“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” — Hippocrates
If there’s one thing you should know about me before deciding to lend me a DVD, it’s that I probably won’t get it back to you in a timely fashion, despite my best efforts. My friend, Baron von Heimlich (not his real name, but I bet he wishes it were), discovered this fact the hard way after he lent me his DVD, “Food Matters,” a documentary-style film. It argues that because of bad farming practices that produce nutritionally depleted foods, as well as our terrible “Fast Food Nation” eating habits and our reliance on pharmaceutical drugs to treat rather than cure our bodies, society as we know it will continue to get sicker unless we turn to the power of proper nutrition as a means to prevent and treat chronic disease.
Six months after the good Baron gave me the DVD, I finally watched it. And now, I’m telling everyone I know to do the same. While I’m well aware that this DVD should not be considered “fair, balanced journalism” (documentaries rarely are), it definitely provides food for thought, both literally and figuratively.
Details: Directed by James Colquhoun and Laurentine ten Bosch. Release date: May 2008.
The Good: While there are some issues that will assault the food lover’s sensibilities (especially the fact that cooking food diminishes its nutritional value and you should eat as much raw food as possible) the movie makes a good case for optimizing your immune system through vitamins and superfoods, such as ginger, acai, spirulina and raw honey. Also, it reveals that certain vitamins have been proven to treat such diseases as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer effectively at high doses. The body is equipped to fight disease, but only if we know how to arm it properly. That means being mindful of what we put in the body in the first place, meaning fewer trips to In-N-Out and McDonald’s and more trips to the organic produce section at the market.
It also takes a critical eye to the health care industry, which prescribes “a pill for every ill.” Experts in the film decry the health care industry as one that treats rather than cures disease, and one that is all too happy to dismiss vitamins and nutrition as quack science. The farming industry doesn’t escape the film’s scope of inquiry, either: Thanks to ill-conceived mass-farming techniques that are essentially destroying our environment, our food, and, consequently our bodies, are paying the price. (Recommended reading: Michael Pollan’s “The Ominvore’s Dilemma,” for an in-depth explanation of where farming went wrong in producing food.)
The film’s strength also comes from the colorful cast of experts, whose enthusiasm and passion for nutrition is really convincing to the nonexpert, and their wealth of knowledge about nutrition sheds some light on refreshing alternatives to conventional medicine.
The Bad: There wasn’t a whole lot I had a problem with, as much of what the movie had to say made a lot of sense to me. I will say that, at times, the film does take a heavy conspiracy-theory stance, especially when it comes to the pharmaceutical industry, which, they’ll have you know, is more interested in keeping you sick than actually curing you. Society is over-stressed and over-medicated. While I tend to agree with this idea, I can see how some people might take offense–after all, there’s a lot modern medicine has accomplished, and doctors can’t entirely shoulder the blame for society’s dependence on pills.
Also, as a real food lover, I wasn’t sure if I could ever lead a true raw-food lifestyle. While I was encouraged to hear that there are ways to make yourself healthier and live longer, I wondered how great of a life it would be without being able to enjoy a slab of slow-cooked, tender, meat-falling-off-the-bone pork ribs, fluffy mashed potatoes and buttery corn on the cob every once in a while. I, for one, am not 100 percent ready to leave that kind of good eatin’ behind.
The Verdict: I give the movie an A. While it’s unlikely to convert me to raw veganism now (or ever, really), at least it made me more mindful of what I put in my body–and of the fact that the I have more control over my own health than I thought. Take the documentary with a grain of salt–there are good things that the health care industry can offer. But it sure doesn’t hurt to take care of yourself, too.