Stop the presses!

This just in: frozen vegetables are better for you than fresh vegetables. That’s right – don’t waste your money or risk your health on fresh vegetables. And not only that: fruit is bad for you. Fruit, it turns out, can give you Parkinson’s disease!

And you can file all of the statements above under the heading of “don’t believe everything you read.” The sad thing is, all of those statements (based on bad science in one case and poor reporting in another) appeared in the mainstream press where the casual reader might easily come away with the impression that whole fresh plant foods are inferior to processed foods.

As you’ll see, there’s a comical aspect to this sort of reporting. But at a time when obesity is one of the major health problems in the U.S., articles like these benefit no one but the processed food industry.



Knock out punch 

“Fruit Linked to Parkinson’s Disease.”

That was the headline of a recent WebMD article that appeared on the Microsoft Network. The basis for this surprising claim comes from a University of Hawaii research project that examined records from the Honolulu Heart Program, a large ongoing study that began in 1965 with 8,006 men.

The UH research found that subjects who ate fruit or drank a fruit drink at least once each day were twice as likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease as those who consumed lesser amounts of fruit or fruit juices. But the devil is in the details. Such as the fact that fruit consumption included frozen fruits. Fresh fruit is a far cry from its frozen counterpart, which often contains sugar and coloring, added during processing. But here’s my favorite detail: consumption of canned juices also counted as fruit intake – including Hawaiian Punch!

A study that considers a glass of Hawaiian Punch a fruit serving – comparing its nutritional value to, say, an apple – is a deeply flawed study.

In the end, the authors of the research admit that the increased risk of Parkinson’s may actually be due to pesticides, herbicides, or food-borne toxins, “rather than the fruit itself.”

In other words, the more accurate headline for this article would have been: “Does Fruit Intake Cause Parkinson’s? Of Course Not. That Would Be Insane.”



The freeze out 
Meanwhile, the BBC reported last month that a survey by the Austrian Consumers’ Association found that fresh vegetables that have spent time in transit or in storage may have fewer nutrients and more harmful nitrates than frozen vegetables. The BBC headline: “Frozen Veg ‘Healthier Than Fresh.'” And like the WebMD headline, this one should be followed with something like: “Not Bloody Likely!”

Without question, the fresher the vegetable, the higher the nutrient value. Food that is shipped or stored loses some of that value daily. The fresh spinach you bought on your weekend trip to the green grocer will not have the same nutrients when you eat it on Wednesday that it had when you bought it on Saturday. Nevertheless, it’s still a whole food – unprocessed and relatively untampered with.

Also without question, freezing and processing damages nutrients. And in some cases (as with the frozen fruits) it’s common to have little extras added along the way. I’ll take my chances with the fresh, thank you. Especially because (as the article admits) the actual danger of the few extra nitrates they found in the fresh vegetables is probably negligible.



Freshen up

The BBC and WebMD articles have one thing in common: their logic completely falls apart under scrutiny. Maybe they were trying to come up with shocking leads that would catch the eye of the reader. Or maybe the reporters still harbor a secret grudge for the vegetables they were forced to eat as kids. In any case, they don’t do their readers any favors when they report that the very foods that everyone should be getting more of in their diets are somehow harmful. Those who are inclined to embrace any reason to keep eating highly processed foods will find it too easy to point to those headlines and say, “Yeah, I’ll have a large order of fries with that.”



To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute


“Fruit Linked to Parkinson’s Disease” Charlene Laino, WebMD Medical News, 4/2/03,

“Are Frozen Vegetables ‘Healthier Than Fresh’?” Dr. Joseph Mercola,

“Frozen Veg ‘Healthier Than Fresh'” BBC News, 3/31/03

“Dispel Myths About the Danger of Nitrates” Alex A. Avery, Center for Global Food Issues,