Documentaries are one of the best ways to gain a unique perspective on any given topic. When it comes to health, food, and our planet, documentaries can be incredibly eye-opening, with many documentary specialists seeking out voices that are well educated, yet unheard.
In order to start 2020 off right, we’ve compiled a list of 12 food and health documentaries that not only caused a stir the community but also provide viewpoints on important topics that enrich your mind, body, and soul. While you’ll find some vegan-specific documentaries on the list, don’t be surprised if there are a few that aren’t specifically vegan or plant-based. Yet, keep reading, because each documentary has made the list for a specific reason, whether it be to educate on regenerative farming, illuminate health crisis in America, or provide a solid education for cooking!
Reaching into the past for gems, as well as pulling from fresh new debuts of 2019, this list will hopefully set you up for an educated and inspired year of plant-based eating!
We also highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App on iTunes — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest plant-based recipe resource to help you get healthy!
1. The Biggest Little Farm
If you haven’t heard about this film, it’s time to take some time in your weekend, sit down, and watch it. Winning multiple awards including the Sundance, Boulder, Telluride, Toronto, and Hampton’s film festivals, this documentary is an incredibly beautiful, funny, heartbreaking, and real look at what it takes to build a sustainable, regenerative farm from the studs.
The film “chronicles the eight-year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dram to harvest in harmony with nature.” Except, there’s something a little different about this farm. The Chester’s focus on biodiverse design in lieu of pesticides and other harmful practices.
In all honesty, this documentary technically made its debut and won a slew of film festival awards in 2017, yet the relevance of this film for 2019, a year of mind-body-illness discovery lands it a place on this list for 2019.
This Netflix-based documentary provides a provocative view of American healthcare in crisis. Yet, this documentary takes it one step further … the step that we’ve all been waiting for: chronic stress affecting our immune systems causing certain illnesses to increase. With a slew of experts from the medical, psychological, spiritual, and homeopathic fields, this film seeks to understand the connection between “our minds and our bodies” in order to “prevent, treat, and manage our health better.”
Heal is a breath of fresh flexible air in our stiff-spined healthcare system.
3. Salt Fat Acid Heat
Hitting the Netflix scene in winter 2018 and finding it’s popularity footing in 2019, this documentary — based on the book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat — is an exploratory mission to discover the true basics of cooking.
Warning… this is not a vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based documentary.
Yet, this four-part documentary-style series is essential for anyone from any walk of life that’s seeking to become a more educated and experienced cook.
Of course, if you leave it to the experts, they’ll say this is an “instructional cooking show [that] doesn’t look anything like the rest of that genre, which is too often the domain of cheerful domestic goddesses in glossy, polished kitchens.” Nosrat takes cooking on the road, traveling across the globe to experience how different cultures use the basic elements — salt, fat, acid, heat — in order to create delectable dishes.
4. The Game Changers
Most likely, if you’re part of the vegan community, you’ve heard about this one. Especially if you’ve got a hobby nitch for sports.
The Game Changers — directed by Oscar®-winning documentary filmmaker Louie Psihoyos — is a “revolutionary new film about meat, protein, and strength” speaking to the ability for professional athletes to build amazing muscle mass, retain energy, and perform their best on and off the field based upon diet. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the film is presented and executive produced by legends including James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, Lewis Hamilton, Novak Djokovic, and Chris Paul.
The film chronicles the “story of James Wilks — elite Special Forces trainer and The Ultimate Fighter winner — as he travels the world on a quest to uncover the optimal diet for human performance.” The journey will take Wilks across the globe ultimately changing “his understanding of food and his definition of true strength.”
5. Fantastic Fungi: The Mushroom Movie
The tagline certainly pulls you in “Are you ready to explore the magic that lives beneath our feet?” That’s certainly what director Louie Schwartzberg intends with this amazingly beautiful, cinematic film.
Using a combination of modern film techniques — such as time-lapse photography and kaleidoscopic images — paired with good old fashioned expert interviews (hint … experts such as Michael Pollan, Eugenia Bone, and Andrew Weil), Fantastic Fungi: The Mushroom Movie delves deep into the “important of fungi and their vegetative part, known as mycelium” as well as the “complex uses of fungi and mushrooms.” The film elaborates upon theories suggesting mushrooms have played a part in humanity from the beginning, such as Dr. Weil’s suggestion that “two million years ago, psychedelic mushrooms helped create the human cortex expansions which led to the development of human beings as we now know ourselves.”
6. Testosterone: The Making of Man
I think it’s safe to say that aggressive masculinity was (and still is) a hot topic not only in 2019 but over the past four years. This health-based documentary doesn’t necessarily tackle the psychological component of masculinity, but more the biological side, the hormone testosterone.
If there ever was a better time to understand the mechanisms behind this hormone, I can’t think of it!
Testosterone: The Making of a Man introduces “intricate details that outline the hormone’s production, genetic make-up, and its impacts on male behavior.” While many of the hormone’s “functions are already widely acknowledged in the scientific realm, including its instrumental role in the development of men’s hair patterns, beard growth, bone growth and density, musculature, sexual function, and overall personality,” not all are understood.
This DW Documentary is actually a series that “examines the truths behind the most important male hormone.”
Honestly, Rotten (a Netflix series) is more a series instead of a documentary, yet you get all the wonderful aspects of a documentary — such as in-depth interviews, well-researched data, and wonderful narrators — just spread out over many different topics and in two seasons.
The most recent second season just hit Netflix as of last year!
Rotten — technically a “docu-series” — “is one of the newer deep-dives into corruption in the food industry.” Each of the six episodes in the season “takes on a different type of food product and features farmers, fisherman, doctors, and scientists alike” elaborating on the darker side of the food such as “fraud, crime, and power struggles behind food like honey, fish, and raw milk.”
We’re taking a step back and bringing this groundbreaking, gem of a documentary back into the light! To start 2020 on the right foot, spend an evening watching Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.
While the film is not new to the scene, what Cowspiracy extols and the story it tells is far more relevant to our current state of living. Created and directed by “intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen,” this documentary dives deep to uncover “the most destructive industry facing the planet today [animal agriculture] — and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.” Not only does this film speak to the cruelties and corruption of animal agriculture, but it also “reveals the absolutely devastating environmental impact large-scale factory farming has on our planet, and offers a path to global sustainability for a growing population.”
9. The Implant Files
The Implant Files is all about … you guessed it … implants.
From new hips to new breasts, this documentary looks at both the increased quality of life of patients, as well a the darker side to the success stories. What’s the darker side you may ask? While advancements in implants have rocketed over the last few decades, “in the rush to deliver these new innovations to market, they are often poorly tested and woefully unregulated.” In the end, there has been plentiful documentation of device defects, which in return can cause “physical discomfort and psychological distress to patients.”
From interviews with wronged patients, the underworld of implants is revealed in this riveting documentary.
10. FAT: A Documentary
With the hugely popular keto diet (short for ketosis) bringing back the fat to our lives, this documentary couldn’t come at a better time.
Beginning … well … at the beginning, this documentary looks at the history of how fat became demonized in the United States due to greed, money, big food companies, and fear. While the film does feature meat-based fats, the important take away is that fat became a “bad word” not due to relevant scientific research, but due to the influence of money. Including interviews with highly respected journalists, medical professionals, and fitness professionals, this documentary will shed a whole new light on how fat can actually be good for your body.
11. A Life of its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana
With the rapidly spreading legalization of marijuana, it’s probably a good time to become a little more familiar with the substance.
In Netflix documentary original, A Life of its Own: The Truth About Medical Marijuana, journalist Helen Kapalos follows Dan Haslam, “an Australian who garnered national attention in 2014 when he was diagnosed with cancer and turned to marijuana for a semblance of comfort in his final year of life.” His story caught the attention of many due to the conservative nature of his hometown and how his journey to use the substance redefined and changed the lives of others. Plus, this film also teaches “the history of cannabis” through the eyes and brains of “a variety of experts” who provide the science to back the substance.
12. Forks over Knives
Finishing off the list, we reach back in time to revive another older documentary (as of 2011), which is just as important to watch today, especially starting off a new year.
Forks over Knives was one of the first films to delve deeply and exclusively into the “profound claim that most, if not all, of the chronic diseases that afflict us, can be controlled or even reversed by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.” This idea has not only grown but exploded onto the health scene since the debuting of this evolutionary film. The core of the film looks at the “idea of food as medicine” and actually puts this claim to the test as the film “follows everyday Americans with chronic conditions as they seek to reduce their dependence on medications and learn to use a whole-food, plant-based diet to regain control over their health and their lives.”
Now a popular foodie magazine and cookbook (actually multiple!), Forks over Knives truly inspired a new wave of understanding between plant-based food and chronic disease. Really, there’s no better way to start a plant-based 2020 than with this inspiring and educative film!
Learn How to Cook Plant-Based Meals at Home!
Reducing your meat intake and eating more plant-based foods is known to help with chronic inflammation, heart health, mental wellbeing, fitness goals, nutritional needs, allergies, gut health and more! Dairy consumption also has been linked many health problems, including acne, hormonal imbalance, cancer, prostate cancer and has many side effects.
For those of you interested in eating more plant-based, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App — with over 15,000 delicious recipes it is the largest meatless, plant-based, vegan and allergy-friendly recipe resource to help reduce your environmental footprint, save animals and get healthy! And, while you are at it, we encourage you to also learn about the environmental and health benefits of a plant-based diet.
Here are some great resources to get you started:
- Weekly Vegan Meal Plans
- Plant-Based Health Resources
- Plant-Based Food & Recipes
- Plant-Based Nutrition Resources
- The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition
- Budget-Friendly Plant-Based Recipes
- High Protein Plant-Based Recipes
- Plant-Based Meal Prep
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