1. In Defense of Food (Documentary, 2015)
“Eat food, mostly plants, not too much” — it’s the takeaway Michael Pollan, film narrator and author of the book by the same name, leaves us with as he tackles the question: what should I eat to be healthy? What is healthy food and what is food, real food, go hand-in-hand. The produce aisle is the obvious place to begin: it’s full of fruits and vegetables that have grown off trees and out of the ground. The one-ingredient department of legumes and beans: also, real food.
It starts to get more complicated when you venture to the pantry aisle and the refrigerator sections of the grocery store. Yogurt is a great resource for gut health because of its probiotics and calcium from animal sources can help the body absorb iron from other nutrients, so it is definitely worth adding to your cart. But did you add the plain or Greek yogurt, or a flavored one, possibly with toppings, that are loaded with added sugars and with benefits not much greater than a dessert? Opt for plain yogurt and add real fruit.
One thing that Pollan covers in In Defense of Food which both troubled and fascinated me is the origin of enriched white flour. With the success of flour milling and the rise of white bread in the American diet (think: Wonder Bread), people began suffering from unprecedented malnutrition. Here’s an excerpt from an article in Chicago which helps summarize what was happening:
“But this super-milling scalped the life from the wheat grain,” de Kruif continues. “Man kept for himself wheat’s whiteness, its starch, its calories—and fed the husks, the germ the life, to swine. But his body could not use those calories without the vitamins in the husk and the germ he had discarded. So today our pure white flour has lost all but a fraction of the thiamin, the riboflavin, the nicotinic acid that were the secret of the bread’s strength.”
What followed were “Flour Hearings” and ultimately vitamins were added into the milled white flour. An industrial solution for a problem caused by industry,
An industrial solution for a problem caused by industry rather than a renewed focused on including the whole grain flour for all its nutritional benefits. It’s a perfect illustration of processed food taking on the role of health food, when food, e.g. whole ingredients are downright overlooked.
Pollan also gave us The Omnivore’s Dilemma in 2006 and was my first introduction to him. As he has further delved into the subject of food, he hasn’t strayed toward veganism or vegetarianism. Rather, if his 2006 book made us aware of the reality of a death involved in meat consumption, his current conversation revolves around focusing on the life an animal leads before one bad day. It’s a way of responsible consumption—responsible to the environment, to the lives of others, to the quality of what we consume—but also acknowledging that not every been of land is arable and that meat and fish in some communities around the planet are a staple to survival. Animal products are something to be appreciated a few times a week, but also, in my humble amateur research, a natural part of the human diet when consumed in a way natural to our pre-industrial livestock production interaction with animals.
It all seems so obvious but when I started examining the basics, including the bread aisle, I felt inspired to pursue ingredient-focused eating. I make my own bread and pitas most of the time with flours that I have selected. Of course, that’s not to say there isn’t store-brand ice cream in the freezer, an indulgence in Raisinets candy at the movie theater, or that feasting exclusively on whole food is feasible in our household all the time, but it is a lot of the time. And learning to cook and bake things has frankly been pretty darn fun. There’s always the Great British Baking Show for added motivation.
Watch on Netflix
2. The Food Medic Podcast by Dr. Hazel Wallace
Dr. Hazel Wallace is a triple threat: medical doctor, personal trainer, and pursuing her third degree in nutrition. The first season of The Food Medic Podcast is 10 episodes and covers a range of topics rooted in health and lifestyle medicine. She brings food, nutrition, and exercise to the forefront of care while also dispelling myths, bridging the gap between traditional medical advice and the latest thoughts and developments in lifestyle and nutrition. Her guests are typically other medical doctors or scientists and so the approach to each topic is thoughtful and evidence-based. The content is entertaining and made very digestible for the non-medically-trained listener. Irish-born, but working in the UK, expect references to the UK’s NHS.
In exciting news, the podcast is due out for its second season. In the meantime, you can follow The Food Medic blog. I even purchased Dr. Wallace’s cookbook, The Food Medic For Life which includes very tasty recipes—but note: recipes are in grams.
3. Sustainable (Documentary, 2016)
Sustainable investigates the economic and environmental instability of America’s food system.
There are a lot of food documentaries out there that promote eating locally and organically or highlight atrocious conditions in animal farming. Sustainable filmmakers Matt Wechsler and Annie Speicher may unearth similar measures for the consumer: eat more consciously, support local farmers—but conclusions are driven by how policies have shaped our agriculture system and how we can modernize them.
The film includes interviews with foremost experts in the food industry—connecting the dots between agriculture, the environment, economics, and public health. And it looks at a community in the Midwest rewriting their story to protect not only their farms but the health of their land.
The documentary looks at agricultural issues farmers face today including soil loss, water depletion, climate change, and effects from pesticide use. Consequences of policies unchanged are dire, but Sustainable offers hope for consumers and communities who want to take charge of the food they consume and the land they harvest.
take charge of the food they consume and the land they harvest
You’ll be left championing biodiversity and carbon sequestration (“sequester”-what?! That’s right.).
Watch on Netflix
4. Ask the Doctor (TV series on Netflix, 2017)
Ask the doctors from down under. Ask the Doctor is a 12-episode series out of Australia and available to watch on Netflix featuring three hosts, notably three medical doctors, who take you on a fun, easy-to-digest overview of a range of health topics. Hosts Dr. Shalin Naik is an expert in molecular medicine, Dr. Renee Lim is a licensed medical doctor turned actor and Dr. Sandro Demaio is a medical doctor with a focus on public health and non-communicable diseases.
Each episode dives into a theme, be it diet, allergies, the gut, or genes, as a few examples and our affable hosts share expert advice, bust medical myths and test the latest treatments.
I first discovered Ask the Doctor because of an interview with Dr. Demaio on The Food Medic podcast (listen here). He is currently the CEO of the EAT Forum, a science-based global platform for food system transformation. EAT has its own podcast called, Food Can Fix It, which I look forward to delving into.
Watch on Netflix
5. Chasing Ice (Documentary, 2012)
Chasing Ice follows National Geographic photographer James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys time-lapse cameras designed to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers. For anyone unaware of the mammoth speed in which the Earth is changing due to climate change, Balog’s pictures are not just worth a thousand words: they’re priceless.
Balog’s pictures are not just worth a thousand words: they’re priceless
His Extreme Ice Survey, which he produced in tandem with other photographers, refutes denial with visual proof. His images are data, but they’re also at once beautiful and chilling. Glaciers, ice cap, mountains cast a sense of deep time for us mere mortals. We know that mountains rise and rivers no longer flow, ocean beds turn to desert, but it’s not something we expect to capture in our lifetime. Ancient mountains of ice vanish before our eyes in Chasing Ice and the surreality of this natural disaster is like watching the comfort of forever crumbling into uncertainty.
Rent on Amazon Prime
Dear New York readers,
If you’re in the city on Dec. 10, 2018, join Lat Long in the historic 1925 Jaffe theater for the New York City premiere of Ode to Muir, the latest story of true backcountry adventure from the team at Teton Gravity Research featuring snowboarding legend Jeremy Jones and two-time Olympic skier Elena Hight.
All proceeds will benefit Jones’ own Protect Our Winters — a nonprofit which leads a community of athletes, thought pioneers and forward-thinking business leaders to affect systemic political solutions to climate change.
Get Your Ticket