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An Apple A Day [Paperback]

Joe Schwarcz
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 8 2008 1554683998 978-1554683994 1

Eat salmon. It’s full of good omega-3 fats. Don’t eat salmon. It’s full of PCBs and mercury. Eat more veggies. They’re full of good antioxidants. Don’t eat more veggies. The pesticides will give you cancer.


Forget your dinner jacket and put on your lab coat: you have to be a nutritional scientist these days before you sit down to eat—which is why we need Dr. Joe Schwarcz, the expert who’s famous for connecting chemistry to everyday life. In An Apple a Day, he’s taken his thorough knowledge of food chemistry, applied it to today’s top food fears, trends and questions, and leavened it with his trademark lighthearted approach. The result is both an entertaining revelation of the miracles of science happening in our bodies every time we bite into a morsel of food, and a telling exploration of the myths, claims and misconceptions surrounding our obsession with diets, nutrition and weight.


Looking first at how food affects our health, Dr. Joe examines what’s in tomatoes, soy and broccoli that can keep us healthy and how the hundreds of compounds in a single food react when they hit our bodies. Then he investigates how we manipulate our food supply, delving into the science of food additives and what benefits we might realize from adding bacteria to certain foods. He clears up the confusion about contaminants, examining everything from pesticide residues, remnants of antibiotics, the dreaded trans fats and chemicals that may leach from cookware. And he takes a studied look at the science of calories and weighs in on popular diets.


An Apple a Day is a must-read book for anyone who looks forward to digesting the truth about what we eat.

Frequently Bought Together

An Apple A Day + Dr. Joe's Brain Sparks: 179 Inspiring and Enlightening Inquiries into the Science of Everyday Life + Brain Fuel: 199 Mind-Expanding Inquiries into the Science of Everyday Life
Price For All Three: CDN$ 37.28

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?Wonderfully sensible suggestions about what we should be eating. . . .Thank goodness there is Joe Schwarcz.?

(The Montreal Gazette)

About the Author

JOE SCHWARCZ is director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. He teaches courses on nutrition and the applications of chemistry to everyday life. His informative and entertaining public lectures range from nutritional controversies to the chemistry of love. Schwarcz has received numerous awards, including the Royal Society of Canada’s McNeil Award, and is the only non-American to win the American Chemical Society’s prestigious Grady-Stack Award. He is the author of five titles, including Let Them Eat Flax. He was also the chief consultant for the blockbuster titles Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal and The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs. A regular guest onDaily Planet, CBC, CTV and TVO, and the host of a weekly radio show on CFRB in Toronto and CJAD in Montreal, Schwarcz also writes a weekly column forThe Gazette (Montreal). He lives in Montreal. Visit him at

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No nonsense June 10 2009
Straightforward facts anyone can understand. You make up your own mind if and whether you should make changes in eating habits. No fads here just plain information
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... May 30 2011
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
Oddly enough for an arts major, one of my favourite classes at McGill was a chemistry elective: The World of Chemistry - Food. The course focused on food science and included lectures on artificial sweeteners, chocolate, cholesterol and much more. I found it fascinating, especially since the three co-professors seemed so engaged in the material and so eager to pass on their knowledge. One such prof, Dr. Joe Schwarcz, recently gave a lecture at UVic, which Jean and I attended and thoroughly enjoyed. An Apple A Day is Dr. Schwarcz's most recent book; it aims to dispel nutrition myths, to offset fear-mongering (think BPAs, GMOs etc), and to generally preach "informed common sense." "Eat salmon. It's full of good omega-3 fats. Don't eat salmon. It's full of PCBs and mercury. Eat more veggies. They're full of good antioxidants. Don't eat more veggies. The pesticides will give you cancer." This is the kind of contradictory information that bombards consumers/newspaper readers everyday. And it demonstrates why we need Joe Schwarcz! First describing how food affects human health, his book examines the compounds in tomatoes, soy, broccoli etc. that, though not panaceas, can help maintain health. Then Dr. Schwarcz investigates how corporations manipulate our food supply, delving into the science of food additives and exploring how we might benefit from adding bacteria to certain foods. He sheds light on contaminants, examining everything from pesticide residues to remnants of antibiotics to trans fats to toxins that may leach into food from cookware. Finally, he takes a studied look at calorie consumption and debunks the "science" behind popular diets. This is an amazing book for anyone concerned about nutrition who feels overwhelmed by conflicting media reports and manipulated by advertising. Dr. Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Realistic View on the 'Science' of Food Aug. 19 2011
By Darren B. - Published on
I think he sums up the book quite nicely actually in the introduction. "A single meal can flood the body with thousands of compounds, many of which have never been isolated or identified."

This sentence alone points out the obvious misnomers associated with 'Nutrition-ism,' the flaws of Nutritional research and the importance of eating whole food. It is a strong indication, before he even discusses the various myths/facts of compounds we do know of, that it is impossible to assume that certain 'base chemicals' like Omega-3 fatty acids (to which there are actually 3 different types) are actually responsible for contributing to good health.

The truth is we really don't know if it is these Fatty Acids alone that contribute to good health, or if it's the interaction of those fatty-acids in conjunction with other compounds in fish oil for example that actually contribute to good health. How they interact with other aspects in our diet is also unknown. It could be their interaction with other compounds in our body or in other types of food that contribute to good health. Is the relationship between Omega-6 and Omega-3 consumption what is truly important?

The second most important aspect of the book, is that the 'poisons' we so aptly refer to when discussing things that are supposedly 'bad' for us (think lactose, gluten, fluoride, artificial sweeteners, etc...) are actually largely dependent on dosage to become toxic in the body and cause damage. Our bodies are in fact quite good at clearing up harmful chemicals that appear in even our most natural/organic of foods. Apple's for instance (and not many people would know this) contain formaldehyde, acetone (paint thinner) and cyanide (a known poison) in trace amounts, yet eating 2 or 3 apples a day will certainly not kill us. Toxicity is an important factor that many people miss in their assumption of the micro-nutrient content of food.

I think the introduction gives a good indication that this is what he believes as an eater: that whole foods are what is most important (not the molecular make-up) and that most of our food consumption is dependent on quantity or dosage, not what the specifics of the molecular make-up actually are.

As a food chemist, he also indicates that he is publishing a book based on the real science and not the interpretations of certain radical groups. He took a bunch of things that appear to be almost nutrition lore and looked at the actual data to support it. He never really appears to to offer strong support for one notion or the other, but rather attempts to let you come to your own conclusions.

The rest of the book, was a scientist's view on the chemistry of food. It also indicates that nutrition is highly individual and there are a lot of unknown's to this day. The question that he mostly poses is not whether any singular particular thing is good for you, but rather, will it actually harm you based on dosage?

Overall, I would say he wrote the book with a rather un-biased point of view. He points out some key flaws in certain types of rationality with regards to food from a purely scientific view point. The notion that artificial sweeteners turn to formaldehyde in the body, for example, is a ridiculous assumption, but he makes no such claims that consuming them is actually good for you, rather points out that they went through rigorous testing and the evidence was never conclusive that they cause any 'harm' at this point. That is not to say, that we won't in future, discover harm either.

I think you must read this book with an open mind. If you have already convinced yourself that lactose is bad, gluten is bad, trans-fat is bad, fluoride in water is bad, then you won't get anything from this book because you will not allow yourself to deviate from your previous beliefs about those minute details of the human diet.

When the truth is, as this book points out, that the consumption of certain types of foods is largely individual and 'it depends' on a variety of circumstances, many of which are unknown. If you have a gluten/lactose intolerance, then gluten/lactose is bad, but if you don't, then milk and grain products can contribute to overall health and well-being. If you are predisposed to tooth decay than brushing your teeth with a flouride based tooth-paste is probably a good idea. There is some research now finding naturally occurring trans-fat that might actually be good for you health believe it or not, though that is too recent to have been published in this book (maybe in a future edition you will see it).

We as a society like the good vs evil approach. Each of us have our beliefs about the good foods and the obvious counter-balancing evil foods. We can't have good without evil, right? It appears though that these beliefs are constantly changing as new research is done (in limited context and applicability I might add), which leads to more and more confusing data on a wide variety of foods and food compounds.

There are, however, two-sides to every story and I think as a general whole, Dr. Swartz does a fairly good job of citing both sides of these stories in a concise fashion.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Adventurer Dec 29 2010
By Adventurer - Published on
Everyone that tries to live a healthier and better life should read this book. This book is very informative and help you make your own opinion of diet fads. I enjoyed this book very much. It was entertaining. The fact that Dr. Schwarz uses data from studies conducted outside the US should not affect your interest in the book. This is how science and politics work; sometimes money in the US is not donated to fund research that could influence lets say the whole food industry. The book doesn't focus on just one diet trend. You can read all about antioxidants found in acai berries, blueberries... What has been proven to help you live longer and healthier and what hasn't. I'm pretty sure that if you like one of the subject in particular you can contact the author for some references or use PUBMED.
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars over all look at this.. April 13 2010
By Liz Lee - Published on
Several things were not detailed enough--for instance; talking about high fructose corn syrup.. there are Lots of studies that indicate how bad this is.. he barely talked about any of that. He mentioned a study about soft drinks in Norway, or somewhere.. THEY don't use this stuff; so it was not relevant. WE, Us American's are the only people that use this in like, 80 or 90 percent of our canned/processed food.

AND he believed that fluoride was okay for water consumption. There were several other 'issues'...... he acted like man made sweeteners were okay, overall..
made fun of stevia.. I couldn't even read the whole book.
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