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Microwave cooking: How does it affect your food and your health?

microwave cooking how does it effect your health image

For such a common method of cooking there has been a surprisingly sparse amount of research completed on the positives or negatives of microwave cooking on our food and our health. Most of the articles / blogs online are either hugely in favour or hugely against the use of microwaves.

I personally prefer more traditional cooking methods, however in this article I am going to provide you with some of the research available on microwave cooking and you can make your own mind up as to whether this form of cooking is required in your household.

Potential negative effects of microwave cooking

1. Risk of microwaves leaking from the device

The amount of microwaves that can leak from an oven throughout its lifetime is limited to 5 milliwatts (mW) per square centimetre at approximately 2 inches from the oven surface.

Dr Magda Havas, who has completed a variety of research on microwaves and their effect on human health noted that changes in heart rate and heart rate variability are associated with exposure to microwaves. (1)

Solution – If you choose to use a microwave stand well clear during the cooking process. Levels are one hundredth lower at 20inchs than they are at 2inches.

2. Leaking of toxic substances from packaging

This is as much an issue with food packaging as it is to do with microwave cooking. The trouble is many of our food products these days come packaged in plastic wrappings, often containing BPA and other harmful substances.

Many packaged products that are heated in the microwave cause mega leaking of these substances into our food. These substances are potential endocrine (hormone) disruptors and linked with increased cancer risk.

Frederick Vom Saal a researcher from the University of Missouri states “There is no such thing as safe microwavable plastic” (3).

Solution – Avoid any foods that come sold in plastic packaging or require cooking in plastic packaging. If you choose to use a microwave for heating foods or cooking foods, always avoid the use of plastic containers, even if they state they are microwave safe.

3. Negative effects on human breast milk caused by microwaves

Research in the Journal of Paediatrics states that “microwave cooking appears to be contraindicated at high temperatures and questions regarding its safety exist even at low temperatures”. (2)

The research demonstrated that microwave cooking had negative effects on some of the natural anti-infective factors found in human milk such as IgA.

IgA is an immunoglobulin that plays a crucial role in mucosal immunity. Low levels of IgA are strongly associated with immune insufficiency and may lead onto an increase in the risk of infection or potentially contribute to asthma and allergies.

How does microwave cooking impact our food?

This is probably one of the most controversial questions relating to microwave cooking, and there is no clear answer on the subject.

Dr Hans Hertel’s Study

Swiss food scientist Dr Hans Hertel was the first to carry out a small study on the effects of microwave cooking on the blood and physiology of human’s. Unfortunately, a number of flaws in the methodology of his study were noted which leaves a big question mark over his findings. His findings included, negative effects on cholesterol, white blood cells (immune health), red blood cells and signs of lowered haemoglobin levels which may contribute to anaemia. The swiss appliance industry was not overly impressed with Hans Hertel’s research and a gagging order was put upon him in 1992 which was later reversed in 1998.

Since Hans Hertel’s study there has been mixed research concluding both positive and negative impacts on food.

  • Journal of Science and Food and Agriculture found broccoli cooked in the microwave with a little water lost 97% of its beneficial antioxidants, compared to steamed broccoli which lost 11%.
  • Another study found a drop in vitamin C levels in microwaved cooked asparagus.
  • Another found microwave cooking had a negative impact of vitamin B12 levels.

This might seem like a valid enough reason to stop using microwaves, but there is also much research that shows little or no change in microwave cooking, in fact some studies have shown higher levels of certain nutrients to be contained in microwaved cooked foods compared to traditionally cooked foods (boiling, steaming).

Solution – When it comes to nutrient levels the jury is still out and this area is debatable whether microwave cooking influences the nutrient status.

Uneven cooking temperatures

One of the biggest challenges with microwave cooking is that of an uneven cooking temperature, which can cause some areas to be overheated and other areas still under temperature.

This effect may cause increased risk of microorganism growth such as salmonella, listeria and campylobacter, potentially leading to food poisoning.

Final Tips

Use traditional methods of cooking where possible.

Foods can be heated up in the oven or choose meals that can be eaten cold at work the next day. Eating food cold the next day and avoiding repetitive heating will hold onto nutrients better than any form of reheating.

If you do use a microwave:

  • Stand clear and avoid having a microwave in a busy part of your household or office.
  • Avoid all plastics in microwave cooking.
  • Ensure food is evenly cooked and to the correct temperature. Cover food to help with this.
  • Do not heat up breast milk or baby formula in the microwave.

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Please note that depending on your specific circumstances and goals, Steve may recommend that you work with one of the specialist practitioners within his network of trusted professionals.

If you have been referred by a clinician, please complete the form and ensure that you state who has referred you or have your practitioner email Steve direct to make a referral that way.

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Some interesting Sources

  • http://www.magdahavas.com/pick-of-the-week-24-microwave-radiation-affects-the-heart/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1557249
  • http://www.jsonline.com/watchdog/watchdogreports/34532034.html
  • http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/106558884/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 Kidmose U and Kaack K. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica B 1999:49(2):110-117
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11238815?dopt=Abstract
  • http://www.litalee.com/documents/Microwaves%20And%20Microwave%20Ovens.pdf

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Organic vs Non Organic Food

organic vs non organic food image

There is an increasing awareness with regards to organic foods vs non-organic foods, with many people choosing to buy organic for a variety of reasons, with the most popular reasons given are that of reducing toxin exposure, being better for the environment and increasing nutrient intake. In this article we review some of the considerations that surround the organic vs non-organic debate.

There are a number of conflicting studies regarding organic and non-organic produce and the data extracted from these studies have been criticised in relation to selective data extraction, funding influences and more. One prime example of this was a review study looking at 109 research papers on the organic vs non-organic subject that was later found that only 27 of the 109 papers were valid for comparison.

With powerful multinational corporations involved within our food industry, it is unlikely that we will ever have a clear answer on the debate of organic vs non organic, but what we can do is look at organic food vs non-organic food with a little common sense.

health of soil image

The health of our soil

The health of our soil will determine the health of the crop produced. Some soil and thus plant life are exposed to soil full of microbial life that contains millions of bacteria that help breakdown anything that falls on the land. These bacteria can then process it and make the nutritional content available to the plant.

Something that is well accepted is that the food we eat can influence our health, thus why would it be any different for the plants or animals we consume. If we only exposed our food to the most minimal amount of nutrients possible, why should we expect that food to provide us with the sustenance that we require to support our health.

You are what you eat, eats!

Nutrient Loss through conventional medicine

Articles have shown substantial losses in important minerals like magnesium, zinc, selenium and potassium. Magnesium, zinc and selenium are also very common insufficiencies that I see in clinical practice. Whether these insufficiencies or deficiencies are being caused by a lack of these nutrients in our food or whether the demands of modern day living increases the need for the nutrients are hard to say. It is probably a little from column A, and a little from column B.

Beyond the debate of primary nutrients such as the vitamins and minerals they have time and time again been shown to contain higher levels of secondary metabolites. These are substances like antioxidants and phytonutrients

Essentially phytonutrients act as self defence mechanisms for the plant, helping protect them against bugs, UV rays and other forms of potential damage. In small amounts these substances have been shown to be beneficial to human health and linked to preventing numerous diseases such as various cancers, diseases associated to cognitive decline, diabetes, heart disease and more.

Conventional farming prevents the natural die off of weak crops, allowing weak crops with low phytonutrient levels and poor self-defence capabilities to survive due to the chemical pesticides and fertilisers doing the defence work for the plants.

Organic food has been shown to contain higher level of antioxidant phytonutrients and polyphenols which has been linked with improved anticancer potential with organic foods.

reduce toxin exposure image

Reducing toxin exposure

For me this is one of the most crucial areas of the organic vs non-organic produce debate.

Naturally our body has the ability to detoxify substances that we are exposed to. Some are able to do this better than others, whether related to certain genotypes, pre-existing imbalances, or insufficiencies and general state of health.

To a degree our body is able to process some low-level exposure to chemicals with little or no side effect. One thing that has not been studied however, is the effect of exposure to numerous low-level compounds and the effect this might have on our physiology. Unfortunately, the sheer number of toxins that we are exposed to now make this type of research impossible to determine cause and effect.

We are now being exposed to thousands of chemicals daily, none of which have been tested in combination to see how our body reacts. The reality is they only need to show safe levels for the single chemical, however, what’s to say you are not being exposed to ten, one-hundred or even a thousand chemicals at clinically safe levels every day you step out your door with no idea on the accumulative effect.

There is mounting evidence now that foetal health and development can be influenced by chemicals we are exposed to causing reductions in IQ for those exposed to the highest levels of organophosphates, with some mounting research now extending the link in children with ADHD and chemical exposure.

One study by Houlihan et al, 2005 demonstrated in 10 different new-borns 287 chemicals were found in the umbilical cords, all of which were linked to cancer, developmental problems and/or nervous system damage.

Unfortunately, we live in a toxic world now, and there is no way you can escape all forms of chemicals, all we can do is try and reduce our exposure where possible and try and protect those most vulnerable.

One study from Holland noted how organic dairy foods where able to reduce eczema risk in the first two years of life compared to non-organic dairy.

healthy vegetables image

Practical tips for cleaner eating

Ultimately eating a healthy single ingredient wholefood-based diet in accordance to your caloric requirements and the correct macro levels (protein, fats and carbs) is the first step. If you are then looking to optimise your nutrition further and budget allows, I believe choosing organic food should become part of your food choices moving forward.

If you eat animal products, I’d recommend this as a good place to start. When choosing organic foods, you may also find the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) dirty dozen and clean fifteen list useful (see below). How relevant this is the UK or EU crops I am yet to find any data on this.

Clean 15

  • Onions
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapple
  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas
  • Mangoes
  • Aubergine
  • Cantaloupe
  • Kiwi
  • Cabbage
  • Watermelon
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Grapefruit
  • Mushrooms

Dirty Dozen

  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Nectarines
  • Grapes
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Blueberries
  • Lettuce
  • Kale

References

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4025038/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5658984/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2931688/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12781160
  • http://www.altmedrev.com/archive/publications/15/1/4.pdf
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17761012
  • https://www.ewg.org/research/body-burden-pollution-newborns

Contact Steve Grant Health

To learn more out how Steve Grant Health can assist you on your journey, please fill out the enquiry form below.

Please note that depending on your specific circumstances and goals, Steve may recommend that you work with one of the specialist practitioners within his network of trusted professionals.

If you have been referred by a clinician, please complete the form and ensure that you state who has referred you or have your practitioner email Steve direct to make a referral that way.

Click the button below to open the client enquiry form:

Send Client Enquiry

From the following categories what areas do you feel you need the most support with?

Foundational Five

Systems & Symptoms

Optimising Performance

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How many vegetables should I eat per day?

how many vegetables should i eat per day image

There is not a week that goes by without a contradictory article telling us exactly how many vegetables we must eat to stay healthy. But is there an amount that’s right for everyone? Should we be aiming for a certain amount and what are the benefits of a high intake of vegetables and potential side effects of lots of vegetables?

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Gut Bugs and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – Most Common Digestive Infections

gut bugs and ibs image

As I was explaining in my article titled ‘What is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?’, one of the major causes of IBS is the presence of something in the digestive system that should not be there, such as unwanted invaders or overgrowths in our system like certain bacteria, parasites and yeast or fungi. I personally experienced the effects of having these unwanted invaders in my gut, and felt the effects throughout my body (read my story).

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The Zinc – Testosterone Connection

zinc testosterone connection image

Athlete populations seem to be more prone to zinc deficiency, so those that train on a regular basis would fit into that same population. Red blood cell zinc is a much more effective measurement than serum zinc levels and test should be carried out before any high dose supplementation as high dose zinc can cause copper insufficiency, stomach upset and even stress liver and kidney function.

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