This is the last of four articles in the fruits and vegetables series. Previously, I looked at picking the right fruits and vegetables, examined how pesticides affect produce, and why frozen fruits and vegetables are better than canned.

One reason why frozen comes out the winner is that canned food contains Bisphenol A or BPA, which is a major concern when eating canned fruits and vegetables.

BPA is an industrial compound that has been shown to be toxic even at low doses. It is an endocrine disruptor, which means that it acts as a hormone in the body, taking up space in receptor sites and leaving excess hormones to flow through the body and cause damage. BPA has been tied to numerous health concerns including breast and prostate cancer, infertility, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and liver-enzyme abnormalities.

BPA is ubiquitous as it is found in so many places including water bottles, cans, air, dust, office water coolers, printer inks and toners and thermal receipt paper used by grocery stores and gas stations (which can rub off onto the hands and then be absorbed by skin or ingested after contact with the mouth). The CDC found BPA present in the urine in 93% of the U.S. population and the Environmental Working Group found BPA present in the cord blood of newborns.

Avoiding BPA is a positive step toward improving wellness, and while some exposure may be hard to avoid, avoiding canned products can prevent one big source of exposure. Virtually all cans, including those containing fruits and vegetables, soda, soup, baked beans, spaghetti and ravioli and even infant formula, are lined with BPAs. Most tin cans have an epoxy liner made from BPAs (ironically to prevent the interaction of the food with the metal in the can). It’s estimated by the FDA that 17 % of the American diet comes from canned foods (and that doesn’t account for all the canned foods served at restaurants), so this is a big area where we reduce can our exposure to BPAs.

The Environmental Working Group tested canned food across the U.S. and found that in more than half of the products tested, there were levels of BPAs 200 times the government’s traditional safe level of exposure for industrial chemicals. (There is no safe standard specifically for BPAs. The FDA acknowledges it’s a concern and examined BPA levels but failed to set a safe standard level against which to test.)

The National Workgroup for Safe Markets recently released a report titled No Silver Lining that tested a random sampling of 50 cans from across the U.S. and Canada, looking at typical products many Americans might eat on a daily basis. BPA was found in 46 of the 50 products. The highest level ever found in the U.S. was found in a can of DelMonte French Style Green Beans, with a level of 1,140 parts per billion or ppb.

Walmart’s store brand (Great Value) of Sweet Peas came in at 329.3 ppb. Healthy Choice Old Fashioned Chicken Soup had 323.6 ppb. Healthy Choice Chicken with Rice Soup had 172.4 ppb.  Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup had 130.4 ppb and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup had 127.5 ppb. The amounts varied by can even among the same product offering, perhaps reflecting the time the product remained in the can.

While again there are no specific acceptable levels of BPAs, the study found that consumption of even one can of food might yield more BPA levels than were shown to cause health effects on developing fetuses in laboratory animals.

Unfortunately, there are no viable alternatives that work across all food products, which poses a manufacturing challenge that has made the industry reluctant to change. Eden Organic is the only company using a BPA-free lining for canned foods that I know of; they bake an oil and plant-based resin onto the cans instead. Muir Glen, another organic company, hopes to be BPA-free within the next year or so. There is one premier fish product, Henry and Lisa’s Natural Seafood (Sashimi-Grade Canned Albacore Tuna) that is also BPA free.

But no company has been able to offer BPA-free canned tomatoes due to the acidity of the tomatoes and their tendency to leach more from the metal of the can. Glass may be an option for pre-made sauces, but keep in mind that manufacturers may purchase canned tomatoes as a base ingredient for the sauce, so they may still contain BPAs from their original content sources.

For those of you who use canned tomatoes, there are options other than using fresh tomatoes. Pomi tomatoes, distributed by Boschi Food and Beverage of Italy, offers tomatoes in BPA-free containers. Their chopped and strained tomatoes are available on Amazon. And Trader Joe’s offers tomatoes in cartons that are also BPA-free. Short of preserving them yourself, those are the best options.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is sponsoring a bill banning BPA from food packaging, allowing for a one-year delay in the ban to enable manufacturers to make the shift. Senator Feinstein stated, “I no longer eat food out of cans. I no longer buy cans. I look for jars.” (I am thrilled that she is working to eliminate BPA in cans, though she might suggest eating more fresh local fruits and vegetables instead of opting for those in jars!)

Sadly, in all but five states (Maryland, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington) baby and infant products are still sold in BPA-laden cans. Given babies’ size and developing systems, that seems criminal to me.

We should all try to avoid BPAs and proactively work to minimize our exposure: Avoiding food in non-BPA-free cans is a great first step. But it’s an effort that is even more important for pregnant women and young children.

According to obstetrician Hugh Taylor of Yale University School of Medicine, who studies the effects of BPA on pre-natal development, “Fresh fruits and vegetables may be more expensive, but I believe that the risk is too high not to spend the extra. The entire life of that individual may be altered by a few months of BPA exposure in pregnancy. This is where the greatest risk lies. We are programming the hormonal response of the next generation. The worst effects may not become apparent for years.”

One final word before we end this series on fruits and vegetables: Don’t let the cautions we’ve discussed prevent you from eating more fruits and vegetables. Try to get up to 13 servings a day. Fresh, local and organic is always best, but do the best you can. Definitely choose organic for the “dirty dozen,” even if it means opting for frozen. Buy local mixed with frozen for the rest, with as much organic as your wallet and lifestyle will allow.


To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art


In the two prior articles on fruits and vegetables we covered a lot of ground around making better fruit and vegetable choices, for your body and our planet. While we know fresh local organic fruits and vegetables are the best choice, most of us will need to call on canned or frozen vegetables on occasion because of time and convenience factors or seasonal availability.

So before we leave the subject of fruits and vegetables, I’m going to discuss some important health implications to consider with frozen and canned vegetables and also look at how many servings you should really be eating. Let’s start by exploring the important question: Can you get the nutrition you need from five servings of fruits and vegetables per day?

Nutrient Decline in Fruits and Vegetables

Recent studies have shown comparable nutritional value between fresh, frozen and canned vegetables, but for very different reasons. (Nutritional value isn’t the only consideration, as we’ll soon see.) While experts agree that fresh local vegetables are best, the “fresh” vegetables found in our markets may have been shipped across the country or from around the world, hindering the development of their full nutritional profile. That’s because they are picked before they are ripe, so they never develop the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and enzymes that mature ripening allows. (And as we discussed in the last chapter, if they are not organic, the produce is sprayed with harmful chemicals to delay their ripening and to prevent spoiling, bruising and insect damage.)

In addition, during transport, the fruits and vegetables are exposed to heat and light, which degrades certain vitamins like vitamin C and the B vitamins. Vitamins like C that react with oxygen change chemically so that they no longer work the same way in our bodies; this is called oxidative degradation. One study followed broccoli coming to market and found it traveled 2,095 miles from California to Chicago: That’s about four days if a truck travels 70 mph for eight hours a day. Add in the time from farm to truck and then from warehouse drop-off to market and then to your table and you can see that even domestic produce travels long and far.

It’s estimated that fresh fruits and vegetables lose more than half of their nutritional value on the journey from farm to table (when they are not local). This concern is compounded because studies show that the inherent nutritional value of fruits and vegetables has declined significantly during the last 50 years. The vitamin and mineral content of produce is decreasing because of genetic modification, breeding practices that increase volume and cosmetic appeal, ripening systems, storage processes and chemical fertilizers.

Four recent studies looked at data from 1930-1999 in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Regardless of which time period was looked at or which country, the results were consistent: Nutrient value is declining. As an example, in 1951, a woman could get her full-recommended daily allowance of vitamin A from two peaches. Today, she would have to eat 53 to get that same nutritional content! This is why I recommend everyone take a whole food multi-vitamin, as it is difficult, if not impossible, to get your full nutritional needs from our food supply today, even if you eat really well.

This is also why the Center for Disease Control and the Produce for Better Health Foundation have launched a campaign to increase fruit and vegetable consumption with the slogan “Fruits and Vegetables—More Matters.” This campaign replaces the old “five a day,” as it’s generally accepted now that five servings of fruits and vegetables are simply not enough any more. Seven to 13 portions a day for adults is considered the new standard, though based on the data above, even that may not be enough.

Most of us simply don’t eat that much. The USDA guidelines are even lower, suggesting a range of five to 13 servings, but the FDA says that only 11% of Americans meet those levels. Twenty-five percent of Americans don’t eat any vegetables and 50% don’t eat any fruit on a daily basis.

Without question, the best way to maximize the nutritional value of the produce you do eat is to buy local (preferably organic) and consume it within a few days. But if we are going to increase our daily fruit and vegetable consumption to the above recommend levels, or hopefully even beyond, most of us are going to have to look to frozen or canned options to get what we need: Fresh local produce in season simply won’t be possible year round. So let’s look at the issues around frozen and canned alternatives.

Frozen and Canned Vegetables: Are they Nutritionally Comparable

I’ve already discussed some of the issues that fresh food faces on its journey to your table and why its nutritional profile may be diminished as a result. A recent study in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture looked at the nutritional value of fresh versus frozen and canned vegetables and found them all to be comparable. While the study is imperfect in that “changes in moisture content during storage, cooking and processing can misrepresent changes in nutrient content” and suggests that a more accurate comparison would be possible if future research expressed nutrient data on a dry weight basis, nevertheless, the study concludes that recommending fresh vegetables exclusively ignores the nutrient benefits available from frozen and canned vegetables.

In the case of canned fruits and vegetables, the thermal treatment in the initial processing can result in the loss of water-soluble and oxygen-labile nutrients such as vitamin C and the B vitamins. But after that, nutrients remain stable due to the lack of oxygen inside the can. Frozen products, on the other hand, lose fewer nutrients initially because they are typically blanched and then frozen within hours of being picked and there is less heat involved in the process. But they can lose more nutrients during storage time due to oxidation. The longer they stay in your freezer, the more nutrients they will lose, so as with fresh, try to consume them on a timely basis, especially after opening the bag.

In the end, both lose slightly more nutrients than fresh produce but the study concludes they are good supplemental alternatives. However, it’s important to note that these processes do not alter pesticide residues, so frozen or canned produce is still susceptible to toxin exposure.

In the study we looked at in the previous newsletter, (which examined the connection between kids who eat pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables and the incidence rate of ADHD), one of the biggest offenders was frozen blueberries. While they may escape some exposure due to the fact that they don’t need to be sprayed to delay ripening or prevent insect damage in travel, frozen fruits and vegetables still absorb significant amounts of chemicals in the growing process that cannot be washed away.

Even though many pesticides get into the core of the produce and cannot be washed away, you should always thoroughly wash any produce to remove what you can from the exterior. Frozen fruits and vegetables have not been washed and still require careful cleaning before consuming.

And for the “dirty dozen” most pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables, I still recommend you buy organic versions, even if you buy frozen.

If your supermarket has a separate organic section, you’ll find them in the freezer case in that section. Some supermarkets keep all the frozen products together and you can usually find organic versions in the traditional case. (If your market doesn’t have an organic section, it’s time to find a new market! Regardless of whether you choose to buy organic versus conventional, any market that doesn’t give you that choice is not a business I’d want to support.)

While canned vegetables may afford a similar nutritional profile to frozen or fresh vegetables, there is another very important health consideration that makes canned vegetables a less desirable choice: Bisphenol A or BPA. I’ll discuss the implications of BPAs in canned vegetables in the next newsletter.


To your wellness and health: your true wealth!


Author: Inger Pols is the Editor of the New England Health Advisory and Author/Creator, Finally Make It Happen, the proven process to get what you want. Get a free special report on The Truth About Sugar: It’s Not All Equal at

Photo Source: Microsoft Clip Art

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