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

Author: Joe Schwarcz, PhD
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd
Price: $32.95 hardcover

Dr. Joe Schwarcz  is Director of McGill University’s Office for Science and  Society. He applies nutrition and chemistry to real life with  a sprinkle of humour through his courses, presentations and in  the media. An Apple A Day is his fifth book.

The book is divided into four sections, each covering a key issue:

  • Naturally occurring substances in our food supply (such as lycopene  in tomatoes and vitamin D in cod liver oil);
  • Manipulating our food supply (such as iron fortification and  organic farming);
  • Contaminants in our food supply (such as pesticides and PCBs)
  • Tough to swallow” (such as goji juice and DHEA).


An Apple A Day is a “pick-up, put-down” guide book on  nutrition in the news. Its 66 short, easy-to-read chapters have  the added bonus of no-nonsense advice at the end of the chapters.  The index makes it easy to use as a reference book.

The tone adds lightness to the science of nutrition as Schwarcz  connects Popeye with spinach, and relates WWII pilots to eating  carrots.

There is matter-of-fact guidance on who to believe when it comes  to nutrition andnutrition and also a helpful conclusion putting  the book intobook into perspective and applying the information  to daily eating. We also like the practical tips e.g. buy Ceylon  cinnamon because it contains less coumarin, a naturally-occurring  compound that can cause liver and kidney damage if taken in high  doses.

Schwarcz is not afraid to take a stand on issues and he supports  his opinions with science. For example, he states that mostthat  most people can benefit from reduced salt intake. Also, he supports  his opinion on the controversial issue of aspartame with scientific  facts.


At times, Schwarcz verges on letting humour get in the way of  communicating science clearly.  With certain topics, we wanted him to go into more detail with  his information. For example, what would he tell consumers about  purchasing organic meat? Also, when he recommended that women  should reduce large fish consumption, he needed to mention young  children and breastfeeding moms.

Science keeps advancing and when the book was written in 2007,  he states that stevia was not approved as a food additive in Canada  and the US. In September 2009 Health Canada approved stevia as  an ingredient.

The Bottom Line

We recommend this book because we are confident in Dr. Schwarcz’s  science-based opinions. It serves as a useful reference book for health professionals  and is handy for consumers who are looking for the bottom line  when they feel confused about all the latest food issues in the  news.

His comment “there’s more to life than worrying about  every morsel of food we put in our mouths” sums up his approach.  He puts things in perspective, when he states ” there are no safe substances, only safe doses”.

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