I have been asked a few times what I think about “What the Health”, the Netflix documentary that came out this summer. Well… I guess I was asked one too many times to keep my mouth shut, so I decided to briefly write my thoughts and then refer you to some great reviews that have already been written!
I read somewhere “Don’t ask a dietitian to watch the latest popular food documentary. It’s bad for our blood pressure.” SO TRUE!!
In full disclosure, I haven’t seen the film. However, I have seen similar films (Forks Over Knives, Fast Food Nation, King Corn, etc). They all overstate the science and rely on fear tactics and sensationalism.
Here’s what I have noticed so far: When someone asks me my thoughts on the movie, they say that it basically scared the heck out of them.
First off… fear is not an appropriate educational tool! Red flags already.
Then they tell me that the movie suggests meat and dairy cause cancer and everyone should be vegan.
At this point, I know that it’s a sensationalized documentary not based on the most current nutrition data. And most likely is produced by animal rights activists.
So first, here is a list of the reviews that I found helpful in explaining current dietary evidence and also fact checking the claims the movie makes:
I really like this one because it is a quick read and covers the most important things you need to know. Plus, it’s written by a dietitian, which is always a good thing to know whenever you’re reading nutrition articles!
“Some thoughts on the latest of a growing number of food- and health-related documentaries, along with some thoughts about this documentary genre, in general.”
By Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS, Nutrition Diva
For those of you who like to get into the nitty gritty science of every detail, this review is for you!
“The documentary “What the Health” espouses the fairy tale that all major diseases (heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many others) can be prevented and cured by eliminating meat and dairy from the diet. It is a blatant polemic for veganism, biased and misleading, and is not a reliable source of scientific information.”
I found this one particularly interesting because the author is a dietitian, and she’s also a vegan. Since the movie is pro-vegan, it’s nice to get her perspective.
By Virginia Messina, MPH, RD
Another great dietitian review.
by Abbey Sharp, RD
This review, by VOX, is more of a journalist review, but does a nice job of reviewing the claims of the movie.
“The film on Netflix mischaracterizes what we know about food and disease.”
The truth regarding nutrition and disease:
I remember when Forks Over Knives came out, and it was about 5 years into my website existing. I thought I might host a viewing party as a celebration. Then I watched the movie, and realized that I could not associate myself with it. There were some messages that I agreed with but I did NOT like the way they were going about presenting the “facts.”
I would encourage you to avoid filling your mind with things that scare the heck out of you!! Stick with the positive.
What You Need to Know
There are no guarantees when it comes to nutrition and cancer. Unfortunately I’ve met many many people who did all the right things and still faced a devastating diagnosis. And I’ve met many who did all the right things and were not cured.
However, we think about 30-40% of cancers can be prevented, or diagnosis delayed, by eating healthy, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. You can be vegan if you want but the data doesn’t show it’s necessary.
What we know for sure is that whether you eat meat or not, you must include lots of fruits and veggies everyday (4-5cups combined). Turns out that vegetarians and vegans eat more veggies because their protein is also a vegetable! Double bonus!!
There’s no good reason the plants you eat need to be organic, GMO free or any other crazy fad. We see health benefits from all produce so just eat lots of it, whatever kind you prefer, can afford, etc!
Don’t fill your plate with a side dish of fear. Eat your veggies, move your body and enjoy each day you are given!
If you missed my article a week ago, you’ll want to bookmark the page to remind yourself whenever you start to get worried!
Enjoy your food!