of the hot breakfasts you eat on the stove top instead of in the microwave. Just this one move will make a big impression on you over time as you step out of your box and are forced to experiment.
- Use only glass or non-leaching containers in the microwave, even if food comes packaged in “microwave-safe” plastic.
- Commit to defrosting foods using an alternative method listed below.
Ready to Make a Clean Cut From Microwave Cooking?
Great! Here are a few tips to help you find your microwave-free groove:
- Rewarming food – Use a stove top, oven, or turbo oven. Major Mama Bear Hack: Store leftovers in mason jars and use them directly as double boilers or baking dishes to reheat your food! In fact, you can eat out of them too, so no additional dishes need to be dirtied!
- Defrosting – If time allows, let frozen food defrost slowly in the fridge (which prevents bad bacteria from developing and spreading at warmer temperatures). Alternatively, set it in a bowl of lukewarm water, changing out the water every 20 minutes.
- Making Popcorn – Stove top popcorn is so quick & easy to make; we do it all of the time! Place about 2 Tbsp of coconut oil and 1/3 cup of non-gmo kernels in a covered pot or stove top popcorn poppers over medium heat. Leave it alone for a few minutes and then remove from heat as soon as the popping subsides.
- Boiling Water – Heat on the stove top using a pot or kettle, or use an electric kettle that plugs into an outlet.
- Warming Breast Milk – Place milk in a glass or stainless steel bottle, then set the bottle inside a bowl of hot water until desired temperature is reached.
Do you live with a microwave? Could you imagine getting rid of it or reducing your exposure at all?
Melissa Coleman blogs about Natural Parenting, Sustainable Baby Fashion, & DIY Living at My Darla Clementine. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two toddlers, Clementine and Darla. As a family, they have set out to embrace real food and to reduce toxic exposure in their home. They camp in vintage clothing, pinch pennies, and love discovering new ways to be healthy, conscious, and creative.