When first introduced to consumers in the late 1950's and early 1960's, microwaves were seen as the technology of the future. Advertisers targeted housewives, offering a glimmering utopia where dinner cooked itself. Today, more than 90% of American homes have microwaves. To many, a microwave is a simplified way to cook food. However, to environmentalists and people concerned with their health, a microwave makes absolutely no sense.
Many studies have been done that reveal how microwaves reduce the nutritional content of food. For example, a study that was published in the November issue of The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that when broccoli was cooked in the microwave, 97% of its antioxidants were lost. Microwaving food also creates new compounds (called radiolytic compounds), that are found nowhere else in nature. The effects of these compounds aren't yet known, but many scientists are exercising caution with them.
Dr. Hans Hertel, a Swiss food scientist did one of the most famous studies on the effect of microwaved food. Hertel found that microwave cooking can alter food's nutrients significantly, even changing the chemical factors in those who consumed it. These changes included increased cholesterol levels, an increase of white blood cells, a decrease of red blood cells, a presence of radiolytic compounds and decreased hemoglobin levels.
Numerous studies have found that microwaves are bad news for human health. Research indicates that great amounts of exposure to microwaves can have a hand in causing long-term brain damage and also affect the production of hormones. The amount of energy microwaves require is also a hotly debated topic. Supporters of the microwave point out the efficiency of microwaves as about 60% of the energy used by a microwave is directed towards heating food. Opponents of microwaves claim that conventional gas-powered ovens are the most efficient method to heat food. While it seems that either side can effectively argue either for or against the use of microwaves, no one can deny that microwaves use a lot of energy. Microwaves are one of the worst offenders when it comes to drawing energy. When not in use, microwaves suck about 23.2 kWh annually.
In the end, microwaves are still hotly debated. Some facts, however, cannot be debated. Microwaves use a lot of raw materials and resources to produce, they alter the nutrition of foods and require a lot of energy to operate. EnviroCitizen.org suggests that you take everything into consideration when determining whether or not your microwave is still a good option for cooking.