I love a good documentary. Who doesn’t? They’re chock full of information – a lot of which you may not typically learn otherwise. And streaming services are catching on. Remember the Netflix craze of 2016, Making A Murderer? That docudrama alone caused quite a national ruckus.
Over the years, various food and health-oriented documentaries have surfaced through the fray as the Age of Information continues. The most recent to rise in popularity is What The Health, an expose on the connections between the meat and pharmaceutical industries, and the economy.
There’s an unfortunate reality that I’ve found with this recent onslaught of documentaries. Oftentimes, in the filmmaker’s attempts to bring the truth to the masses, much of the “truth” is brushed aside for a more subconscious agenda. For example, What The Health begins innocently enough as it focuses on the more negative side of the meat industry. The picture it portrays, unfortunately, is truthful enough. In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that processed meats (i.e., smoked and cured meats) are a Group 1 carcinogen. In layman’s terms, processed meats are definitely carcinogenic (cancer-causing), and are classed in the same category as asbestos and tobacco. A concern for your health? You bet.
Furthermore, WHO also labeled red meats such as beef, veal, pork, mutton, and goat meat, as Group 2a carcinogens, or “probable” carcinogens. WHO doesn’t make their announcements lightly – in fact, this report was concluded after 22 scientists from 10 countries evaluated over 800 studies that linked processed and red meats to colorectal, stomach, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.
Scary stuff, right?
What The Health continues into the poultry industry, detailing the rather well-known facts behind chicken processing, the gross lack of regulation, and the unfortunate treatment of animals in all meat industries. The medical professionals interviewed are quick to point out the high sodium levels in most poultry products, and even the cholesterol levels in store-bought eggs.
This, at least to me, is where things start to go a little awry.
Yes, there’s cholesterol in eggs. The yolk of one large egg has about 200 mg of dietary cholesterol. I say dietary because, well, there’s a difference: dietary cholesterol is basically the cholesterol levels found in food. Blood cholesterol, on the other hand, is associated with the mix of fats and carbohydrates found in your bloodstream. This is what is checked when you have a blood profile done by your doctor or lab. You can learn more about cholesterol here.
So, based on that information, your intake of fats and carbs would have a greater impact on your blood cholesterol levels than dietary cholesterol would. Now, I’m no expert, and I’m not saying ignore the dietary levels. But, eggs are constantly cracked against for all the wrong reasons. They are a fantastic source of complete proteins, biotin (great for hair and nails), and choline (good for brain health). And while there’s no current recommended limit on daily egg intake, the current cholesterol limit of 300 mg daily would limit you to roughly one egg a day.
In What The Health, the documentary’s progression takes a turn at this point, free-falling into the world of veganism. Let me say right now, I’m not against veganism. I love differences in people, and if veganism is something you or anyone else chooses, then go for it. It’s just not for me.
Unfortunately, the picture the film begins to paint makes it seem as though the only good food left for anyone to possibly eat would be vegetables and fruit. Backed with doctor and nutritionist interviews, What The Health references personal accounts of people plagued with illnesses, such as asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and their complete and utter transformation after following a plant-based diet for a mere two weeks. Interviews also focus on the benefits of veganism with athletes.
So, here’s my take:
I do agree on some of the arguments made. The meat industry is in desperate need of a complete and epic overhaul. If you don’t want to eat meat or dairy, go for it. If you do, fine. Source it from a good place. Do the research behind the labels you send your money to. Buy grass-fed beef, buy eggs from pasture-raised chickens that are not on a vegetarian diet (chickens should eat bugs). Buy local chicken and turkey. Visit some farmers in the area and buy the cheese and milk they make.
Also, vegetables should be the focus of everyone’s diet. In my opinion, we as Americans don’t eat enough of them. And I don’t mean fried ones, or thinking potatoes are a good substitute for a side salad. Vegetables should be in every single meal of every single day. Fruit should be included as well. Plant-based protein sources are fantastic! Quinoa, brown rice, pea, pumpkin – these and so many more options, are all great sources of protein.
All in all, it’s about finding the balance that works for you and your health requirements.
Personally, my family is going to cut out mass-produced red meat sources once again. We avoided them for quite a while, but they recently began to sneak into our diets. Watching What The Health was a good reminder of why we dropped them in the first place.
Anyone concerned about their health (which should be everyone!) should always, always look at what they spend their money on. A real look. And yes, documentaries such as What The Health are incredibly resourceful. But, as with everything else in the information age, it should all be served up with a little extra salt. There’s always more than one side.