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An Apple A Day: The Myths, Misconceptions, and Truths About the Foods We Eat Hardcover – Jan 13 2009

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Other Press; 1 edition (Jan. 13 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590513118
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590513118
  • Product Dimensions: 16 x 3.5 x 23.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 590 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,687,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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 in 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.

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Livestrong on June 26 2008
Format: Hardcover
What a wonderfully refreshing change this book is. In an age where foods or supplements are deemed essential for life one day, then toxic the next, or both at the same time, the author Joe Schwarcz explains with clarity and scientific authority just what is really going on. He cuts through the latest 'miracle food' marketing hyperbole, 'astounding' research results, and explains what the substance actually is, how it operates, and the current scientific understanding of its effects on the human system. Perhaps even more importantly, he is not trying to sell you anything, not trying to convert you to some radical 'fad' or lifestyle. All he is doing is cutting through swathes of near-hysterical media bandwagons to promote common sense backed by sound scientific evidence.

In some instances, such popular myths can acutally cause harm. The take-up of pollutants in some oily fish, for example, have been shown to occur in minuscule amounts. But detrimental health effects can occur if consumers cut out such foods since the scientifically established health benefits massively outweigh any risk that such pollutants may pose. Another concern is that all our food today is contaminated with 'chemicals'. As the author states, such statements are meaningless without appropriate context. Take the eponymous apple of the book's title. Apples contain nail polish remover (acetone), rubbing alcohol (isopropanol), and cyanide. Should we be worried about eating apples? Of course not. Context is everything. The amounts of these, and over 300 other chemicals found in apples, are too small to be of any consequence. Whatever effect the fruit has on our health is a reflection of all of these naturally occurring substances.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D. Davies on Aug. 6 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've recommended this book to many of my friends. The chapters are all about 4 pages so you can put it down anytime without losing the flow. His writing style is very good: easy to read, factual, with a bit of humour to make it enjoyable. Buy it - you won't regret it.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anny Chung on March 5 2009
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoy this book. It is very easy to read, the chapters are short so that you won't loose the flow. I read this while having lunch at work and it's very enjoyable. Highly recommended.
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12 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Warren Green on Aug. 18 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book based on two 5 star customer reviews, and because at the time, it was 94th in books, here at I've purchased many books on nutrition from amazon, and this is the only one I sent back.

Coming from a Canadian author, I was hoping to like this book, but after reading the small section entitled "Milk and Calcium", I lost a lot of respect for this man as a "nutrition authority".

I think the author could have produced a better book if he'd written in greater depth, on fewer subjects, the ones he was most knowledgeable on. Dairy products are not one of those subjects, and his bias in their favour is painfully obvious.

He portrays the anti-dairy segment of our society as being primarily animal rights and vegetarian organizations, and claims that independent researchers fall on the side of the dairy industry for milk's health benefits. Don't Drink Your Milk!: New Frightening Medical Facts About the World's Most Overrated Nutrient ( While this book is dated, the number of medical doctors recommending against consuming the milk from cows has continued to grow.)

He acknowledges that, "Milk stands accused of contributing to heart disease, stroke, breast cancer, prostate cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, allergies, stomach cramps, diarrhea, autism, mucus production, and, get this, bone fractures!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book, no citations June 30 2009
By Caitlin P. Rothermel - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a good book, lots of useful information, in a nice "bite-sized" mini-chapter format. I work a lot in the field of nutrition and so recognized that a good deal of the information contained in "Apple a Day" is backed by sound medical research and published literature. In other cases, if you are familiar with the medical literature, his analysis seems a bit superficial. That said, the biggest flaw of this book is that the author did not provide citations so other readers could backtrack and check his data and assumptions.
18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book that answers a lot of questions you might have Feb. 5 2009
By MPB - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have to completely disagree with the previous review by Warren. It looks like this person doesn't know what he's talking about. "An apple a day" is an excellent book and it will answer a lot of questions you might have about food etc. First of all the author is not a "nutrition authority" as Warren claims but a Professor of Chemistry, so he explores the subject from the scientific point of view. This is not a nutritional guide or a diet book. And by the way, the author exposes many so called "nutrition experts" with degrees from online universities who really don't know what they are talking about, since they have no real knowledge of chemistry or biology. Everybody should read this book to get a better understanding about food, "toxic chemicals" etc. Now it's much easier for me to tell which "nutrition expert" knows his stuff and which one doesn't!
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A Mixed Chemical Bag Oct. 21 2009
By P. Mccall - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Overall, I found this book to be comprehensible and reasonable. The main points were there for the reading, and the more comprehensive research was there for those who want something deeper. He says what he's going to say, goes into detail, then sums it all up at the end. I can't ask for much more.

I felt that he did a good job of handling a wide variety of subjects. I agree with other reviewers who say that his chapter on milk was overly simplistic and cursory, which is odd because the rest of An Apple a Day seems very well thought out.

Mr. Schwarcz covers dioxins, BPA, fish oils, caffeine, floridation and various vitamins, among others. The book answered a number of questions I've had for a while, and some I hadn't thought of.

In general, Mr. Schwarcz was skeptical of research funded by people with a stake in the results, but he breaks his own rule a couple of times, which I found odd. I made a note of those times and tended to dismiss those particular research results. Those instances were rare, however, so I didn't find that it took away significantly from the book as a whole.

I would recommend this book for anyone with specific questions about major nutritional talking points, who wants a (mostly) even-handed evaluation of the scientific literature.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Phew and whew. May 23 2010
By Deb - Published on
Format: Hardcover
"Phew! That was a lot to digest, wasn't it?"

Those are the words author Joe Schwarcz uses at the conclusion of his book which is jam-packed with the latest data, debates, and drama about the foods (and chemicals <gasp!> therein) we eat. His book is indeed a full-course meal...and then some.

First, he leads us through a tour of naturally occurring substances in our food supply, including flax, fiber, omega-3 fats, antioxidants, flavanols, vitamins, and minerals. Next, he presents the most controversial issues related to the manipulation of our food supply: fortifying with iron and fluoride; sweetening with natural and artificial sweeteners; manipulating genes in our food; and preserving with sulphites, viruses, and radiation. Then, he takes us up close and personal with the contaminants in our food supply, including pesticides, hormones, BPA, PCBs, and dioxins. And, finally, Joe leads us through the nutritional hype surrounding some of the latest nutritional fads such as goji juice, detoxing, DHEA, and green tea.

It's likely your head will be spinning after consuming all the nutritional chemistry, controversy and and commentary that Joe serves up. (And, to answer his question above: yes, it is a lot to digest!) He does do an impressive job in guiding us through the maze of myths, misconceptions and truths about the foods we eat, but--as food science is rarely a conclusive one--be prepared to be confused at times. Fortunately, Joe offers relief at the end of the book, to help us digest it all:
"There is more to life than worrying about every morsel of food we put into our mouths. What matters is the overall diet...When you carefully scrutinize the scientific studies that are being rolled out almost on a daily basis, most amount to no more than tinkering with the basic nutritional principles we have tried to lay down: eat mostly foods based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products, and don't overeat."

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Excellent, SCIENCE-BASED book May 24 2009
By ESB - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Schwarz does exactly what he sets out to do - provides clear, straightforward summaries and explanations of the EVIDENCE that is out there regarding human nutrition and various foods and substances. He does not talk in detail about social aspects of food (production, transportation, cost) or ethical dilemmas regarding food (animal rights, etc.) because that is not the purpose of this book. Being a physician (as well as a vegetarian), I appreciate his evidence-based approach, which is very rational and even-handed. Of course, this book will not be appreciated by those who are primarily motivated by fear and emotion when making food choices, but if you want unbiased INFORMATION, read this book!