Assumption. The correct answer choice is (E)
The stimulus contains the following structure:
- Premise: Sodium increases the risk of heart disease.
Premise: The potassium in plant foods helps reduce that risk.
Conclusion: Eat fresh, rather than canned or frozen, fruit and vegetables.
The author recommends eating fresh, rather than canned fruit and vegetables because the potassium
in plant foods counteracts the malign effects of sodium on your heart. It is entirely unclear why
eating fresh foods would be any better than eating canned or frozen ones. Because this is an
assumption question, the answer you select must contain a statement upon which the argument
depends, i.e. a statement that is necessary for the conclusion to be true. Typically, if you see a new
or “rogue” element in the conclusion, look for a Supporter assumption answer that links the new
element back to the premises. Since the distinction between fresh and canned plant foods did not
appear anywhere else in the argument, the Supporter assumption must state that fresh fruit and
vegetables contain more potassium than canned or frozen ones.
This prephrase reveals answer choice (E) to be correct.
Answer choice (A): This answer choice contains the wrong comparison: the higher proportion of
potassium to sodium in fresh fruit and vegetables does not mean that eating such foods will provide
us with a greater amount of potassium than canned or frozen ones. This comparison has no bearing
on whether we are better off eating one type of food over another.
Answer choice (B): This answer choice may seem attractive because it lends further credibility to
the recommendation that eating fresh fruit and vegetables is better than eating canned or frozen
ones. Indeed, if manufacturers often add sodium to canned or frozen foods, and sodium consumption
increases the risk of developing heart disease, it becomes even more likely that eating such foods is
bad for us. However, just because a statement supports the author’s conclusion does not mean it is
necessary for the conclusion to be true. Apply the Assumption Negation Technique and ask yourself,
“What would the author say to this negation?”
- Food processing businesses rarely add sodium to foods being canned or
The logical opposite of answer choice (B) implies that canned or frozen foods would have a
comparable amount of sodium to fresh fruit and vegetables, because no sodium would be added
during the manufacturing process. Nevertheless, it is still possible that fresh foods contain more
potassium than do canned or frozen ones. Since the potassium in plant foods helps to counteract the
effects of sodium, it is still possible that eating fresh fruit and vegetables is better for us.
Because the logical opposite of answer choice (B) does not weaken the conclusion of the argument,
answer choice (B) does not contain an assumption upon which the argument depends.
Answer choice (C): Whether potassium is the only mineral that helps to prevent sodium’s malign
effects has no bearing on the conclusion of the argument.
Savvy test takers would eliminate answer choice (C) immediately, because it does not make any
mention of the rogue element in the conclusion (“fresh fruit and vegetables”). Given that Supporters
connect new elements, one would suspect that the correct answer would include this element.
Answer choice (D): This is another attractive answer choice, because it supports the central premise
that potassium in plant foods protects against heart disease. As with answer choice (B), however, this
statement is not necessary for the conclusion to be true. Even if potassium in fruit and vegetables
did have some negative side effects, it is still possible that in moderate amounts it helps to prevent
sodium’s malign effects, or that the benefits outweigh the costs. Because the logical opposite of
answer choice (D) does not weaken the conclusion of the argument, this answer choice does not
contain an assumption upon which the argument depends.
Answer choice (E): This is the correct answer choice. Try the Assumption Negation Technique—
if fresh fruit and vegetables do not contain any more potassium than canned or frozen ones, the
author’s recommendation would make no sense.