More and more people are stopping to consider where their food comes from, as well as the effect their dietary choices may be having on their health. Perhaps you’re considering modifying the way you eat but aren’t sure about the best way to educate yourself. With all the information out there, how do know where to start?
I find film to be an excellent medium for helping me understand what’s really going on in the world of food and nutrition. To that end, here are my top three food documentaries that may change your diet forever.
Forks Over Knives
This documentary looks at the claim that most, if not all, chronic diseases can be controlled or even reversed by avoiding animal-based and processed foods. Putting the idea of food as medicine to the test, the film follows everyday people with chronic conditions as they seek to reduce their dependence on medications and learn to use a whole food, plant-based diet to regain control over their health and their lives.
The seed for Forks Over Knives was planted in 2001 when a man named Brian Wendel decided to switch to a plant-based diet after attending a nutrition conference. After being immersed in this lifestyle for eight years, Wendel wanted to share what he’d learned with the world.
Work on Forks Over Knives began in 2009, and it debuted in 20011. The film and its accompanying book were an immediate success, but Wendel was most excited to see how people he knew—including his own father—were compelled to switch to a plant-based diet after seeing the film.
Reflecting on Forks Over Knives in 2016, Wendel said making it was the most fulfilling experience of his life. He’s proud of the film’s focus on empowerment since he strongly believes (as I do!) that we have way more control over our own health than we realize. Based on the incredible reception Forks Over Knives received when it was released, as well as its continued impact, Wendel feels people were clearly ready for the message that they have the power to improve their health by making dietary changes.
In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA.
Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.
Featuring interviews with such food experts as well as forward-thinking social entrepreneurs, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it’s produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead
100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross was at the end of his rope—and the end of his hope. In the mirror, he saw a 310 lb. man whose gut was bigger than a beach ball and a path laid out before him that wouldn’t end well. With one foot already in the grave, the other wasn’t far behind. Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe’s personal mission to regain his health.
With doctors and conventional medicines unable to help long term, Joe turned to the only option left, the body’s ability to heal itself. He traded in the junk food and hit the road with juicer and generator in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for the next 60 days. Across 3,000 miles Joe had one goal in mind: To get off his pills and achieve a balanced lifestyle. Part road trip, part self-help manifesto, this film defies the traditional documentary format to present an unconventional and uplifting story.
After watching these food documentaries, you can learn more about how dietary changes can positively affect your heart health by reading my blog posts here and here. And to get the best scientifically-validated health tips and articles sent to your inbox, sign up for my newsletter.
Myles Spar, MD, MPH is board-certified in Internal Medicine and in Integrative Medicine. As a clinician, teacher and researcher on faculty of two major medical centers, he has led the charge for a more proactive, holistic and personalized approach to care that focuses on cutting edge technology and preventative care. Dr. Spar has traveled with the NBA, presented a TEDx Talk, appeared on Dr. Oz, and been featured in publications such as the Men’s Journal and the Los Angeles Times.