If – by chance – you are a nutrition geek like me (and I’m thinking you just might be, since you are reading this right now), you probably spend a good amount of your spare time learning about health and what you should (and shouldn’t) be eating.
But, maybe you aren’t a big reader, or you find sifting through the hundreds of quality articles and books about dietary health overwhelming.
Or, maybe you ARE a voracious reader, but you also enjoy kicking back and learning via documentaries, too.
In that case, there are dozens of films about the food system, nutrition, and health out there to choose from.
Here are six of my personal favorites.
All of them are informative and entertaining, and cover issues including problems with nutrition science, flaws in research, Big Food’s influence over marketing and public policy, and – most important – how all of these factors are impacting our health. While I (and you) may not agree with some of the solutions that a few of the experts featured in these films suggest (I do not believe that more laws, regulations, and taxes are good options – I believe more education and personal responsibility are), each film provides valuable information in an engaging format.
Make yourself some (healthful!) snacks, get comfy, and click play.
This 2009 documentary was directed by and stars comedian Tom Naughton. While researching prejudice about overweight people for a comedy bit, Naughton watched the well-known documentary Super Size Me (in that film, director and star Morgan Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald’s food for 30 days, and viewers watch as his physical and psychological health declines).
Naughton was inspired to conduct an experiment of his own, as he explained to Chron back in 2008:
I watched Super Size Me as part of my research. But the premise and the rather large gaps in logic annoyed me so much, I decided I needed to create a reply. I know some other filmmakers went on McDiets and documented how they lost weight, but as far as I could tell, they weren’t funny. If it’s true what Mencken said, that the cure for contempt is counter-contempt, then the cure for a funny documentary that’s full of bologna is a funny documentary that isn’t.
For his experiment, Naughton consumed nothing but fast food…but his outcome was quite different than Spurlock’s.
That Sugar Film
In this documentary, brave soul Damon Gameau conducts a dangerous experiment on his own body – he stuffs himself with sugar-laden foods to see how they impact his health.
There’s a twist to this story, though: Gameau didn’t snack on candy bars and milkshakes – he consumed foods that are commonly perceived as “healthy,” like low-fat yogurt, granola bars, cereals, and juices.
His results were quite shocking and disturbing.
Fascinating, eye-opening, and at times, heartbreaking – Food, Inc. is a must-watch exposé of the horrors of the food industry and agribusiness in America.
Filmmaker Robert Kenner takes us behind the scenes and shows us the ugly truth about America’s food supply: it is controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, damage the livelihood of American farmers, neglect the safety of workers, and destroy the environment…all with the consent of the government’s regulatory agencies, the USDA and the FDA.
Food, Inc. features interviews with well-known experts including author Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation and Chew On This), Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms, and author Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto).
A companion book, Food Inc.: A Participant Guide: How Industrial Food is Making Us Sicker, Fatter, and Poorer-And What You Can Do About It, expands on the information shared in the film.
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
Speaking of Michael Pollan, the personable best-selling author of the book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto released a documentary with the same title late last year.
The film In Defense of Food debunks the daily media barrage of conflicting claims about nutrition. Pollan takes us on a journey across the globe – and through supermarket aisles – to illustrate the principles of his bestselling book.
Along the way, he shows how a combination of faulty nutrition science and deceptive marketing practices have encouraged us to replace real food with scientifically engineered “food-like substances.” And, Pollan reveals what he believes is a remarkably simple answer to our dietary woes.
The Perfect Human Diet
In this unique documentary, filmmaker CJ Hunt takes us on a journey through time and around the world in a search for a solution to the exploding epidemic of overweight, obesity, and diet-related disease.
The Perfect Human Diet features rare interviews with some of the foremost authorities on evolutionary anthropology and human evolutionary nutrition, in locations including excavations containing the remains of Neanderthals and early modern humans in Jonzac, France and the bio-molecular anthropology analysis labs at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
This film focuses on the causes of obesity in the U.S., presenting evidence showing that the large quantities of sugar in processed foods are an overlooked cause of the problem, and points to the lobbying power of Big Sugar.
It also shows how the first dietary guidelines issued by the U.S. government 30 years ago overlooked the role of dietary sugar in increasing risks of obesity, diabetes, and associated ill-health outcomes, particularly in children.
Fed Up will tug on your heartstrings – for two years, the makers of the film followed four young people struggling to overcome obesity with strenuous exercise and portion control. Video diary footage includes one teenager being advised by his doctor about bariatric surgery – a risky procedure that once would have been unthinkable for such a young person.
Are there any documentaries about health, food, nutrition, or fitness that you recommend?
If so, please share in the comments.
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