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Plastic in the Microwave: How Harmful is it?

Is using plastic wrap when reheating or cooking foods in the microwave harmful to your health? 

It's not uncommon to see people microwaving leftovers in plastic dishes, heating up meals in the plastic containers they come in, or placing plastic wrap over foods to protect the inside of a microwave from splatters. Is all this as innocent as it seems?

I don't think so. While plastic has many terrific uses, when it comes to cooking it should be avoided. DEHA [di-(2-ethylhexyl)adipate], sometimes found in cling wrap, and other chemicals commonly found in plastic are potential endocrine disruptors, and can negatively influence hormonal activity. While studies are underway to better define the health risks associated with plastics, it is best to steer clear of using plastic and plastic wrap in the microwave, as the heat can drive plastic molecules into your food. Instead, use glass or ceramic containers and cover foods with waxed paper or a paper towel. I also suggest avoiding pre-packaged foods that come in cling wrap (if you purchase such products, transfer these items to a different storage container once you get home).

Meal Planning: Foods for Healthful Cooking Methods

For healthful meals, you need the right ingredients, but it does not stop there – the preparation methods factor in as well. Find out the four cooking methods Dr. Weil suggests, and the foods best suited for each!

These four cooking methods will help optimize the nutrients in your foods - and in some instances may help prevent unhealthy consequences. Use the following tips to maximize the nutritional benefits of foods, and use the food suggestions for your grocery list.

  1. Use marinades. Marinating meats (particularly chicken) may reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) when grilling, which evidence shows may be carcinogenic. Garlic, rosemary, ginger and turmeric are all healthful spices to include in marinades – add them to your grocery list!
  2. Use a slow cooker. What you put in - fresh vegetables, lean proteins - is a big part of what makes a healthful meal, but the lower temperatures slow cookers use may help preserve nutrients that are otherwise lost when food is cooked rapidly at high heat. Dried beans lend themselves well to slow cookers – buy some for a vegetarian chili!
  3. When grilling, pre-cook meats on the stove or in the oven, and finish them off on the grill. Less time on the grill means fewer carcinogens in your meats. Try this with fish such as wild Alaskan salmon or black cod (also called sablefish).