So, yesterday I said Goodbye to my microwave.
It wasn’t broken or sick.
I just decided that I can live without it, in fact that I can live better without it and here is why.
Before I saw this diagram, I thought that all a microwave oven did was heat the food by moving the molecules faster. I was ignoring one very important characteristic of radio waves. Eventually, I put two and two together and realised something important.
First, let me state that I don’t walk around with aluminum foil wrapped around my head in an effort to shield my thoughts from the aliens. And I’m not trying to spread fear or perpetuate a hoax. What I want to do here is present scientific facts explaining exactly why cooking in the microwave is worse than cooking over the traditional cave-man fire, or your stove or AGA at home.
But first, I need to explain how a microwave oven works. A microwave oven creates radio waves at a frequency of about 2.45 GHz. All radio waves are electromagnetic radiation.
When a polar molecule is placed in an electric field, it lines up with that field. It is similar to how a compass needle lines up with a magnetic field. Depending on the strength of the electric field, it will even stretch the polar molecule. But it will spring back as soon as the electric field is removed. So, the way a microwave works is, the rapidly oscillating electric field causes the polar molecules to move back and forth, increasing their kinetic energy (or heat). When matter is heated, the atoms and molecules start to vibrate faster. So far, it sounds like the heat from microwaves is no different than the stove. But there is one major difference. Microwaves have a strong electric field.
Electromagnetic radiation is a self-propagating wave composed of two components: an electric field, and a magnetic field. The two fields expand and collapse as they propagate through space. As the electric field collapses, it produces an expanding magnetic field. Conversely, as the magnetic field collapses, it produces an expanding electric field. This is a simple explanation, and there are more details involved.
If the electric field is strong enough, not only will it stretch the molecule, it can also separate the charges enough so that an atom loses an electron. This is ionizing. Or it can separate a molecule. This is similar to electrolysis.
Electrical current can also rearrange atoms. For example, in microchips, the wires have to be big enough or the force of the electrons actually can move enough metal so the wire distorts until it breaks.
If electric current can rearrange metal, it can also rearrange the atoms in your food, changing the molecular structure. This happens either by ionization, or by momentum transfer from the electron to the atom. This is one reason why nutrients can be destroyed more easily in a microwave oven than on the stove. Even though microwaves are classified as non-ionizing radiation, at sufficient power levels, they can cause ionization such as a plasma.
Despite the slang term ‘nuke’, microwaves are not nuclear radiation. Nuclear radiation consists of high speed alpha particles (helium nucleus), beta particles (high velocity electrons), neutrinos, gamma rays (extremely high energy photons), or high speed neutrons.
Ionizing, or simply displacing a single electron sounds harmless enough, but this is enough energy to destroy biological molecules. This is what kills every living organism that goes through the irradiation process, including the food. Cold pasteurization (a nice name for irradiation) really is nuking your food.
There is a tendency for most microwave users to cook everything on high power, except when defrosting.
High is the default setting. The maximum power is also a major selling point for a microwave oven. The higher the power, the stronger the electric field, and the more damaging it is to nutrients. So, the lower the power, the safer. But only some microwave ovens are capable of true low power cooking. The microwave ovens equipped with inverter magnetrons actually reduce the power instead of just cycling it between high and off.
It is a well known fact that raw food is more nutritious than cooked. Cooking food destroys nutrients, whether it’s on a stove, or in the microwave oven. But microwaving food on high power can be more destructive than cooking on the stove.
Even on low power, I still don’t know if a stove or microwave is worse. It’s like asking me if I’d rather get beat by a club, or shocked by a taser.
I’ll just have my broccoli raw, thank you and avoid the radiation and additional free radical damage!