Why You Should Never Microwave Your Food

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM Published on , Last Updated on March 2, 2015


Microwaving is a simple, convenient cooking option for people on the go. The microwave oven has been a mainstay in the US for 30+ years, virtually transforming society and how we view food. But despite its wonders, the question that’s been avoided remains: are microwaves the healthiest cooking option? The answer is, of course, no, as there are much better options available that will ensure nutrients will remain in your food.

How Does Microwaving Work?

Before we dive into the research on the possible effects and safety of microwave ovens, let’s clarify what a microwave is. A microwave is a form of non-ionizing radiation. As a matter of contrast, ionizing radiation changes the electromagnetic nature of atoms, or ionizes them. This alters the way they interact with other atoms and molecules around them. X-rays, gamma radiation, and nuclear medicine (CT scans, barium swallows, and mammograms) are types of ionizing radiation. Your food is being zapped by high-frequency waves of heat, and some people argue that this radiation can be harmful to your health.

One study by Dr. Hans Hertel explored how microwaves change the molecular structure of food and the effects of that food on the human body. In his study, he found that individuals who consumed the microwaved foods experienced a decrease in HDL cholesterol, a reduced red blood cell count, and fewer white blood cells. Unfortunately, no studies have been conducted since to replicate Dr. Hertel’s findings, so it would be reaching to conclude that microwaving does indeed deteriorate health. Still, there are other cooking options that may be far better at retaining the nutritive quality of food.

The Best Cooking Options for Maintaining Nutrition

Microwaving cooks the food at very high temperatures in a very short amount of time. This results in a great deal of nutrient loss for most foods, especially vegetables. Our foods are also subjected to nutrient loss when we boil, fry, or roast our food. Boiling vegetables, for example, leeches most of the nutrients (including antioxidants) into the water. The best option for cooking vegetables that will result in only a minor loss of nutrients is steaming. Sautéing and baking at low temperatures is also a viable option that will retain more nutrients than microwaving, boiling, or frying. Of course, by making the majority of your diet raw, with some added dietary fat to help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), you’ll ensure a high level of nutrient intake.

Adding To the Toxic Load

When it comes specifically to microwaves, damage to the food itself isn’t the only concern. Many microwavable foods are processed and in packaging that contains an assortment of chemicals. Chemicals found in many of these containers include benzene, toluene, polyethylene terpthalate (PET), xylene, and dioxins (known carcinogens). At high temperatures, it is likely that chemicals can absorb into the food, and intake of these chemicals presents a high health risk. What’s more, the chemicals in the food themselves are also a cause for concern.

Perhaps one of the most dangerous contaminants in microwavable food is BPA. A watchdog report from the Milwaukee-Journal Sentinel found this estrogen-like plastic leaked from all packaging into the food tested. [1] BPA disrupts normal hormone activity. Infertility, low-libido, cardiac disease, mental disorders, allergies, high blood pressure, and weight gain have all been linked to BPA exposure. The simple fact is, when you use a microwave, you’re getting a lot more than the food you eat.

One Final Thought

Over the last 30 years, the science and research has come a long way to understand how microwaves affect proteins, antioxidants, and overall nutrient content of food. We’ve also learned how many toxins flood our food when zapped in the packaging. Today we shouldn’t be surprised by these dangers. Instead of microwaving, stick to raw foods as the primary aspect of your diet. When you do cook, try steaming and baking as your main cooking methods.

Have you given up your microwave? Is there anyone who has never used one? Share your experiences with us.


  1. Susanne Rust and Meg Kissinger. BPA leaches from ‘safe’ products. Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.

  • OmShanti

    By nuclear radiation I was replying to Plusaf’s statement that no nuclear radiation is involved in the heating process in order to defend his argument that microwaves are safe. Also, the size of something, be it macro or micro, is dependent upon the size/relationship of the viewer/experiencer. Just because the universe is macro in comparison to a person and a molecule is micro in comparison to the same person does not mean that something cannot exist micro or macrocosmically in relation to a molecule. I am coming from a Buddhist perspective, and according to my understanding the idea of something “greater” being independent of a “lesser” and vice-versa is impossible, as the two are wholly dependent upon each other for existence. I know how the term in used in everyday English, but, as I just explained, it would not be incorrect to use the same word in other instances. Sorry for the ambiguity.
    As for heat, yes, the fire was a weak example, however although it is true that the process of heating remains the same regardless of how it is generated in that the molecules move faster, the damage created by the way the heat is transferred or created DOES differ. For example, heating a potato using conduction, vs. heating the same potato using nuclear radiation will result in different chemical changes. Although the end result is a heated potato, you would definitely want to stay away from the potato heated using nuclear radiation. I was attempting to use the fire example, and now the potato example, to show that although the heat generated is the same, the chemical change will differ (nutrition)
    As far as organic food and autism, the negative or nonexistent health consequences of microwaves, I made no attempt to either prove or disprove any of those arguments, I was merely trying to show that Plusaf’s argument was weak.

  • kiwi-ian

    Hi Om Shanti, I think perhaps you are making the same confusion as Dr Group about the term “radiation”. Radiation is the emission of energy in the form of particles and/or waves and arguably includes sound. Electromagnetic radiation includes radio waves, MWs, radiant heat (what you feel at a bonfire – convectional heat has already risen and air is a bad conductor of heat) and light which are non ionising, and then UV, X-rays and gamma rays which are ionising meaning that they can strip particles – e.g. electrons – from a molecule. When you, and Plusaf, speak of “nuclear radiation” I think you probably mean the radio-active gamma radiation. Radio-active alpha and beta radiation are a different beast being purely particles with no waves and are effectively unrelated to MWs.

    Please note that radio-activity and radiation are not actually the same thing. Also, because it is energy, too much of any form of radiation is dangerous, but the flip is that too little is also harmful. Light and radiant heat are both forms of radiation (more energetic than MWs) and we NEED them or we’ll die. It’s a question of dosage.

    When radiation (any sort) hits matter, some energy (remember radiation = energy) is used to excite the particles making them move and hit each other causing friction which then causes heat. This is effectively conductive heat as it needs matter to exist. As such, it doesn’t matter if you use plutonium, MWs or a fire, the cooking heat is the same. However when you heat something using radioactivity, you have two processes, one of heating and one of ionisation (actually there are others as well but let’s KIS). Thus in both your examples the heat effects were the same but the other effects were totally different and I agree, I certainly wouldn’t touch any food cooked by gamma radiation but only because there are nasty effects other than the cooking – that would be the same. MWs are just a very efficient way of converting this energy into movement and then heat, but I’m sure you may have seen eating places using infra red lamps to keep food warm using the same principle.

    This is why Plusaf said that the heat is the same, because it is. He was also right in saying that no radio-activity is involved (nuclear radiation) because it isn’t. MWs are non ionising and cannot strip particles nor can they deform molecules, they simply do not have the quantum energy to do so.

    When scientists talk of size it is relative (scientists invented relativity in a way that could be defined rather than philosophical relativity which follows the particular school using it) and scientists do not compare one thing to another as being “better”. There is a hope that one day we may be able to describe the universe using just one big function that applies equally to quarks and galaxies. So yes, scientists do indeed believe that everything is related but that does not mean that everything is equal. Cosmic is still very big, nuclear is still very small. Macro still means big (and micro means small). None is better or worse. Macrocosmic would mean bigger than cosmic which already describes the universe, and you shouldn’t use macro unless you can also use its opposite, micro, but what does microcosmic mean? That is why I questioned it.

    Plusaf’s comment was essentially that there is little to no evidence that MW cooking is more dangerous than conventional cooking and it is up to the accusers to bring that evidence into the arena not the MW manufacturers to prove their innocence. My comment on organic food was to show that proof of safety is impossible. Although there isn’t a scientist in the world who would really link autism with organic food, we can’t prove absolutely that they are not linked.

  • OmShanti

    Good Stuff. Thank you. BTW, Scientists did not invent relativity in a way that could be defined. The scientific definition of micro or macro is based on inductive reasoning, which, by its very nature, can never see all possibilities. Thus, they take relative assumptions and agree that they are probable, but for many scientists, and philosophers, even the probability of these assumptions are disputable. Yes, macro means big and micro means small, but for the sake of science, scientists agree upon “limited infinities” in order to test their ideas. This agreement does not, however, mean that our (humankind’s) relative relationship with space/time (the cosmos) is to be the only basis for our usage of the terms microcosm and macrocosm. For in the end, it is impossible to conclusively determine whether or not our relationship with the universe, or anything for that matter, is microcosmic or macrocosmic or even both. Thus, it is true that scientists speak as though everything is not equal, but they have not and probably will never demonstrate otherwise. Therefore, it would be correct to say that a quark is microcosmic in comparison to a molecule, especially if one agrees with the Theory of Relativity. Ultimately, until science can prove that the universe can be measured without making relative assumptions, if it is even possible to prove such a thing that is :), the question of micro or macro remains one that is philosophical in nature.

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