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An Apple a Day: The Myths, Misconceptions and Truths About the Foods We Eat

by Joe Schwarcz

In An Apple a Day, Joe Schwarcz, who holds a PhD in chemistry and lectures on food science at McGill University, aims to guide consumers in their dietary decisions by casting the light of science on healthy ingredients, food-industry bugaboos, harmful contaminants, and bogus culinary trends.

Dividing the book into four sections, Schwarcz offers 66 self-contained chapters that draw on a plethora of epidemiological studies. In the first and longest section, he provides highly valuable and fascinating information about the health benefits of dozens of naturally occurring substances in food, such as antioxidants in apples, which attack free radicals in the body; docosahexaenoic acid in fatty fish, which has been shown to ward off depression; and indole-3-carbinol in cabbage, which stimulates cancer-fighting enzymes. Readers will want to have a pen at hand to make a shopping list of miracle ingredients, from olive oil to blueberries to turmeric.

Section two provides equally fascinating information about the manipulation of food by farmers and corporations. Schwarcz takes an implicitly pro-industry stance here, though he backs up most of his arguments with solid evidence. He slips a bit, though, with his scoffing attitudes about the public’s fears of genetically modified foods, claiming that “no company wants to undermine its existence or its profits by marketing dangerous substances.” Perhaps not, but many would likely enhance profits by doing so if they could get away with it.

The third section examines the threat of contaminants in our food supply, such as pesticides, plastics, and hormones. The chilling revelations about how the subtherapeutic use of antibiotics on farm animals is undermining the therapeutic efficacy of antibiotics in humans is worth the price of the book alone.

The final section tackles a handful of dubious dietary trends, debunking the myth, for example, that kosher foods are nutritionally superior, and exposing the complete lack of hard evidence showing any benefits to dietary detox programs.

Offering much fascinating and useful science, An Apple a Day is, for the most part, a wholly approachable and reliable primer on food health and safety.