Skip Microwaved Eggs

microwaved egg

Story at-a-glance -

  • Eggs are close to being a perfect food, full of vitamins A, D, E, K and B12, omega-3 fats, folate and antioxidants; they are versatile, kids love them and they can be cooked in a variety of ways
  • Reheating hard-boiled eggs in a microwave oven may superheat the yolk, triggering a loud explosion, and may burn your face, eyes and mouth
  • Microwave ovens cause chemical changes in your food that reduce nutrition, and use microwave electromagnetic fields that disrupt mitochondrial function and increase your risk for negative health conditions
  • Purchasing farm-fresh, organic, free-range pastured eggs delivers the best nutrition, and cooking them the least amount of time delivers the most antioxidant and vitamin benefits

By Dr. Mercola

Eggs are close to being a perfect food. Egg yolks deliver vitamins A, D, E, K and B12, omega-3 fats, folate and antioxidants. They are also versatile. You can use them at any meal, kids love them and they can be cooked inside or outside the shell.

Until the 1920s, chickens were raised almost exclusively for their ability to lay eggs. The meat was seasonally available, expensive and not very tasty.1 This changed, quite by accident, in 1923 when farm wife Cecile Steele mistakenly ordered 500 hatchlings instead of 50. The farmer sold the extra chickens for meat. The "mistake" was so successful, she repeated it in the following years. Then, in 1948 a contest was sponsored to breed a better tasting chicken and today Americans eat more chicken than they did in the early 20th century.2

In the 1960s, as the low-fat fad gained momentum, doctors recommended eating just the whites of eggs as the yolks were reportedly high in cholesterol, which was mistakenly thought to be bad for your health. Media warned eggs increased your cholesterol level and your risk of heart disease.

Today, following the recommendations of researchers and scientists, the egg is recognized as a nutritious food and the U.S. Government Office of Disease Prevention and Heath Promotion's Dietary Guidelines for Americans3 2015-2020 has dropped their strict limits on dietary cholesterol.4 Although eggs offer significant nutritional benefits, it is vital to seek out high-quality eggs and protect your health from cooking methods that may trigger significant burns or create toxins in your food.5

Superheating in a Microwave Is Explosive

Hard-boiled eggs, reheated in a microwave, are an accident waiting to happen. A 9-year-old girl in the U.K. found that out when she reheated an egg for 40 seconds, and while carrying the egg to a table, the egg exploded.6 Pieces from the superheated egg tore her cornea and required a lens replacement to restore her vision months later.

Ophthalmologists used this as a case study when they made an appeal to microwave manufacturers to place warning labels on microwave ovens about the dangers of exploding eggs.7 Manufacturers warn against microwaving eggs without first piercing them several times. But those warnings are found in leaflets that accompany the microwave, which many owners toss, explains Dr. Saurabh Goyal, ophthalmologist at Queen Mary's Hospital in the U.K and one of the letter's authors.8

It is not just eggs that explode in the microwave. An Illinois woman scalded her face and corneas after a bowl of water she heated in the microwave exploded in her face.9 Louis Bloomfield, Ph.D., a University of Virginia physicist explained to ABC News:

"You're used to having water or liquid boil when you heat it above a certain temperature, but there are occasions, and they're more frequent than you'd expect, in a microwave oven when the water goes to or above boiling without any bubbles forming. And that's a phenomenon known as superheating.

Well, it's almost like a bomb once you've got it superheated adequately, because anything that triggers the boiling, once you've reached that temperature, will cause catastrophic, very sudden flash boiling."

A review of the literature published in 2001 found 13 cases where individuals were burned by exploding eggs after they were removed from a microwave oven.10 In some of those cases the explosion occurred even after the shell or yolk had been pierced. In 2002, an estimated 2,700 people in the U.K. sustained a microwave-related injury, half of those from hot liquid.

More recently, a lawsuit was filed after a customer at a restaurant bit into an egg that had been reheated in a microwave. The egg exploded in his mouth with a loud bang, causing burns.

Exploding Eggs Do Not Cause Acoustical Damage

During the ensuing court case, a San Francisco-based firm specializing in acoustics was asked to determine if the noise from the exploding egg could have caused hearing damage.11 The firm presented their results during the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.

During the experiments, the scientists controlled variables, including measurement of sound levels, internal temperature of the eggs and documentation of the different kinds and sizes of the eggs used.12 Hard-boiled eggs were put into a water bath and heated for three minutes in the microwave. The temperature of the water bath was measured in the middle and end of the heating time.

The eggs were then removed from the water bath, placed on the floor and pierced with a fast-acting meat thermometer to both pierce the egg and measure the internal temperature of the yolk. The researchers found the internal temperature was consistently higher than the water bath from which the eggs had been removed. This suggested to the researchers that the egg was more receptive to heating from the microwave than was the surrounding water. The scientists hypothesized:13

"... That the egg's protein matrix traps small pockets of water within the yolk, causing the pockets to superheat well above the nominal boiling temperature of ordinary tap water. When these superheated pockets are disturbed by a penetrating device, or if one attempts to bite into the egg yolk, the water pockets all boil in a furious chain reaction leading to an explosion-like phenomenon."

The team was tasked to answer the question of whether an exploding egg created enough pressure to damage hearing. They found that, although loud, a single explosion wasn't enough to damage hearing. Anthony Nash, currently serving on a U.S. Technical Advisory Group to review and comment on international standards addressing mechanical vibration in the environment, explains their results:

"We needed to quantify the peak sound pressures from an exploding egg so we could compare it to hearing damage risk criteria. At 1 foot away, the peak sound pressure levels from microwaved eggs covered a wide range from 86 up to 133 decibels.

Only 30 percent of the tested eggs survived the microwave heating cycle and exploded when pierced by a sharp object. On a statistical basis, the likelihood of an egg exploding and damaging someone's hearing is quite remote. It's a little bit like playing egg roulette."

Chemical Changes Produce Toxins and Reduce Nutritional Benefits

While the probability of hearing loss may be remote, the likelihood of chemical changes in food cooked in a microwave is far higher. Microwaving alters the food's chemical structure and begins in areas with the highest water concentration. As water is not uniformly present throughout your food, it is frequently unevenly heated. Knowledge of the changes to food from microwave heating has dramatically increased from the time the appliance was first introduced.

For example, using any type of plastic container opens up the probability that chemicals like BPA will leach into the food, contaminating it with hormone disrupting chemicals. High heat, such as in microwave ovens, may also produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and advanced glycation end products (AGEs), each of which are known carcinogens.14

Research into nutritional changes related to thawing, cooking or reheating foods in a microwave is slowly demonstrating that altering the chemical structure of food using microwave radiation likely also damages nutrients. One study found microwaved broccoli lost up to 97 percent of beneficial antioxidants,15 while as little as 60 seconds inactivated all the allinase in garlic, the active ingredient against cancer.16

A Scandinavian study found microwaving asparagus reduced vitamin C17 and a Japanese study found six minutes of heating rendered up to 40 percent of B12 in milk inert.18

Researchers have also discovered microwaves cause a higher degree of "protein unfolding" than conventional heating19 and will destroy essential disease-fighting agents in breast milk that help protect your baby.20 For this reason, and because microwaving may cause the milk to get excessively hot and may burn your baby, NEVER heat breast milk in the microwave.

Microwave Radiation Triggers Massive Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Microwave radiation is a form of electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation that is common to cellphones, Wi-Fi routers and microwave ovens. EMFs are a pernicious health hazard that affects your body at the cellular level, causing massive mitochondrial dysfunction through free radicals from peroxynitrite. This short video with Martin Pall, Ph.D., is an introduction to an hourlong interview where we discuss the damage EMF triggers.

Pall has identified and published research describing the likely molecular mechanisms of how EMFs damage plants, animals and humans.21,22,23,24 His research demonstrates exposure to EMF radiation opens voltage-gated calcium channels in your cells' membranes, allowing a massive influx of calcium into your cells.

Excess intracellular calcium increases calcium signaling and increases nitric oxide (NO) to massively excessive amounts that interact with superoxide. While lower amounts of NO have beneficial health effects, larger quantities trigger a reaction that forms peroxynitrite, an extremely potent oxidant stressor.

It is important to state that not all oxidative stress is harmful. Your body requires a baseline of free radicals for optimal health. NO, for example, is a free radical that has several beneficial effects when produced in moderation. NO helps reduce your blood pressure, support your immune system and naturally reduces platelet aggregation that reduces your risk for heart attack and stroke. The problem occurs with excessive oxidative stress that can be triggered by exposure to microwave EMF radiation.

Nutrition in the Egg Is Dependent on How the Chicken Was Raised

As with most biological processes, the end result is a culmination of what was used to build the organism. In the case of eggs, there is a vast nutritional difference between chickens raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and fed GE grains supplemented with vitamins and antibiotics — standard supermarket eggs — and organic, free-range pastured eggs.

You'll be able to tell if your eggs are free-range or pastured by the color of the yolk. Hens allowed to forage in a pasture produce eggs with rich orange-colored yolks, while caged hens produce eggs with pale, anemic yellow yolks.

The Cornucopia Institute addresses some of the issues of nutritional value in eggs in their egg report25 and scorecard26 that ranks egg producers according to 28 organic criteria. This information may help you make a more educated choice when buying eggs at the supermarket. Ultimately, your best choice is to purchase your eggs and grass fed meat directly from a trusted local farmer.

Alternatively, you might consider raising your own backyard chickens. This practice is growing in popularity and many U.S. cities are adjusting their zoning restrictions accordingly. Requirements vary depending upon your locale, with some limiting the number you can raise or requiring a quarterly inspection and permits (at a cost). Check with your city, but you may be surprised to learn they already allow chickens. If you don't want to raise your own chickens, but still want farm-fresh eggs, you have options.

If you live in an urban area, visiting the local health food stores is typically the quickest route to finding high-quality local egg sources. Farmers markets and food co-ops are another great way to meet the people who produce your food. With face-to-face contact, you can get your questions answered and know exactly what you're buying. Better yet, visit the farm — ask for a tour. If they have nothing to hide, they should be eager to show you their operation.

The Choline Connection

Eggs are one of the best nutritional sources of choline available. Choline helps to keep your cell membranes functioning, plays a role in communication in your nervous system and reduces chronic inflammation. Your body uses it to make acetylcholine, used in your brain to store memories. During pregnancy, a woman's body uses it to prevent birth defects and plays a role in brain development.

However, as important as this nutrient is to your health, research finds only 8 percent of American adults are consuming enough.27 Researchers have found it's "extremely difficult" to get enough choline unless you eat eggs or take a dietary supplement. Of those who do eat eggs regularly, more than 57 percent met adequate intake levels, compared to 2.4 percent who don't eat eggs.

Some of the symptoms of low levels are similar to early symptoms of dementia or of menopause, and include memory problems, lethargy and persistent brain fog. Since your body can only synthesize small amounts at a time, it's necessary to routinely get it from your diet.

Healthiest Way to Eat Eggs

Although versatile, how you cook them may lower the antioxidants available. According to one study,28 storing eggs in the refrigerator didn't change the nutrient values, but boiling and frying significantly reduced oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) value (a test that attempts to quantify the total antioxidant capacity) and the contents of free amino acid, lutein and zeaxanthin.

In another review of the nutrient value, cooking reduced vitamin A content between 17 percent and 20 percent.29 Overall, the shorter the amount of time spent cooking eggs, the more nutritional benefits they retain. Soft boiling or poaching until firm are good ways of cooking within those parameters. However, the healthiest way to consume eggs when they are from a high-quality source of pastured, organic hens, is raw.

When eggs are baked for 40 minutes they can lose as much as 61 percent of vitamin D content, compared to 18 percent when they're boiled or fried for a shorter period.30 Another study reported that consumption of antioxidants is known to reduce oxidative damage in cells and improve health. In addition to well-known nutritional contributions, eggs play an important role as an antioxidant food.31

Post your comment