7 Game Changing Food Documentaries

7 game changing food documentaries

There’s an Ancient Egyptian Proverb that goes “one quarter of what you eat keeps you alive, the other three-quarters keeps your doctor alive.” Those Egyptians must have been on to something because, of the top 10 leading causes of death in the US, four are chronic diseases linked (although not exclusively,) to diet, namely, heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes. Between David and I, we’ve already crossed two of those off the list and we’re only in our mid forties. That’s scary stuff!

The fact that I watched my first food documentary when I was in hospital, in isolation and full of radioactivity to kill the cancer that was busy in my body is an irony that is not lost on me.

However, in the years since my diagnoses and David’s stroke, our diet has changed considerably. Rather than eating food that makes us sick, we’ve been choosing to eat foods that keep us healthy. Of course, I always make space for cake and other naughties, although these are occasional foods rather than daily ones, because in the words of the great Oscar Wilde, I believe “everything in moderation, including moderation.”

We’ve watched a whole heap of food documentaries over the years and I’m sharing with you some of my favourites, each one similar but different. I think each brings something unique to the table and we’ve taken away “ingredients” from each to make our own “recipe” for a diet that tastes good and is good for us.

What we’ve learned has totally changed the way we look at the food on our plate and while we’re not dietarily (and yes, I totally made up my own adjective) perfect, we’re trying to affect change with almost every meal we eat. We eat a lot more vegetarian meals (and not just on Mondays,) a lot less meat and a lot more fruit and veg. We’ve also kicked a hardcore soda habit, given up sweetener and swapped cows milk for almond milk. We don’t eat much processed food and when we do, we always read the label. We make more food from scratch because we like to know what’s in it and how it is made.

We might not know who we are anymore, but at least we know that we are eating better, we are feeling better, we are  better informed and we’re making better food choices. Winning all round, I’d say!

So here they are, seven of my favourite food documentaries. If nothing else, I promise they will  give you food for thought.

Forks Over Knives

It was this documentary that started our Meatless Mondays. The movie examines the claim that by eliminating or greatly reducing the refined, processed and animal foods in our diet, we can prevent and even in some cases even reverse some of the worst diseases.

The movie follows the personal journeys of, and is based upon the body of work by Dr T Colin Campbell and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, and examines the causal link between animal products and some of the most deadly diseases. As the ancient chinese proverb goes, “he that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the time of his doctor.”

Some might argue that a whole food, plant based diet is extreme, but Drs Campbell and Esselstyn argue that it’s not as extreme as the surgery many people are undergoing because of diet related diseases, hence the title of Forks Over Knives.

This film explores the work of Campbell and Esselstyn, includes some inspiring real life stories and  really puts the idea that food is medicine to the test. One thing is for sure, this documentary will certainly gives you lots of food for thought.

There’s an extensive website with tips, recipes and meal planners and you can watch the movie for free on Netflix.

In Defence of Food

Award winning author Michael Pollan brings an open mind, a fresh point of view and his prize winning book to the small screen as he strives to answer the  question “what should we eat to be healthy?”

In the documentary, Pollan explores how the western diet of cheap, convenience and processed foods is making us sick and shows how “you don’t have to be a scientist to have a healthy diet.”  As Pollan himself says, “it is very rare in life where the answer to a complicated question is so simple but when it comes to eating it is.” Pollan’s answer is a set of simple, sustainable guidelines for eating which are all about keeping it real.

Watch the movie free on Netflix.

What the Health

In this doco, described by the film makers as “the health documentary that health organisations don’t want you to see,” Kip Andersen uncovers the secret to preventing and even reversing chronic diseases, and wants to find out why America’s leading health organisations don’t want people to know about it.

It’s insightful, shocking, at times humorous and exposes the corruption between big businesses and government; why they’re withholding information, keeping people sick and making millions out of peoples’ ill health. It’s almost enough to make you turn vegan. If nothing else, this film will have you questioning where your food comes from and what’s behind food marketing messages.

The movie is free on Netflix.

Fat Sick and Nearly Dead

This documentary follows the story of Aussie Joe Cross who in his own words is so obese, he looks like he’s swallowed a sheep. He’s also suffering from an auto-immune disease and pumped to the max full of steroids so he sets out on a mission to cure himself. He figures that if the body can heal itself on the outside, it can heal itself on the inside too.

The movie follows Joe as he supercharges his nutrient intake by juicing fruit and veggies for 60 days, while clocking up over 4800km road tripping across the USA. The film tells Joe’s story and those of the people he meets along the way. There’s some great animation which makes the topic really accessible and even Joe’s mum gets a cameo.

This inspiring and humorous documentary shows that what we put in our bodies, clearly relates to how healthy we can be. I think what I love most about this is that it’s all about moderation, not perfection. Plus there’s a sequel, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead 2.

Watch for free either on Netflix or online.

Over Fed and Under Nourished

Another Aussie favourite, this documentary examines the global obesity epidemic and modern lifestyle through one young boy’s journey to try and transform his health from the inside out. It’s interspersed with interviews and advice from leading health experts, including Joe Cross who sums it up really rather nicely, “if you eat too much food made by people in white coats, you know what happens? You end up seeing people in white coats.”

Fed Up

Derek Sivers once gave a TED  talk where he talked about the doctors in China who believe it is their job to keep you healthy, so every month that you are healthy, you pay them. When you get sick, you don’t have to pay them because they’ve failed at their job. They get rich when you’re healthy, not when you’re sick. Fed Up explores the obesity epidemic in the US and explores how private profits and special interests have been placed ahead of public health and how big buisnesses are making fat profits from unhealthy people.

Although Fed Up is very American-centric, everyone can find something useful to take away here. This documentary has it all, including some eye leaking real life stories, a call to action and the tag line “congress says pizza is a vegetable.” True story.

The movie is free on Netflix and if you’re up for it, there’s a Fed Up Challenge – can you go sugar free for 10 days?

Food Inc

This powerful documentary changed the way millions of Americans eat and if you watch it you’ll see why. The documentary argues that consumers have been kept in the dark not just about what they’re eating, but where it comes from and what it’s doing to their bodies. It explores how modern American food has been engineered and reveals a world where the food industry is more protected than the consumers it supplies. It explains why cheap food actually costs us more,  in terms of  the environment, for society and our health.

Although this documentary is very American-centric, there are important lessons for all earthlings,  plus some simple and  practical tips on how each of us can change the world, one bite at a time.

Watch the film online for free.

Have you seen any of these documentaries? Do you have any to add to the list? Have you made any healthy food swaps?

Linking up with Kylie for IBOT

* Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you click to buy the item, I make a little commission but you don’t pay any extra.

 

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    Great list Sammie! I remember the impact Food Inc had on us. As you say it’s American centric but it showed never to assume anything and that you have to ask questions about animal treatment and food handling practices. It even turned my carnivore (not omnivore) sister vegetarian for 6 months.

    • I watched Food Inc again the other day to refresh my memory – probably not such a good idea considering I’m going to the states next month! I might have to be vegetarian while I’m there!

  • I have watched most of these and besides a few gems in What the Health I agree with the principles and facts.
    There are some radicals in the food documentary industry as well as dietary nazis but I appreciate their passion for better health.
    Fat sick and nearly dead 1 & 2 are my favourite.
    People have always been ‘carnivores’ and as long as animals are treated humanly I am not giving up meat or eggs or cheese. I.m grateful know where my meat comes from and our cows are free range and have a happy life.
    I know that 1 in 3 cancers are diet related but not my Sarcoma.
    I’m slowly trying to convert my family to more meatless or less meat meals and less sugar.
    I’d like to do Sugar free for 10 days. I will commit to it in August.

    • Yep, I agree with the principles and facts of the documentaries too and I’m well aware of the food nazis too 🙂

      My new favourite is In Defence of Food, because Michael Pollan argues that we should eat “mostly plants.” That makes sense because even when we were hunters and gatherers, there was a lot more gathering than hunting going on.

      I think the problem we have in the western diet is that so much of our meat is not ethically farmed, and not just that it’s factory farmed. I’m all about the free range meat though. I can’t give up eggs or cheese either but am happy to cut back.

      Even though not all cancers are diet related, I like to think that eating more healthily is healing my body and should cancer make a comeback, I want to be in the best shape possible to fight it.

      Let me know how the sugar free goes, I might have to try when I get back from holidays in September, I’ll need a detox then!

      • I agree. I think In defence of food is the only one I haven’t watched or can’t remember watching . I’m cautious committing to a Sugar Free date yet because I have another challenge starting for a month soon. I’m trying to lose a few flabby cms and build more muscle, with less muffin top . I am so jelly of your adventure. I’ll be following closely.

        • Thanks lovely. I think you will love In Defence of Food, it just makes perfect sense! As for that muffin top, is that not a figment of your imagination?! Need to squish you in real life… And soon, it’s been like forever!

  • That Sugar Film wasn’t so much an eye opener for me but for the rest of the family that started to get what I’ve been banging on about. As you know, I’m currently partaking in the Whole30 diet. Trying to get some of the auto immune disease symptoms under control, so I’m in a better position to manage day to day and to enjoy the travel I have coming up in the next six months. I have a fairly good diet as it is but this elimination style diet will hopefully get me back on track, after a few too many foodie events and ease some of the symptoms, like inflammation and gut issues.

    • I really think there is a correlation between what we eat and how we feel. I hope food can be your medicine and that the Whole 30 really gets those symptoms under control.

      That Sugar Film was an eye opener and although I’m not going to quit sugar any time soon, most of the sugar I eat, I’ve added myself to a recipe that I’ve made from scratch. Although these films haven’t changed the way I eat in a radical way, they’ve radically changed the way I think about food.

      • I had 6 months on green smoothies because I couldn’t swallow with the thyroid issues. At the time, I didn’t think it made that much difference but given everything that has come up since, I guess it did. I’m only a week in and already feeling some benefit but probably not enough to continue past the 30 days.

        • That’s great that you are already feeling the benefits! 6 months on green smoothies – I don’t think I could manage 6 days. Can’t wait to hear how you get on. x

  • I always take food docos with the proverbial grain of salt as sometimes they’re ridiculously sensationalised. The Sugar Film is a great example of basic good advice with an exaggerated and alarmist tone. But it never hurts to try to improve diet, I think. I’m a LCHF eater because that works for me and is something I can stick to. That’s the key for most of us, I reckon!

    • I agree. I think a lot of what they say makes sense. I take the bits that work for me and baby steps towards a better, healthier diets. I think it never hurts to improve our diets, especially as they’re generally so poor in the west. For me, it’s about choice, and being well informed enough to make the choice, when it comes to eating it’s “horses for courses.” I’ve heard such good things about the LCHF diet – I would definitely give it a go if I didn’t love carbs so much!

  • I find there is so many differing opinions out there about our diets and what is best, that I tend to stay away from these kinds of docos. While I know I am missing out, to be honest they scare me a little. I do love all the changes you are making, we have done similar and feel so much better for it. xx

    • I was talking to a friend the other day and she felt the same, she said she was too scared and didn’t want to know. I get that, but I think, I’d rather know because knowledge is power. Once I have the knowledge, I can choose how to use it. Although most of these docos vary in what they say is best, I think they all agree that our highly processed diet is doing us more harm than good.I think it’s a personal choice and personal responsibility to make the choices that work best for us, and our families. Here’s to happy, healthy days!

    • I think the prescriptive nature that some people talk about diet x or y is what can be so off putting.

  • I’m interested to watch all of these Sammie. I’m not sure I’d could ever be vegan but I’m curious to find out why so many people are choosing to go that way. I think it’s about listening to your body and knowing what works for you – personally I like a mediterrean style diet but with lower carb swaps

    • Such an interesting watch – the common theme as the modern western diet is highly processed and making us ill. I don’t think I could be vegan either but I’m keen to eat less meat, less dairy and as many whole foods as I can handle. Thanks to you, I’m almond milking like a boss!

  • Ooh these look like a great lineup to watch with the fam on the weekend. I really enjoyed the War On Waste. Missed half of it mind you but I am seriously considering dumpster diving as an occupation!

    • Oh yes, we still haven’t finished War on Waste but that’s a cracker too! I couldn’t get over the dumpster diving. In the UK a lot of the food that’s nearing it’s sell by date is reduced but that rarely seems to happen here, not on the same scale anyway. If a lot of that food was sold for less, I bet there wouldn’t be nearly as much waste!

  • Hugzilla

    I’m a sucker for food documentaries and I have seen all of these. What the Health was so clearly biased that I couldn’t finish it – totally overlooked the fact that certain tribes like the Masai and the Inuit traditionally thrived on predominately animal-based diets, so meat is not automatically the boogie-man. I would add That Sugar Film to this list for sure. There is so much contradictory information out there so I have taken the approach of mainly using the least processed food I can find to eat and cook with. Fruit, veggies, meat, olive oil, simple dairy products. I stay away from refined carbs and refined sugar. So far, it seems to be working for me.

    • Hugzilla

      *eggs, nuts etc

      • I too am addicted to documentaries like these – What The Health was biased about the meat but it gave some great insights into the milk and dairy industry. I once went to talk about primal eating (or something like that) based on Weston Price’s research into primitive diets. They all ate meat, dairy, veg and fruit and fermented foods too. I’m with you, and have cut back on processed foods and eat heaps more fruit and veg. Can’t give up eggs and cheese, won’t give up eggs and cheese but am happy to trade off with the almond milk. I am still totes addicted to carbs and sugar but have cut back on those too. We’re going to try to be domestic vegetarians and not eat meat at home, but only when we’re out. That said, we’re going to the states next month and after seeing how all that US meat is produced, I’m considering going veggie while I’m there. LOL!

  • I haven’t seen any of these but most of our meals are made of food we have to chop and cook! We shop fortnightly and buy “frozen crap” (usually how I write it on the shopping list haha) for the nights we’re too tired or sick to cook – this is more budgetary than health – because it’s cheaper to have a $4 box of chicken strips than it is to get take away. Doubt there’s as much health different but at least we can put them in the oven and not a deep fryer, I guess. Small win haha?

    I also moved to almond milk after my dietetic suggested I need to avoid the lactose heavy diary items. Thankfully cheese is still good for me and avoiding normal milk has meant less gut issues for me.

    • Great news re the almond milk and especially good news about the cheese! I think there’s something really therapeutic about making meals from scratch. I hear ya on the frozen chicken, but I can’t help but wish that quality food was more affordable so everyone could choose to buy it. And yes, oven baked is always better than deep fried, gee, it’s almost home made!

  • I want to watch ALL these but husband refuses.

    • I watched my first one without David and went on about it so much in the end, he wanted to watch too. Now we’re both addicted.

  • I tend to avoid food documentaries like the proverbial ostrich with her head stuck in the sand. But I know I should educate myself better. However, seems like I’d get points for being vegetarian 🙂

    • Even if I don’t follow through with the advice, I like to know what’s what. Even if I’m not eating everything better, at least I know I’m making better choices. I’m usually very much an ostrich but I can’t get enough of these docos, they’re fascinating! And yes, so many brownie points for being a vego!

  • I haven’t watched any of these (or the sugar film) but would like to. Eating healthier is always on my to-do list but I find there is so much advice out there – difficult to know where to start.

    • There is so much advice but these documentaries are a great place to start. There are some big differences in each documentary but I think everyone can agree that the modern western diet is making us sick. We’ve cherry picked what works for us, and made some small swaps which have made a big difference. Starting is always a good idea, where ever that may be!

  • Tash Laughton

    I am so grateful hubby and I are on the same page when it comes to food. We have watched most of these documentaries but not all. It’s such a great list, thanks for sharing I will certainly be referring back to this to watch the others! #IBOT

    • Since hubs had a stroke a couple of years ago, he’s totally been on the same page and although he’s still the king of cake, we balance that out with a lot of the good stuff too (not that I’m implying that cake is not good, it’s wonderful!) Have fun working your way through the list!

  • I’ve not watched a single one of these but I’m going to put that right very soon.
    I like to think that we eat a very balanced diet – like you we tend to make everything from scratch, have reduced our meat intake, very rarely eat diary just because neither of us care enough about it to have it in the house and we eat tonnes of fruit and veg.

    Thankyou for the list – we’re going to love working through it.

    • Your food is way healthier than mine – I just love sugar too much! I think you’re going to have such fun working through the list. We’ll have to debrief when you’re done!

  • I loveee a good doco so whenever Jesse is away from work, you can guarantee that’s what I’m watching 😆 I haven’t watched What The Health yet – or Over Fed and Under Nourished but I’ll have to check them out.

    • What the Health is quite controversial (and a little bit biased) but there’s some really useful take aways. Excuse the pun!

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  • In Defense of Food, Overfed and Under Nourished and FED UP are on my To Watch List! Forks Over Knives is one of my favourites and I just recently watched What the Health and both Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead docos with my Mum (she’s started getting into health docos now). I think they’re great for awareness about the industries we give our money to and can make some want to be more conscious consumers. And of course it’s so important to be mindful of what we nourish our bodies with. A good reminder for some and an eye opener for others. Great post Sammie!

    • In Defense of Food is probably my all time fave because it’s so balanced and I just love Michael Pollan. I think you’re right it’s all about being more conscious consumers and more conscious about how we nourish our bodies. Our diet may not have radically changed but the way we think about food definitely has!