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Ingredients: The Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  705 ratings  ·  137 reviews
Cheese puffs. Coffee. Sunscreen. Vapes. George Zaidan reveals what will kill you, what won't, and why--explained with high-octane hilarity, hysterical hijinks, and other things that don't begin with the letter H.

INGREDIENTS offers the perspective of a chemist on the stuff we eat, drink, inhale, and smear on ourselves. Apart from the burning question of whether you shoul
Hardcover, 299 pages
Published April 14th 2020 by Dutton Books
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Diane S ☔
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: nfr-2020
Zaidan answers questions, I'm sure, of which many of us wonder. Explains the science, chemistry behind them and where the fault lays with different stories and studies.. Subjects include, pre-processed food, is vaping betters than cigarettes, does sun screen actually work, and is coffee good or bad? Many other common things as well. He does so in a witty manner, using graphs, data collected and the pot hole theory if measurement.

Parts of this were very interesting, though I thought at times he o
David Wineberg
Ingredients is misleading. You could be forgiven for thinking it is a book about what goes into our food, about how chemicals interact with each other and our organs, or comparing the damage done by alternating, well, ingredients. It is none of those.

George Zaidan has instead written a book about data. The ingredients he’s writing about are the data that go into and come out of scientific studies of consumption. From every conceivable angle, he shows that scientific studies are faulty and can b
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell
I just applied for an ARC! I hope I win the giveaway. This subject is very near and dear to my heart because I am allergic to some things that are put in processed food, so I have been reading food-- and makeup!-- allergies very closely for close to 15 years now.
Bam cooks the books ;-)
George Zaidan is a science communicator who has created National Geographic's web series 'Ingredients: The Stuff Inside Your Stuff.' This is his first book and it's chockfull of information, covering what's in everything from vaping to sunscreen to ultra-processed foods. It is written in a jokey style but with a firm footing in science and chemistry.

I came to this book looking for some concrete advice on what ingredients to avoid in processed foods to maintain good health. This really wasn't tha
Jul 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
Not a book about the specific chemicals in your food. This is a book about how we know what foods are good or bad for you. This is a very accessible account that delves into how nutritional studies are done, the potential pitfalls that attend that research and how you should think about it. Well worth the read.
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Unfortunately, this book was just not for me. It was a DNF, though I skimmed through most of it.

Zaidan spends most of his time trying to make science fun with humor. However, his attempts to make things funny started to feel relentless pretty early in the book. Since I was interested in the topic, I didn't need everything to be a joke to read it. Consequently, I tired of pretty quickly.

My overall takeaway on the book's message is that science regarding food is unreliable and studies have a lot
Sep 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OMG. If you have ever read a headline like “ Coffee causes Cancer” and thought you had to stop drinking coffee, You MUST read this book.
It is a lot of science and takes a little time and effort to get into, but the author is hilarious as he explains the science of stats and studies and process of foods we consume.
I will never hear a statistical headline again without putting on the asshole hat. Best book I have ever seen on the statistic front. A must read even if you are not a scientist.
Mar 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Zaidan offers a funny and engaging deep dive into the world of ingredients: what makes up the things we eat and use every day, and how should we feel about that? I never thought I would ever utter this sentence, but: his deep dive into "processed foods" (and what that means) completely changed how I considered the topic.

All in all, a great read for you or the nerd in your life.
Aug 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is absolutely the best book about chemistry I’ve ever read! Ingredients: The Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us, written by George Zaidan clearly summarizes an enormous amount of dietary research. He uses logical analogies and explanations and simple graphics to help translate complicated concepts for the rest of us. And, it’s funny. I laughed out loud many times (and probably snorted once or twice).

If you enjoy reading science, nutrition and humor, this is a great choice!
Dec 28, 2020 rated it it was ok
There's interesting stuff in there, to be sure, and the text as a whole is clearly structured. I also liked that Zaidan flat out refuses to draw some magic bullet conclusion (eat this, avoid that, put this much amount of sunscreen on), since that would go against his whole point (that it's damn tricky to study how chemicals interact in our bodies, and that the "coffee linked to lower &/ higher risk of cancer" write-ups are not at all how this works). But holy macaroni did I hate the overly jokey ...more
Leo Walsh
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
INGREDIENTS by MIT chemistry graduate George Zaidan is a real pop-science book... because it's based on a real, academic understanding of journals and how science works. Indeed, unlike most "scientific journalism" books, he actually combs the deep scientific literature to discover the deep truths about how dangerous processed foods really are to humans.

In true skeptical fashion, Zaidan looks at the epidemiological evidence. And presents readers with an accurate vernacular roadmap to understandi
Nov 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Here are a few things that you need to know about this book before you pick it up and start to read:

1) Based on the title, you'd think this would be about various processed foods and products, the ingredients they contain, and the effect those have on our bodies. You would be wrong.

2) The book starts with Zaidan asking the question, "Do ultra-processed foods shorten our life?" From there, he traces how scientific research works. Zaidan explains how to set up good (and bad) studies. He goes deep
Apr 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Pretty entertaining. I didn’t really learn anything new here but that’s because I’ve read The Angry Chef and Bad Science and this covers similar ground although is more chemistry-focused. It’s quite funny, a convo between a chemist and an anti-chemical hippie was my favorite. Some of the science did lose me a bit, and I’m not sure if that’s because my brain just shuts down at chemistry or I couldn’t get interested in it and just preferred his analysis of the data.

Worth reading if you’re not alr
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hands down one of the best non-fiction books I've ever read. The author takes a clear, scientific, multi-perspective point of view. The book is the perfect length, entertaining as hell, and is easy to understand (even when dealing with a lot of complicated science.)
I learned so much about scientific studies and I can honestly say this is information that I will use when making health decisions in the future.
La La
4.5 on the blog because, oof... some of his humor is off the charts cheesy and ended up being annoying.

This book is brilliant!

Gwyneth Paltrow: Natural things are good for you.

Me after reading this book: Cyanide is natural.

I will be doing an in-depth review of this title on my blog and will add the link when it's published.

I was approved for an eARC, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Rayfes Mondal
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great science book and not just because I love chemistry. Loved reading vivid descriptions of how cyanide kills and formaldyhde emblams. Important insight for how to interpret study results and why so many of them conflict with each. Spoiler alert: even though it's really hard to tease out individual effects from various lifestyle choices the total end result on life span is smaller than you might think. With the exception of smoking. Don't smoke. Funny writing as well. ...more
Jun 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is an absolute delight! Zaidan brings some science to what we eat and other products that demystifies a lot of discussions. The book looks at things like ultra-processed foods and its potentisl health effects (yes they do reduce life expectancy but not by a significant amount), sunscreen (most people have no idea about SPF and don't use the product appropriately) and vaping. In each section he simplifies the science but in an engaging way. Hint- the evidence on smoking is in. - for man ...more
Sep 15, 2020 rated it liked it
The more that I read this book the more annoyed I got. I understand the point that the author is trying to make about ultra processed foods and death. He obviously has a bias to one side of the science. The problem is that ultra processed foods cause greater morbidity whether or not they increase mortality. These foods are addictive and cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses. I feel that leaving morbidity out of the equation will give people the wrong idea and give them licen ...more
Molly Huff
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
While I was fascinated by the subject matter in this unique and original book, the experience fell down a little bit at the execution. I didn't care for, nor was I gripped by, the writer's style or voice, but the information contained within was still supremely interesting. Just not delivered in the most interesting way. ...more
Jun 07, 2021 rated it liked it
If Michael Pollan and Malcolm Gladwell had a foul mouthed little brother, he would write this book. Was it interesting? Yes. Did it answer the questions it proposed? Not concretely. Some amusing anecdotes, some interesting points, some things to think about. Probably too many swears for me to uniformly recommend, but it was short and basically enjoyable.
Kristie Lock
Jun 10, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
Very interesting, but a little to "sciency" for me.

His "wronger" lines had me laughing out loud.

"Wronger than an Oreo in orange juice."
"Wronger than pickles in a pinata."
Deep Frey
Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Highly entertaining and thought provoking! Study design and statistics can be terribly dry, but the author kept me engaged and laughing throughout!

Really enjoyed the appendix!
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.5 I struggled to rate this book. On the one hand, I felt like the title of this book was misleading compared to the actual contents. I expected an in-depth examination of all the different weird chemicals in our food. I expected this to be a lot more about things like "what is red-40 made of?" and "how did someone decide to use cochineal or castoreum in food?" and "how does MSG affect flavor and why?". Instead the book was more like, "why do we actually know very little about how foods affect ...more
Apr 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ingredients is such a wonderful and engaging read. In it, scientific communicator George Zaidan takes the reader on a journey to learn more about the chemistry behind common daily items (including food), from cheese puffs to coffee to sunscreen, hand sanitisers and more.

Is processed food really bad for you? Is coffee healthy? How does sunscreen work? What about hand sanitisers? If these questions are in your mind, read this book and find out why!

Written in an extremely accessible, humorous and e
Andrea Engle
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2020
Absolutely hilarious ... studies the science of scientific studies ... covers everything from Cheetos & Processed Food to Death & the Power of Prayer ... truly funny ...
Stephanie Dagg
Nov 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is absolutely fascinating, and written in such an enjoyable way. Think mad professor, eccentric genius, and that's the author, and I mean that as a massive compliment. He brings such life and fun to a rather serious subject.
We cover a huge variety of ingredients in the three parts of this mine of information. The first part focusses on processed food, plants and microbes. Part Two is intriguingly named 'how bad is bad' and weighs up certainty versus uncertainty, and Part Three, Should
Jun 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Imagine that you have two balloons in front of you, each full of pure cyanide gas. One balloon contains cyanide harvested from hand-selected seeds from apples growing naturally in organic orchards in Massachusetts. (Yes, there’s cyanide in apple seeds. More on that soon.) The other balloon contains cyanide produced in the Andrussow process, in which methane and ammonia are burned in oxygen at over 2,000°F (1,093°C) in the presence of platinum. Which balloon is safer to inhale?
Neither, of course.
Apr 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
The cover art alone clued me in that George Zaidan's book Ingredients would be an entertaining approach to science.

I must confess, I did not do well in high school chemistry. The class met at 2 pm in the afternoon; the classroom was too warm, the subject too dry, and I was not the only student who dozed off. Mr. Heald would kick the metal trash can to wake us up.

Zaidan is a 'science communicator' who understands people like me and knows how to make chemistry understandable. He draws pictures and
Oxana Tomova
Ingredients addresses the content of many things we consume every day. You can learn about processed foods, what they are, are they really that bad; why smoking is bad for you; and what we know about sunscreens.
While I find that the book is well written and it's easy to see how much research has been conducted for it, I feel that it misses the point somehow. I feel like a lot a chapters go off on tangents that don't necessarily answer the question of the chapter's title. However, the information
Sarah Ryburn
This book was not at all what I expected. I expected research around "the strange chemistry of what we put in us and on us" instead of which I got 270 pages debunking the idea that we can know anything meaningful on the subject. Zaidan is an MIT–trained scientist (specifically, a chemist) who disavows the possibility that science for all its efforts to the contrary can design, conduct, or analysis a truthful experiment concerning food and nutrition despite statements affirming that all food is c ...more
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