Ingredients: The Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us (Hardcover)
“Delivers an enthusiastic introduction to nutritional epidemiology . . . Using simple illustrations and his trademark humor to demystify scientific analysis that doesn't always prove cause and effect, Zaidan empowers readers to make their own dietary decisions.” —Shelf Awareness, starred review
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 should eat those Cheetos, Zaidan explores a range of topics. Here’s a helpful guide:
Stuff in this book:
- How bad is processed food? How sure are we?
- Is sunscreen safe? Should you use it?
- Is coffee good or bad for you?
- What’s your disease horoscope?
- What is that public pool smell made of?
- What happens when you overdose on fentanyl in the sun?
- What do cassava plants and Soviet spies have in common?
- When will you die?
Stuff in other books:
- Your carbon footprint
- Food sustainability
- CEO pay
- Science funding
- Any kind of ball, really
Zaidan, an MIT-trained chemist who cohosted CNBC’s hit Make Me a Millionaire Inventor and wrote and voiced several TED-Ed viral videos, makes chemistry more fun than Hogwarts as he reveals exactly what science can (and can’t) tell us about the packaged ingredients sold to us every day. Sugar, spinach, formaldehyde, cyanide, the ingredients of life and death, and how we know if something is good or bad for us—as well as the genius of aphids and their butts—are all discussed in exquisite detail at breakneck speed.
About the Author
George Zaidan is a science communicator, television and web host, and producer. He created National Geographic’s webseries Ingredients, and he cowrote and directed MIT’s webseries Science Out Loud. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, The Boston Globe, National Geographic Magazine, NPR’s The Salt, NBC’s Cosmic Log, Science, Business Insider, and Gizmodo. He is currently executive producer at the American Chemical Society. Ingredients is his first book.
“When it comes to chemicals and our bodies, there are no simple answers. Thanks to George Zaidan, there are beautifully clear, elegant, accurate explanations. And they're funny. Zaidan has accomplished something I would not have thought possible. He has written an entertaining book about chemistry. Thank you, George, for this much-needed breakwater against the tide of misinformation that sloshes onto our screens.”
—Mary Roach, author of Stiff
"In a slyly brilliant bait and switch, what is framed as a book about what we should eat becomes a thriller about the scientific method itself. . . . Mr. Zaidan argues persuasively [that] the disagreements between nutritional epidemiologists and other scientists on this subject show science working as it should: It’s messy and imperfect, but the struggle is a struggle toward truth."
—The Wall Street Journal
"If you crossed Bill Nye with Stephen Colbert, you’d get George Zaidan. Ingredients is a masterful piece of science writing."
—Daniel H. Pink, New York Times best-selling author of When and Drive
“I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that food is very important, and yet we are terrible at talking about it. Nutrition is a mess of marketing, classism, science, truth, guilt, confusion, and outright hucksterism. Ingredients lifts the film from our eyes with humor and reassurance.”
—Hank Green, author of An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
"At last, a book on nutrition that tries to make you understand how little we know instead of offering blanket prognostications. If instead of a simple solution, you want a guide to how to think about health, this is it."
—Zach and Kelly Weinersmith, New York Times best-selling authors of Soonish
"If you are looking for a guide in understanding the everyday chemistry of our lives, you could not do better than George Zaidan. And his book, Ingredients, is everything that should lead you to expect: funny, edgy, fascinating, dismaying, reassuring, and overall, just incredibly smart."
—Deborah Blum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Poison Squad
"By all means, pick up George Zaidan's high-octane Ingredients if you want to know more about Cheetos, sunscreen, butter substitutes, and other fascinating bits of everyday chemistry. But above all, you should buy Ingredients because it teaches you how to think better—like a smart, informed, and wickedly funny scientist."
–Sam Kean, author of The Disappearing Spoon and The Bastard Brigade
"If you ever thought that chemistry might be really interesting (it is), but your eyes glazed over in high school chem class, this is the book for you. George Zaidan will keep you laughing out loud as he shares the wonders of our most useful, practical science, with brilliant analogies that even an eleven-year-old can understand."
—Daniel J. Levitin, author of Successful Aging and This Is Your Brain on Music
"Omfg this book is FABULOUS! It's hilarious, insightful, sassy, and reassuring. A delightful roller-coaster of science communication."
–Kallie Moore, co-host of PBS's Eons
"George Zaidan’s mix of razor-sharp wit and pinpoint accuracy are rarer in science than a T. rex performing nuclear fusion. Ingredients has the answers to age-old questions—how many Oreos are too many Oreos?—and many more you never thought to ask. Like an optometrist performing stand-up, Zaidan is eye-opening and hilarious."
—Daniel Stone, author of The Food Explorer
"Everything in our lives is made of chemicals. But unfortunately very few of us are chemists. Ingredients is a road map for navigating the confusing polysyllabic world we find in product labels and in viral news stories. Zaidan’s blend of humor and science will not only make you a better-informed consumer of all things chemical. Ingredients will also make you appreciate the chemistry that makes our world possible."
—Joe Hanson, creator/writer/host of It's Okay to Be Smart
"Through incredibly weird and wonderful analogies (and delightfully nerdy wit), George helps you understand how scientists work toward the truth. I wish he'd rewrite all of my high school science textbooks!"
—Emily Calandrelli, author of the Ada Lace Adventures
"Ingredients is a friendly introduction to the chemistry behind our health, but it's also a compelling portrait of how science is conducted and knowledge is built. Turns out, Cheetos and the scientific method have something in common: there's a lot going on, and not everyone knows what. George does a masterful job of showing where chemistry can answer questions about our health and environment, and where it—as well science in general—is lead by politics, culture and even *gasp* opinion."
—Mike Rugnetta, host of Idea Channel
"When I taught a writing intensive course for Nutrition and Food Science seniors, the main objectives were how to read scientific papers critically and how to argue effectively in print. I thought several times while reading this book that, rather than using peer-reviewed papers, I wish I could have had this book for my students. Pick any argument George makes and tell me, with references, why you agree or disagree. They probably would have learned more that way and certainly would have enjoyed their reading more."
—David Klurfeld, former professor and chair of Nutrition and Food Science at Wayne State University
"Ingredients has all the ingredients I’m looking for in a science book: it’s chock-full of interesting information, it reveals the science behind an everyday subject, it’s written in a breezy, easy-to-understand voice—and it’s funny! I can’t recommend it enough."
—Brian Malow, science comedian
"Restrained, thoughtful, and eye-opening analysis . . . There is good information to be found in this book."
"An entertaining romp through the world of scientific studies focusing on topics that will concern most readers. Recommended for all curious about the everyday products they consume or use."
"Ingredients employs a lighthearted tone and approachable language to enlighten even the least science-inclined reader on the strengths and pitfalls of the science that tells us what’s best for our bodies."
"If ‘worry’ is your default mode these days, get Ingredients and chill. You'll eat it up."
"From the start, George Zaidan’s Ingredients distinguishes itself from the typical 'eat this, not that' manifesto. . . . Ingredients is about the complex process of figuring out how to answer this question. In other words, instead of offering up faddish nutritional spin, or dishing out sanctimonious vagaries like, 'Eat real food,' Zaidan does something different—and much, much more worthwhile. . . . Zaidan has a gift for punching up hard science with goofball details without sacrificing substance."
"In Ingredients: The Strange Chemistry of What We Put in Us and on Us, George Zaidan delivers an enthusiastic introduction to nutritional epidemiology . . . Using simple illustrations and his trademark humor to demystify scientific analysis that doesn't always prove cause and effect, Zaidan empowers readers to make their own dietary decisions."