I often talk about the dangers we face from the environment around us, both inside and outside of our homes and workplaces, and how it is necessary for each of us to take responsibility for learning about as many sources of toxins as we can.  When we arm ourselves with knowledge, we can then take action to shield ourselves from many of the dangerous effects that these toxins exert on human health, or at the very least mitigate their harmful effects as much as possible.

One emerging area of concern is the microwave oven, and the process of preparing our food by microwaving, particularly if we use a plastic container to do so.  Research is emerging that would seem to indicate that we should consider eliminating or sharply curtailing our use of this popular and convenient method of food preparation.

The actual microwaves in these types of ovens work by causing the water molecules present to resonate at a very high frequency, which turns the water into steam and thereby heats our food item.  In a very real sense, the process of microwaving actually alters the chemical structure of the food in question, by altering and distorting its molecules.  This is very different from conventional ovens or other methods of heating food.

One big disadvantage of microwaving is that this process of altering and distorting a food’s molecular structure very likely is also removing much of its nutritional value.  One study found that broccoli lost up to 97% of its beneficial antioxidants when microwaved, as compared to only around 11% when it was steamed.  Other studies have shown microwaving to cause a big reduction in the nutritional values of many other common foods, and even has been shown to decrease beneficial, immune-boosting properties in human breast milk, to a much greater degree than any other method of heating the milk.

The other big problem with microwaving comes from the interaction of the microwave radiation with the container that the food item is in.  We probably all know that we should not microwave anything in a plastic container, but it bears repeating how dangerous this really is.  Many plastics are known to contain various endocrine disrupting chemicals, and heating them causes these toxins to leach out into your food at a much faster rate.

A particularly nasty chemical endocrine disruptor is called BPA, or bisphenol A, and it is widely found in various kinds of plastic.  Plastic food and beverage containers that are labeled “microwave safe” are still dangerous to use for microwaving, particularly those marked with #7 (polycarbonate), as this form of plastic has been shown to leach BPA into food when heated.  Even being labeled “BPA-free” doesn’t mean the container is safe, as other equally dangerous chemicals may have been substituted for the BPA.

Bottom line here:  We all have very busy, often chaotic schedules and lives, and there may be times when the use of a microwave oven is a necessary convenience and a big time saver.  It is not my intent here to add more stress and hassle to your life, but I would urge you to try as much as possible to use other methods of cooking/heating your food.  If you must microwave, please use a non-plastic container to do so, and definitely avoid microwaving and eating foods that are pre-packaged in a plastic container.

We live in a polluted and toxic world, where much of our exposure to dangerous chemicals and forms of radiation is not under our control.  It becomes all the more important, then, to become active and educated about those areas where we can exercise control, and choose the safest and cleanest alternative possible. Each and every step you take in this direction will reduce your body’s “total toxic burden”, and will pay big dividends in your health and vitality now and throughout the rest of your life.


Dr. Allen gives free lectures at the Library three to four times each year, on topics of interest from the cutting edge of integrative medicine.  If you would like to be added to our mailing list for these lectures and his other speaking engagements, please email da@davidallenmd.com.