Widely known in Canada from his Montreal Gazette column, and work with the Discovery Channel, Schwarcz (Let Them Eat Flax) is an entertaining guide through the tangle of conflicting research studies, advertising claims, special interest groups, age-old myths and popular opinion that make diet a cloudy subject. In short chapters he aims his microscope at such highly touted foods as tomatoes, acai berries, curry and soy; additives like nitrites, artificial sweeteners, vitamins and fluoride; contaminants including pesticides, hormones, trans fats and dioxins; and what, for him, are suspect fads. Schwarcz contends that while there are no "magical" foods, a diet of mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products and moderation are key to good health. To help readers make informed choices, he ably cuts through many controversies and will likely stir up a few (he challenges those who condemn milk consumption, espouse detoxification and promote kosher foods, for example). Schwarcz makes learning fun by peppering his text with fascinating facts (coffee contains naturally occurring carcinogens, and apples have formaldehyde). More importantly, he leaves readers with a rational framework for evaluating the complex nature of foods and how they affect health. (Jan.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
An Apple A Dayby Joe Schwarcz
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 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.
Every day, consumers are bombarded with new food and nutrition information. Are genetically modified foods dangerous? (Maybe, maybe not.) Should we eat fish for the omega-3 fatty acids or avoid it because of the mercury? (Eat in moderation.) Will an apple a day really keep the doctor away? (No, but eat it anyway.) Schwarcz (Let Them Eat Flax), a chemist and the director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society, has created a useful reference work for harried consumers. Whether reading cover to cover or picking relevant chapters, readers will find this book a convenient way to separate food fact from food fiction. Particularly timely are the chapters "Substances Leaching from Plastics" and "The Bisphenol A Issue," which highlight current health concerns. An entire section helps debunk questionable diets. Readers will not need a PhD in chemistry to follow along; Schwarcz wisely limits technical terms to the minimum while adequately explaining the chemistry involved in digestion. His latest is strongly recommended for public libraries, especially those with consumer health and nutrition collections. Also recommended for medical libraries with consumer health collections.
Rachel M. Minkin
“Readers will not need a PhD in chemistry to follow along; Schwarcz wisely limits technical terms to the minimum while adequately explaining the chemistry involved in digestion.”
Rachel M. Minkin
“… an entertaining guide through the tangle of conflicting research studies, advertising claims, special interest groups, age-old myths and popular opinion that make diet a cloudy subject. … leaves readers with a rational framework for evaluating the complex nature of foods and how they affect health.”
"An Apple a Day hashes out hype and irrational panic one chemical compound and one foodstuff at a time. Between ubiquitous cover-ups and endemic hysteria about what’s in our food and our bloodstreams, there’s nothing more helpful than a clear-speaking and apparently non-aligned food chemist who is willing to identify the real risks and defuse the rampant bad information out there. Addressing allegations that companies like Monsanto and Novartis intentionally poison consumers, Schwarcz urges skepticism, because “no company wants to undermine its existence or its profits by marketing a dangerous substance.” Discounting unfounded rumors, Schwarcz identifies a handful of foodstuffs and practices that should cause real concern. The most serious are the rampant use of antibiotics in livestock and indications that trans fats may do serious harm to people’s memories."
- Other Press, LLC
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- Penguin Random House Publisher Services
- NOOK Book
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Read an Excerpt
Is there a better subject with which to begin a discussion of the relationship between food and health than apples? After all, doesn’t “an apple a day keep the doctor away”? Maybe it does, if you throw it at her! There are no single foods that have magical health properties. There are good diets and there are bad diets. It is certainly possible to have a good diet and never eat apples, just as it is possible to gorge on apples and have a horrible diet. What really matters in terms of nutrition is the net effect produced by all of the chemicals that wend their way into our bodies from the food we eat. Yes, chemicals. I can practically see those eyebrows being raised. It may seem unusual to see the word “chemical” without an adjective like “poisonous,” in front of it. Actually, without appropriate context, “toxic chemical” is a meaningless term. . . . Everything in the world is made of chemicals, and if you restricted yourself to a diet free of chemicals, you would be dining in a vacuum! With that in mind, let’s investigate the chemicals in an apple. So tell me, would you like some nail polish remover in your diet? Or rubbing alcohol? Then have an apple! Yes, all apples contain acetone and isopropanol. And if these don’t sound toxic enough, you can throw in some cyanide. It’s there too. Added by nature, not by humans! Should you then be worried about eating apples? Of course not! The amounts of these chemicals are too small to be of any consequence. Apples, as already mentioned, contain over 300 naturally occurring compounds, and whatever effect the fruit has on our health is a reflection of all of these.
Meet the Author
Joe Schwarcz is director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society in Montreal. 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 six books, 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 on Canadian television, and the host of weekly radio shows in Toronto and Montreal, Schwarcz also writes a weekly column for The Gazette in Montreal, where he lives. Visit him at www.joeschwarcz.ca.
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