Almost 50 years after they first became widely available, the debate over microwave ovens bubbles on. How safe are they? For each report claiming the ovens, for example, damage the nutrient content of food, there is another showing they are actually better than steaming, boiling and other cooking methods. Being a nutrition geek, this is an area I have looked at in-depth – so far without finding a satisfactory answer…
In case you are wondering, I have a combination microwave, convection, grill oven. The mwave function doesn’t see a lot of use – though it is good for Winter defrosting ops – but like most people, I would just like a straight answer to how they affect food. So, I suddenly became very interested when the picture above came down my Facebook feed a few weeks ago.
If you haven’t seen it before, the photo claims to show the results of feeding one plant water boiled in a microwave oven and another water boiled conventionally on a stove. Things obviously didn’t go well for the plant fed microwaved water. You have to admit at first glance it seems pretty dramatic.
I am paraphrasing but according to the post, the plant died because the microwave oven super-agitated the water molecules, compromising their structure. It also states that this proves microwave ovens can corrupt the DNA in food, destroy vitamins, minerals and proteins and generate new elements called radiolytic compounds. I’ve saved the post on my Facebook page. Please read it for the full effect (need to be logged in).
Microwaved water experiment (article continues below)
While I’m no fan of microwave ovens, and the above being true would support my natural health agenda, there is a big jump in the “science.” Any heating will agitate molecules… and DNA in water? Unfortunately this hasn’t stopped thousands of people instantly sharing the photo, many with comments like “never using a microwave again” and “think about this next time you ‘nuke’ your food.”
This is disturbing because less than a minute of googling turns up an article on snopes.com completely rejecting the claim (link below). If you accept Snopes as a reliable source, their experiment looks very comprehensive but wanting my own answer, I naturally decided to try it for myself. I also wanted to know if there would be any long-term effects on the plants and how they would actually taste – points not mentioned on Snopes.
I am planning a couple of updates (click here for part two) and will write about the method in detail later. The key factor though has been to ensure all plants have the same conditions with the same level of care. The only difference has been the type of water they receive. I originally started with three komatsuna and three spinach pots. Unfortunately the spinach has failed to thrive; presumably due to bad seeds.
For the record, the boiled and filtered water pots only produced a couple of spinach sprouts each; the microwaved one had six come up. These sprouts lasted about a week in all three pots, with the exception of the microwaved one, where one guy is still growing very slowly. Not a great result farming-wise, but a qualified win for the microwaved water.
Other details and resources
Part two of Microwaved water: Does it kill plants?
Microwaved water plant experiment on snopes.com
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