Buckle up… this is a long one!
You may not know it — well I guess you do now — but I’m a huge nerd when it comes to health and nutrition documentaries. I could seriously watch them over and over and over and over… and never get bored. I find new facts each time I watch, and feel a renewed sense of conviction afterwards. I’ve watched most available health/nutrition documentaries on Netflix, and as I mentioned, my favorites at least 3 times and a few on this list… no joke, over 10 times. Hey, I like what I like!
While I don’t think that Netflix always gets it right on movie options, I’m overall happy with the number of quality health and nutrition documentaries that I’ve watched — and have remained available on Netflix — over the years. Don’t you just hate it when you go to re-watch something only to find it is no longer listed?! The absolute worst. One I did not list is called ‘Fed Up’ and it literally JUST was removed from Netflix and is great.
I am not vegan, though I have been vegan in the past (only when it came to eating… I never got rid of my leather purses or anything like that.) I do eat meat, though I try and minimize the amount I eat. Most days I have a whole foods, plant based diet. However, I’m at a time in my life that I can honestly say, I’m all about balance. It has taken me a VERY long time to get to that place… but being able to listen to what my body needs/wants is empowering. Nonetheless, from time to time, I like to watch my favorite documentaries again just as a subtle reminder of why I choose to eat the way I do… because everyone can find themselves drifting into bad habits periodically.
This health journey I’m currently on has been wonderful at times, and wonderfully exhausting too. While I love that I feel better, am getting in better shape, I sleep better, my skin is improved, etc. etc. etc. I’m still not “there” yet… wherever there is. But sometimes half the battle is just having the info you need to propel you forward, and that my friends is why I love these documentaries. For me, knowing the facts and data, and hearing the stories of halted diseases and long lives, is so inspiring and wonderful. Even if I make mistakes in my eating and I’m not perfect, I love that I have this arsenal of information at my fingertips and I want you guys to feel that way too.
Hopefully you’ll find my list helpful. I tried to be thorough in my descriptions as well as give my honest opinion on why someone might be interested. All movies are still available on Netflix. If you don’t have Netflix… I don’t know how you live life because clearly it is my hub for documentaries (which are totally my fave), BUT you can also find all films elsewhere. Amazon is a good resource for instance. Just type the title into Google and see what works best for you! Enjoy.
Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
This documentary was the start of my love for health and nutrition films back when I was in college. It follows Joe Cross — a man who is both obese and suffering a number of autoimmune diseases — on a 60 day fruit and vegetable juice diet. When I initially watched this documentary I was inspired and therefore did a 30 day strictly fruit and veggie juice diet (actually I did this on more than one occasion), it also helped me to replace one meal a day with fruit and veggie (but mostly veggie) juice at many times in my life, but I think the biggest thing it taught me was the healing power of fruits and vegetables. Giving your body the nutrients you need is truly transformative. I recommend this movie as kind of a kick-starter if you will? If you’re fatigued, get regular headaches, dealing with chronic health issues (including skin issues), or just know you don’t feel your absolute best…this documentary is a great intro into a plant based diet. I mentioned having done the fruit and juice ONLY diet before, and while it did have a resetting affect for me, I don’t know that everyone needs to do it… but I do think incorporating fresh juices into your daily routine can make a huge difference.
Forks Over Knives
This documentary is seriously so wonderful… I think every person in America should watch it (I’d say the world but we’re the ones with the crappy Western diet.) Yes it is going to suggest a plant based diet — which I know can be a BIG turnoff for super meat eaters — but this film includes the science behind it all. If you’re one of those people that has to know the whys (or just asks a lot of questions) before you would make a drastic change, this is the documentary for you. While they do include a lot of data, it is explained in ways that make sense for those of us who aren’t scientists and the pace is great. The most important part: this film uses data to prove that adapting a plant based diet can not only keep you from getting chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, but that if you are diagnosed, you can actually reverse the effects and eliminate and/or control it entirely. HOW AMAZING IS THAT?! This day and age, it is not unheard of for cancer patients to be told to go on a plant based diet… and that’s why! The problem is, people now have this information and still choose not to run with it. While I understand that not every person cares to have a plant based diet, this documentary — at the very least — may make you reconsider the sheer amount of animal products you’re eating regularly.
In Defense of Food
“Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” That’s the idea behind this movie. Michael Pollan is a writer and activist — not a scientist — who’s written many pieces on where food comes from, but in this documentary he goes over what it is we should be eating. Various scientists, nutritionists, and doctors speak in this film. I really love this one… it has a very chill vibe (if a health documentary can have a chill vibe haha.) It’s a look at food as a whole, how it has changed over time (in a bad way), where we run into problems with our current Western diet (think way too much disease), and what it is we can do to live a balanced, healthy life. This film does NOT tell you a specific diet you should be eating, but more of the importance of focusing on a whole foods plant based diet. It also does NOT tell you that you cannot eat meat. If you can stay away from processed foods, you’re gold. I love the comprehensiveness and balance of this movie. There’s even a doctor who says he eats meat only once per week because while he knows it is truly never good for him, that’s the balance he finds in his life… and I love that. Not striving for perfection, but just making an effort to be healthier. For those of you who want to learn more about health and nutrition and are interested in watching documentaries, this one is a great neutral — while still interesting — film.
So this one is great BUT also at times quite graphic. It is examining the food industry and production so you can probably imagine there’s some parts that are pretty difficult to watch. It also has a very different feel than the other films. It opens talking about the reality of factory farming and how corporations market a completely different story… beautiful farms, happy animals, safe and healthy food, etc. You learn about lies and deceit… the public isn’t allowed to know a lot of information about the food we eat. Corporations decide what we can know including where it comes from and what’s in it. The industrial food system is mammoth and controls everything… and this one really shows us how. It also examines how our health is being affected by big corporations… and if you think money is a huge factor, you’re right! This film is probably more interesting to the business-minded person. Though everything is presented in a way that is easily understandable, it definitely focuses on health from a different angle than the other films. I highly recommend… you’ll never look at grocery stores, packaging, or food in general the same.
What the Health
This documentary marries everything in the previous listed films but addresses why it is that leading health organizations choose not to share the ways to both prevent and cure chronic diseases. The filmmaker — Kip Andersen — is this very zen surfer-type guy who rolls around in a blue van on his search for answers. He makes several attempts to speak to health organizations and on many cases they became very aggressive and/or refused to comment. Even items listed on health organization websites as being healthy are scientifically proven not to be… so why? If again you think this must lead back to money… you’re right. I’ve frequently thought that pharmaceutical companies don’t want people to get healthy because then they will lose money, and maybe I’ve always been right? This film will make you question your “healthy” choices — including chicken and eggs — and reconsider the entire meat and dairy industry. The filmmaker’s own desire to learn will fuel your desire to ask questions as well. If you read this last description and thought to yourself, “it seems like all of these films suggest a plant based diet,” you’re 100% correct. But if you’ve not considered a diet change, that’s okay! These films will at least give you some information so you can make your own decision.
So do you have a favorite health documentary? If so, I’d love to check it out myself (if I haven’t already!)
Cover photo by Washington’s Green Grocer (@greengrocerdc).