Tuesday, 25 March 2014


In the valley of the blind, the one eyed man is king. With that in mind I'm about to give a science lesson.

But seriously folks, this is from good research, so you can trust me, and if you don't, you can look it up yourself.

I've been meaning to write about this ever since a friend showed concern on how "green" microwaves could be. That's easy to demonstrate, and I shall.

But this morning I saw this:

I've seen it before, and many other things like it. It's bollocks.

Let's deal with it in three stages.

One, the person who created this doesn't know what decimate means. It means to destroy one-tenth of something. If microwaves destroy one-tenth of nutrients, then it's doing a better job than a pot over a fire, which destroys far more than that. Actually. But in fact this is just bad English, so we can ignore it except to say that whoever created the graphic has already shown some ignorance.

Two, you can easily conduct experiments to prove this is not true. Plenty of researchers have. Oddly enough they don't feel the need to publish their scientific findings on internet memes, but you can find the research all over the internet, and you can even try it out yourself. Which reminds me......

A few years ago a purported experiment was going round online, showing that water that had been microwaved was then used to water seedlings, and according to the photo presentation, the seedlings died. Gasp. Shock. Horror. People were saying they'd never put their coffee in the microwave again! It might kill them! So, the first point was missed right there. Because people don't READ.

Nobody ever said that microwaved water would kill you. Not even the creators of these photos. It was simply suggested that somehow the water was changed in some unexplained way, and that given ONLY that water, the seedlings would die.

First of all, seedlings do not obtain nutrition from the water you give them. Water is for hydration. Seedlings carry their own nutrition inside the seed (q.v. basic biology) and once they have their seed leaves they also immediately begin photosynthesis, which is nutrition obtained from light. This is why plants that don't get enough sunlight don't thrive. Therefore we must assume that the creators of this experiment were suggesting that the plant's own package of nutrients was in some way damaged by the addition of water that had been microwaved. This is scientifically impossible.

Microwaved water is just water that has been heated and cooled again. It's not radioactive. There's no residue, nothing added, nor is there anything removed.

But in this alleged experiment there was a control set of seedlings that thrived, despite all other conditions being the same. So it wasn't lack of light that was killing them. But something killed them. So what DID kill them?

An agenda killed them. For whatever reason, the person taking the photos and trying to convince you that microwaved water was harmful to plants killed them. Deliberately. For the photo. It was murder.

I draw this conclusion because I conducted the same experiment and my seedlings watered with microwaved water did just fine. They grew as tall (or taller), as green, as strong, and as ready to become plants as the control seedlings. Conclusion? Hoax.

You can try it yourself if you don't believe me.

Recently it been suggested by actually quite reputable sources that baby formula should not be heated in a microwave. Unfortunately this advice came too late for me, because that was how Michael's formula was heated. He looks OK to me. Anyway, the rationale behind it is probably more to do with the containers, as we now know certain plastics leach chemicals into liquids when heated. This in itself is not because of microwaves, it's because of heat, it's just that we can't heat plastic on conventional stoves.

Which brings me to......

Three, cooking anything, anyway you like, destroys nutrients. Doesn't matter if you use a microwave, a campfire, a barbecue, a gas stove, an electric stove, a solar oven, or a frigging dragon. Heat changes the nutritional value of food. It doesn't destroy ALL the nutrients, but it does destroy SOME. Some are more vulnerable than others. But the point here is that it is HEAT which does this, regardless of the source.

I found a table for you, I don't guarantee how accurate this is, as it is supplied by a website that advocates raw food, and you may be able to find a better one, but it'll give you a rough idea:


But in a diet where some food is eaten raw, you will cover your bases anyway. Humans lost the ability to eat raw meat many thousands of years ago, with a few exceptions, it could potentially make you very sick. This is why raw food advocates have to be vegetarian, but they have to work hard to find the nutrients found in meat. That is not my concern, it's their lifestyle choice and it's not an argument I enter into.

We have been eating cooked food, especially in winter in cold climates, for a very long time. We are used to it. We are fine. We have the longest lifespans we've ever had. We have arrived in the modern world having done this. It has been successful for us. Some people choose to eschew it, which is fine, but, if you eat a normal, modern, western omnivorous diet, at least some of your food is cooked, and to avoid waste sometimes it will need to be re-heated.

And it is as safe to do this using a microwave as any other method, provided you heat it thoroughly. And it's cheaper. But let's look at what we are talking about.

What is a microwave?

It is a wave of electromagnetic radiation, and it lies somewhere between infrared light (which you've all used to keep things hot, I'm sure) and radio waves. Longer than light, shorter than sound. The microwaves used in domestic appliances are about 2 1/2" long. So you can't see them or hear them, but you can measure them with the right equipment. There are longer and shorter microwaves that are used for other purposes.

Microwaves create heat. They do this by making molecules move around very fast. This is easier in liquids than in solids, which is why water heats up very fast, and pork chops take a lot longer. It never gets very hot when used correctly, but you can still burn food in a microwave oven, and I have actually set fire to peas.

If you were exposed to a microwave, it would burn you, and therefore it's certainly not something you want to come in contact with. Thankfully in your microwave oven the microwaves are contained in a metal case.

And it is not, I REPEAT NOT, radioactive. The content of radioactive material in your microwave oven is zero. Radiation is not always radioactive, and in this case it isn't. There is no uranium here, no nuclear fission going on. It is just radiating waves, just as you do when you talk. They're just shorter.

Need it a bit more detailed but still easy to understand?

After you turn it off, the molecules inside the water or food are still moving, so it is still possible to be scalded or burned by touching it with bare skin, or eating it too fast, but it is never much hotter than the boiling point of water. Compare this to a lasagne that's just come out of a regular oven. So the overall risk of burns is actually less.

When thinking of the health effects of cooking with a microwave it is worth remembering than this maximum heat prevents changes within your food that can happen at higher temperatures that are potentially harmful. In fact, to talk at Facebook level, barbecues cause cancer, microwave ovens don't.

But above all the "green" effect comes from less power being used.

If you bake a potato in an electric stove, you are cooking at around 2000 watts for about 90 minutes. In a microwave oven you are cooking at around 1500 watts for about 15 minutes. You don't even need to be able to calculate the total watts used to see the obvious benefit here. You save money, the world has less energy it needs to produce, and you help save the planet. Win-win-win.

This is an overview, obviously, and if you are interested you can read up on much more, the internet is at your disposal. ALL the information you need is free, online, so there is no need to be afraid, or to be ignorant or misinformed.

Finally, we must ask ourselves why there are people out there trying to convince you this is dangerous. Follow the money. Apart from those who are afraid, due to ignorance or misinformation, and who project their fears by sharing them without seeing if there is any validity to it, there's often a profit motive. Many of the articles you will find online convincing you that microwaves effectively sterilize your food, are trying to sell you supplements, or juicers, or books. Remember what I said yesterday about manipulation? Fear is the most efficient way to manipulate people.


  1. Nicely written, as usual. I knew about all these microwave memes that spread false information and unfortunately fear is a powerful tool. I have a friend who recently got rid of her microwave because someone told her it was "dangerous" and now she reheats leftovers on the stovetop. It was her choice but it seemed to me (although I didn't say so) that she was only making things more difficult for herself because she has three young kids and having a microwave is a good thing when one is in a hurry.

    1. We were without a microwave for several weeks and I found there were lots of things I couldn't re-heat on the stovetop, so they go thrown out, and I do hate waste. This whole idea that "someone" says something is dangerous and you just accept it, just blows my mind.

  2. Any ideas where I might be able to source a "frigging dragon"?
    EBay wasn't much help. :-)

  3. All I can say is, "THANK YOU!" You have far more patience than do I. I have given up on the gullible. Does no one remember their elementary science? I am tired of the scares, the hoaxes, the outright lies. I'm fed up of the people who believe them because? Gee willikers Pa...s'on the innernet..must be true!

    1. I'm not always as patient as I could be, but when microwaves first came out I was leery of them, and I remember that. If you don't know, you don't know. The thing is with the internet you can choose where you read, you can decide whether to believe your conspiracy theorist friend on Facebook, or the MIT website. Lots of information to choose from, you select.

  4. I have had a microwave oven since 1972. When we bought it, we lived in an apartment that had a gas stove. We had the gas disconnected to force us to learn how to use it for anything we wanted to eat. The cookbook that came with it became pretty dog eared. Once I got the hang of it, I was a proponent. My mother thought I was crazy but when my older brother bought one, she figured it was not a fad and bought one herself. I admit that I do not use it as much as I used to when I had 4 of us to feed. Using less electricity was a big plus. One secret I will pass on is to zap a chicken on one side and then the other for about 7 minutes. We then put it on the BBQ spit and it cooks much faster and no burning. Pre cooking also cuts time even if you are finishing it off in the oven. I never distrusted the science once it was explained. Totally safe.

    1. Distrusting things you don't understand is a human safety device. This is why it's not helpful to poke fun at people who don't trust things - if you don't know, you don't now. There is some very cruel stuff out there.

  5. "I conducted the same experiment and my seedlings watered with microwaved water did just fine." I am so glad you did! Seriously. I have been wanting to do that, but I don't own a microwave and I wouldn't know where to put one.