Why We Don’t Use a Microwave

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Why we don't use a microwave and what we use instead
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I’ve gotten several emails lately asking about microwave safety and if we use a microwave at our house. Even with the natural birthing, dirt eating, barefoot playing, cloth-diapering and mud shampooing that goes on at our house, not using a microwave seems to be one of those things that is inexcusably crunchy.

Since I’ve pretty well established myself in the crunchy camp, I thought I’d finally share why we don’t use a microwave at our house.

The Main Reason

Half of the reason we converted to real food is the taste, and this is also half the reason that we stopped using a microwave. In my opinion, food cooked or reheated in the microwave does not taste as good! I had plenty of microwaved ramen noodle eating experiences (cringe) in college to form this opinion.

According to the daily green, microwaves work by:

“Microwave radiation is a form of non-ionizing radiation (meaning it can’t directly break up atoms or molecules) that lies between common radio and infrared frequencies. So it is not thought to damage DNA of living things, the way X and gamma rays do. Still, microwaves can obviously cause heating effects, and can harm or kill at high energies. That’s why microwave ovens on the market must operate at or below strict limits set by the federal government.

Most microwave ovens hit food with microwaves at a frequency of 2.45 gigahertz (GHz) (a wavelength of 12.24 centimeters (4.82 in)). The prevailing belief is that molecules in the food, particularly water, absorb energy from the waves through dielectric heating. That is, since water molecules are polar, having a positive end and negative end, they begin to rotate rapidly as the alternating electric field passes through. That rotation is thought to add heat to the food.”

This fast method of cooking doesn’t allow time for flavors to develop and meld like other cooking methods do. As I’ve found a lot of quick meal recipes that are much healthier than microwaved meals anyway, we just don’t use a microwave.

The Health Factors

There is a lot of disagreement about if microwaves release radiation or can cause harm this way. By their nature, they do release radiation in to food, but the disagreement regards whether the radiation is released outside of the microwave itself. Mark Sisson covered this here:

“Here’s what we found. First, to the question of transforming your home into a radiation zone… There is, not surprisingly, disagreement about this point. However, occasional home use of a fully functional microwave appliance is generally considered safe. Microwaves do, make no mistake, emit radiation, and the FDA has established what it considers “safe” levels for microwaves: over the machine’s “lifetime” the allowable level is “5 milliwatts of microwave radiation per square centimeter…approximately 2 inches from the oven surface.” Guidelines from the International Radiation Protection Association (IRPA) suggest overall radiation limits of 1 milliwatt per square centimeter “averaged over 6 minutes (0.1 h) period.” Unless you’re using your microwave on a perpetual basis, there’s little reason to worry.) Because the radiation diminishes quickly over distance, standing further away from the microwave during operation cuts your exposure even more significantly. (That instinct to not press your face against the glass door while your lunch was cooking turns out to be right after all…) Additionally, the FDA requires two interlock systems that effectively offer backup security as well as a monitoring system that shuts the microwave down if one of the systems isn’t working or if the door is opened during operation. Common sense adds that you might want to make sure the microwave seal isn’t compromised by built up tomato sauce or other grime. (Hmmm…anyone?) And, of course, it’s a good idea to replace an old, dilapidated microwave even if it’s a great conversation piece. Safety versus vintage flare…”

There are stories of patients dying after being given microwaved blood transfusions and babies being injured by microwaved breast milk, indicating that those substances should definitely not be microwaved. I’ve also seen caution against microwaving oil or water, though we don’t have a microwave so I can’t claim personal experience with either of those.

From a radiation perspective, the general consensus seems to be that microwaves could transmit radiation, though it is unlikely. Dr. Mercola gives some compelling evidence of this possibility though.

There is evidence that heating certain materials (like plastic) in the microwave can cause harm. As that article explains:

“The safest course of action is to avoid putting any plastics in the microwave. When the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tested plastics labeled microwave safe and advertised for infants, even those were found to release “toxic doses” of Bisphenol A when heated in a microwave. “The amounts detected were at levels that scientists have found cause neurological and developmental damage in laboratory animals,” the paper reports.

In fact, the term “microwave safe” is not regulated by the government, so it has no verifiable meaning. According to the Journal Sentinel‘s testing, BPA “is present in frozen food trays, microwaveable soup containers and plastic baby food packaging.” It is often found in plastics marked No. 7, but may also be present in some plastics labeled with Nos. 1, 2 and 5 as well, according to the report. Better to stick to glass or ceramics.”

So, while we’ve opted to avoid microwaves completely, if one is going to use one, it would seem wise not to use plastic.

What About Nutrients?

This is the other half of the reason we avoid microwaves. There is evidence that microwaves reduce nutrients in food. Any cooking will actually change the nutrients in food in some way, though low and slow cooking seems to preserve the most nutrients while faster methods of cooking (microwave being the fastest) destroy more nutrients. This article gives a good summary:

  • Three recent studies of historical food composition have shown 5-40% declines in some of the minerals in fresh produce, and another study found a similar decline in our protein sources (1)
  • A 1999 Scandinavian study of the cooking of asparagus spears found that microwaving caused a reduction in vitamins (3)
  • In a study of garlic, as little as 60 seconds of microwave heating was enough to inactivate its allinase, garlic’s principle active ingredient against cancer (5)
  • A study published in the November 2003 issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that broccoli “zapped” in the microwave with a little water lost up to 97%of its beneficial antioxidants. By comparison, steamed broccoli lost 11% or fewer of its antioxidants. There were also reductions in phenolic compounds and glucosinolates, but mineral levels remained intact (6).
  • A recent Australian study showed that micro- waves cause a higher degree of “protein unfolding” than conventional heating (2)
  • Microwaving can destroy the essential disease-fighting agents in breast milk that offer protection for your baby. In 1992, Quan found that microwaved breast milk lost lysozyme activity, antibodies, and fostered the growth of more potentially pathogenic bacteria (4).”

The article explains:

“Still, we know sufficiently little about nutrition and the cumulative effects of food science that some aren’t so convinced (of course, there is also the threat of any harmful substances present getting released upon cooking, such as the diacetyl blamed for “popcorn lung.”) In a recent article E Magazine pointed out that popular holistic health expert Dr. Andrew Weil has written, “There may be dangers associated with microwaving food… there is a question as to whether microwaving alters protein chemistry in ways that might be harmful.” According to the magazine, Dr. Fumio Watanabe of Japan’s Kochi Women’s University found that heating samples for six minutes degenerated 30 to 40% of the milk’s vitamin B12. This kind of breakdown took about 25 minutes of boiling with conventional heat. In a 1992 Stanford Medical School study often cited by microwave opponents, researchers reported a “marked decrease” in immune-boosting factors in microwaved human breast milk. In the late 1980s Swiss scientists reported decreases in hemoglobin and white blood cells in rats that had eaten microwaved food.”

The Microwave Bottom Line

Microwaves are convenient… So is fast food, so is letting the TV be a babysitter. Convenience doesn’t always make something the best option.

Microwaves don’t produce the best tasting food, they might destroy nutrients, and there is a possibility that they might release harmful radiation. For me, this was an easy choice- if it might be harmful and doesn’t make good tasting food, we avoid it.

Obviously, most people aren’t willing to give up the convenience of a microwave, so at least avoid using plastic in it!

What We Use Instead

This should be pretty obvious (especially to anyone if our parents’s generation) that there are a lot of alternative cooking methods. In general, we use:

  • Conventional Oven: I use my regular oven multiple times per day to cook or reheat food.
  • Toaster Oven: For times when I don’t want to use the oven or need to heat up a small amount of food, a toaster oven is easier.
  • Pan Heating: I use pans at most meals. Breakfast omelets are cooked on the stove, leftovers heated for lunch and veggies steamed for dinner. I use these pans as they are the most non-toxic and environmentally friendly ones I’ve found.
  • Crock Pot: I use the crock pot multiple times a week, and have one constantly going with bone broth. I use this one because the research I found showed that it didn’t have any lead in the crock, though any slow cooker will work.
  • Convection Oven: I don’t have one personally (it is on the wish list), but a close friend of mine loves her countertop convection oven and uses it everyday. This supposedly combines the quick cooking of a microwave with the safety and quality of the oven).

Do you use a microwave? Would you consider giving it up? Why or why not? Share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


178 responses to “Why We Don’t Use a Microwave”

  1. Tanya S Avatar

    The toaster oven link won’t load and I’m completely ready to add that to our kitchen…can you upload the link again?

  2. Gorge Avatar

    Hi, nice information. I use my microwave oven daily but after reading this I definitely going to consider changing my ways. Does it take much more time though?

  3. Sandy Avatar

    We haven’t had a microwave oven for years. It doesn’t even occur to me miss it.

  4. Lisa Avatar

    Have you or your readers found a safe toaster oven yet? Perhaps one that also steams food?

  5. Kelley Avatar

    Hello, im wanting to get rid of my microwave, but my hubby is like no, how will I warm up my coffee, the next day after I make it? I’m like Im not sure. This is the only reason I have for not chucking my microwave out the window. What do you suggest for warming up day old cold coffee? Ty in advance oh and I have a rotisary, convection oven, aaaamazing.???

  6. Denise S Avatar
    Denise S

    My grandma’s microwave broke about 4 years ago. I let her borrow ours because the only thing we used it for was to melt butter. Going forward to today, she still has our microwave and frankly we don’t mind one bit. Everything is better heated or cooked using an oven. All my glassware is oven safe and it only takes about 15 mins to reheat. Another upside is we have more counter space.

  7. Sarika Avatar

    The link for the toaster oven doesn’t work. Can you recommend one. Everything in the market has an interior that is nonstick, galvanized Aluminium, galvanized steel.
    Thank you

  8. Paige Avatar

    We don’t use the microwave and haven’t for almost 10 years. I think there are three reasons we still have a microwave.
    1) when our parents come visit they wouldn’t know what to do. My in-laws got ALL new appliances when their microwave broke down… We live very different lifestyles.
    2) the figuring out the empty space issue previously mentioned.
    3) my husband is concerned that if we sell our house we’d have to buy a new microwave before putting it on the market. Omg right.

  9. Manju Avatar


    Is OTG same as taoster oven…..is it safe as compared to microwave oven….

  10. Emily Avatar

    Using the term “radiation” causes a knee-jerk reaction to people. They think it’s bad. Watching TV exposes one to radiation, reading this blog from a screen exposes one to radiation, standing in the sun, living on this planet, heating something in a toaster oven–we are inundated by radiation every second of every day. Gamma rays from space and radioactive decay in your garden, x-rays, radio waves, UV, all forms of visible light. All radiation, all the time. I’m a physicist.

  11. Rebecca Avatar

    I’m curious about the toaster oven as the interior is non stick I find that it’s toxic to use but it’s hard to find a toaster oven that has stainless steel interior. What are your thoughts about this and why do you recommend this toaster oven? Thank you

    1. Natalie Avatar

      I’m interested in learning more about the toaster oven as well. About a month ago we decided we would toss out our old microwave and toaster and just buy a toaster oven. When I went searching I found that pretty much all of the toaster oven interiors are made of aluminum. However, it is possible to find ones that have racks not made of non-stick material. At the same time I’m trying to find one that doesn’t have a proposition 65 warning. I think I found one that we want to try. My only question is, is it safe to cook food in the toaster oven if the inside is lined with aluminum? I’ve yet to come across any that are not lined with aluminum on the inside.

      1. Elaine Avatar

        I am interested to know the brand and model of the toaster oven you found without the Prop 65 warning and without aluminum racks or a non-stick coating. Also, I have only been able to find replacement trays/ pans that are stainless steal … I haven’t seen any toaster ovens that come with stainless steal trays /pans, have you? I hope Katie responds to your question about the aluminum interior… I would like to know too.

        1. Natalie Avatar

          I’ve been patiently waiting for some answers on this for several months now. The oven we settled on is an Oster digital countertop oven with convection. It has what seems to be the same type of metal racks as the inside of a traditional oven, they are not aluminum or nonstick material. The pans it comes with are aluminum but we won’t use those. Also, I could not find a prop 65 warning and I called the company to verify. From what I understand the aluminum walls should be safe so long as they are not touching the food. I’d really like it if Katie would lend her thoughts to this as well.

  12. Laura Avatar

    Hi, great post, thanks! Haven’t used a microwave in years, ever since i heard what it did to a blood transfusion.
    I clicked the link for the crock pot but it took me to an underfloor heating controller ? can you kindly correct the link when you get a minute?

  13. Deborah Wallace Avatar
    Deborah Wallace

    I use my electric stove or a Queen Atlantic wood cook stove when necessary if the power goes out. NO aluminum cookware, or non stick Teflon. NO heating with plastic or cooking with aluminum foil. I barely use plastic bottles. Cooking fresh and from scratch assures me of what is in my foods. Buying organic produce, herbs grains as much as possible, non hormones/antibiotic/nitrites meats, wild caught fish, no processed foods, white foods no sugar added or artificial sweeteners. Filtered water. No fluoride, or aluminum in deodorant, natural or organic products on my body and vinegar and water for cleaning around the house, no dye/ fragrance free laundry detergent. Still there are always something to watch out for and unless I leave the planet, I am doing my best! God is in control of the rest!

  14. sharron Avatar

    I pretty much use my microwave oven for melting or softening (butter). I have lemon water every morning and warm the water in the microwave.

    I much prefer using my oven or stove top… heat more evenly as well.

  15. kiwi-ian Avatar

    There seems to be consistent theme that buying a toaster oven is better. Before you do, consider that a toaster oven, like a MW oven, uses radiation to cook food. It too is a “radiation oven”.

    Radio waves, MWs, radiant heat (as used by toaster ovens), infra red and light are all forms of radiation. All are dangerous if used in excess (stick your hand in a toaster oven and see how it is after 5 minutes). However 2 forms of radiation are also essential to life, light and heat. Unfortunately, radiation is often assumed to confused with radio-activity and therefore to be bad.

    Radiation and radio-activity are NOT the same. Any concerns about “radiation” are probably groundless. MWs are NOT radioactive and do NOT leave any residual radiation (ok, they leave radiant heat and this can be dangerous as exploding cups of MWed coffee have shown).

    However the concerns on taste are real. MW ovens do not cook everything well though they are excellent for potatoes in their jackets, baked beans and scrambled eggs.

  16. Natalie Avatar

    Can someone please explain to me how to warm leftovers on the stove. Our microwave is old, like 15 years or more. I personally only use it maybe once or twice a week to warm something 2 minutes or less. Our four kids never use it at all and hubs only uses it because it’s there. I refuse to buy a new one and if I’m only using it to reheat something then I need to figure out how to do that on the stove so I can just toss it. We use cast iron, stainless, and glass in our kitchen and I’m interested in getting a toaster oven as well. Thanks

  17. Bev Avatar

    6 minutes is a l.o.n.g.. time to heat a baby/child portion of milk. No wonder so much nutrition was wrecked. Surprised it wouldn’t just be a thick mess

  18. Sandi Lee Avatar
    Sandi Lee

    We have all but stopped using our microwave. We still have it and the grand kids sometimes use it, but not often. It is built in, so we have not taken it out yet. Anyway, my husband thinks he sees an improvement in his health and memory so it is worth it. More dishes for me, longer heating times, but I also use my air fryer for heating some things. Looking to get a countertop convection oven.

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