Food, health and agriculture documentaries have become increasingly popular over at least the last decade. I remember in high school I wrote a paper on Supersize Me, which was one of the first food/health related documentaries I saw. After that, documentaries related to health, food and agriculture have always peaked my interest. I’ve seen the super popular Food Inc at least three times and many other documentaries including King Corn and Forks Over Knives, which I’m sure some of you have seen as well in your AG 101 and FN 235 classes. I like to check out these films because it allows me to relax but at the same time learn some new information…I’m always up for doing anything that’s fun and educational at the same time :).
Nowadays with increasing media discussion and involvement with health along with internet access to information, many people think they know it all. As future health providers it’s important to know what information the general public is exposed to and documentaries are a pretty big source of information. Vegucated (2011) is one of the documentaries that recently caught my eye. The documentarian Marisa, an omnivore turned vegan, recruits three New Yorkers who volunteer to follow a vegan diet and lifestyle for six weeks. All three participants Brian, Ellen and Tesla, are meat and cheese eaters from different backgrounds. Ellen is a psychiatrist and single mother, Tesla is a college student and Brian is aspiring actor in his late 20s-early 30s. The film starts out with them discussing their current diets/lifestyle and concerns about adopting a vegan diet. Marisa takes them to Dr. Joel Fuhrman (a board certified family physician) who discusses the benefits of a plant-based diet and gives them some recipe ideas to use while adjusting to veganism. He also performs health screenings and collects biochemical data on each volunteer. The trio then also talks to Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a well respected nutritional biochemist who has done extensive research in the field of nutrition. After receiving this professional encouragement, Ellen, Brian and Tesla then take “Factory Farming 101” to learn about how America’s food is produced and animals are treated. This also involves learning about environmental impacts of factory farming, and taking an abandoned slaughterhouse tour along with other educational adventures. At the end of the film, all participants experienced a decrease in blood pressure, weight and LDL levels.
Did they stay vegan? Brain remained “mostly vegan” (whatever that means), Tesla became a vegetarian and Ellen did remain vegan.
Overall, I like this documentary a lot. Obviously it was pro-vegan, so yes it was a bit biased and only discussed the benefits of becoming vegan but I didn’t see that as an issue because I knew this going into the movie. I liked that the experts the film featured were pretty credible. I was really excited to see Dr. Fuhrman in this film because he is one of my personal role models–he is a doctor who did a lot of his own research in nutrition and its impact on health and disease. He incorporates nutrition counseling into his treatment plans which I think is really awesome and something I would like to do in my future career. The second expert, Dr. Campbell worked on the China-Oxford-Cornell study on diet and disease in the 1980s, which yielded some very interesting results. The documentary, Forks Over Knives goes into more depth about that study and Dr. Campbell’s career in the field of nutrition science. He also is a advocate for a whole foods, plant-based diet. I also really appreciated the fact that the film wasn’t “in your face” pro-vegan. Unfortunately, the vegan movement does have a bit of a negative connotation associated with it due to some advocates who are overzealous about their point of views and opinions. Naturally, this can be a turn off to those who do not share those same opinions or lifestyle choices. I felt that this documentary aimed to provide information and open the viewer’s mind to a vegan lifestyle, and had less of a guilt-trip approach. I understand that dietary lifestyle and choices are very sensitive and personal. There are many different reasons why someone decides to follow or not to follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle and I think it’s important to be respectful of these opinions; so I want to make it clear that I have reviewed this film as subjectively as possible. One of the reasons why I like to watch these kind of documentaries is because it allows me to better understand other people’s perspectives and I implore you all do to the same.
So, whether you are or you aren’t vegan I definitely think it is worthwhile to get yourself “vegucated” ;)
p.s. this film is available on Netflix
Have you seen this documentary? Have any recommendations? Let us know in the comments below!