Why a Microwave
Oven Is Bad for Your Health Part 2
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When electricity flows in a conductor, free electrons drift
easily in the direction of the electric field. In a
non-conductive material, the electrons are tightly bound to
the atoms. If the electric field is strong enough,
electricity will flow. The non-conductive material often
gets destroyed when the electric field is strong enough to
ionize the atoms and force conduction, which creates a
plasma such as a spark.
A plasma is made of ionized atoms or molecules. A plasma can
be formed in a gas, a solid, or even a liquid, but not in a
pure vacuum. A plasma being formed in a solid is a foreign
concept to some, but familiar to semiconductor physicists.
Once the plasma is formed, the resistance drops very low and
it conducts electricity easily. This is why arc-welders
don't need to use megawatt power supplies. The plasma in the
arc has a low resistance.
The electrical resistance of foods can range from low to
very high. Many foods will conduct some electricity when
placed in an electric field. The electric field in the
microwave oven causes electric currents to flow in the food.
This is similar to what happens when an antenna picks up
current from a radio wave.
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 [6, 7,
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 . Nuclear radiation is
classified as ionizing radiation  because it will ionize
matter at any level of radiation. Every radioactive particle
has the potential to ionize when it interacts with matter.
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.
I decided to try microwaving some audio CDs to prove that
the power level had an effect on the amount of damage done
while cooking to the same temperature. Although it would be
an honorable sacrifice in the name of science, rather than
use my wife's Barry Manilow collection, I thought it would
be more prudent to burn some songs onto identical CDs and
experiment on those instead.
I set my inverter-magnetron microwave to cook at 30% power
for 3 1/2 minutes. I placed the CD in a plastic bowl and
added 1 cup of water at 74°F. After cooking, the temperature
was 158°F. I dried off the CD and stuck it in my CD player.
It still played. All 16 songs were still ok. I then placed a
second, identical CD in the bowl and again added 1 cup of
water. I cooked it for one minute on high power. It went
from 73°F to 162°F, so it got approximately the same amount
of heat. But the CD was visibly very damaged. The CD player
obviously couldn't even read it.
Although this was a crude experiment, it illustrates the
fact that cooking on high power causes more damage than
cooking on low power. So, the higher the power, the more
damage it causes, even if the final temperature is the same.
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. So if you use a microwave, use one with an inverter
magnetron, and cook on low power. Cooking on true low power
(not intermittent high) will greatly reduce the amount of
damage done to the food.
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.
Why a Microwave Oven Is Bad for Your
Health Part 1
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