“Mom! Where is the microwave?!?!”
Ah, it had been less than an hour since I had stowed it away in the cupboard and my 10 year-old daughter was the first to notice the change.
“How are we going to heat things up??” She was clearly shocked by the news.
“We will use the stove. We don’t need a microwave. Our food will be healthier for us.” I knew she was going to be a hard sell.
“Okay……but what if we can’t live without it?”
“We can and we will.”
That was one year ago.
My family started on this journey of better eating and becoming more self-sustaining roughly around the time I exiled the microwave. We are trying to transition to a more off-the-grid lifestyle. This has included making our own bread from scratch, building a chicken coop and raising chickens, reusing things rather than throwing them straight out, living within our means (a huge change for most of us!), learning about where our food comes from, and how to eat better.
I’d been feeling pretty good about all the changes we had been making until it was brought to my attention that while we ARE eating better, I still use the microwave to reheat or occasionally cook our food. Sometimes we get so consumed by the fact that we’re eating better food, we forget that HOW we prepare it matters just as much.
Like many others, I was so busy with work and raising children that I had fallen victim to using the microwave far too often and not just for frozen veggies. Sometimes it was whole meals—frozen chicken parmesan and HELLO!! Spaghetti-Os!! Yes, both of those items could have been heated by using the stove but we all know there are days when we are pressed for time.
Somewhere along the way I had heard that using the microwave was “bad” for us but I didn’t really know why. There has been talk about heating plastics and the chemicals contained in them contaminating our food with cancer causing toxins and we all know that they heat things unevenly but beyond that, what are they doing to us REALLY? The “fact” that microwaves were harmful was an abstract idea. I couldn’t really see the damage or imagine the damage so getting rid of the microwave wasn’t on the top of my Get Healthy To-Do List.
There is much debate over the actual effect of microwaving on the food we eat. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states “Microwave cooking does not reduce the nutritional value of foods any more than conventional cooking.” The FDA actually says that using a microwave may, in fact, help the foods we eat to be healthier because of the quick cooking time, they retain more of their vitamins and minerals. But have you seen some of the food that comes out of a microwave?! Rock hard carrots in your frozen mixed vegetables? And are you really sure that breaded, processed chicken parmesan is going to be any healthier for you despite the dried out and overcooked edges? Though I won’t lie to you, THOSE were my favorite part of that meal!
There was a study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture that found when broccoli had been “zapped” in the microwave with a little water it lost up to 97% of its beneficial antioxidants. Steamed broccoli only lost 11% or fewer of its antioxidants. There were also reductions in phenolic compounds and glucosinolates, but mineral levels remained intact.
According to Mercola.com, a healthy living website, Swiss food scientist Dr. Hans Hertel found that microwaved food increased cholesterol levels, decreased both red and white blood cell counts, decreased hemoglobin, and produced radiolytic compounds. I believe this to be directly related to the foods we are choosing to microwave. Let’s be honest, 9 times out of 10 it is NOT healthy fare.
Some people believe the real danger is in the microwaves that are emitted from your microwave. The FDA keeps strict regulations on the amount of acceptable microwave leakage, so the likelihood of those causing harm is minimal. The question begs to be asked though, what is acceptable leakage?!
Whether or not using a microwave decreases the nutritional value of food, I know that by banning the microwave from my kitchen, I am making healthier food choices for my family. By getting rid of the microwave, our diet was ripped open. I actually have become more aware of what is in our food. There are no more prepackaged meals in our freezer and we eat far less processed foods. It has made me slow down and think about cooking dinner rather than throwing it together at the last second. I can’t pop frozen chicken in to quickly defrost because I forgot to take it out of the freezer anymore.
Our family has gotten closer as a result. We prepare more meals together now and the kids really love it when we make “old fashioned” popcorn. You know, with oil and a pot on the stove, listening to every kernel hiss and pop against the lid. Now I am not saying that my family doesn’t eat unhealthy foods, we do and we need to be better at everything in moderation. In my opinion, some change is better than no change and you need to be realistic about the changes you make. Real and lasting change won’t happen overnight. It is a series of actions repeated over and over and sometimes OVER again! Are there any more clichés I could add here? Oh yeah, you only live once! So you might as well make it count and be healthy!
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