Transitioning to a Plant Based Diet – Part 2
Recently, in one of my classes, we watched two movies that really made me think hard about where our food comes from and how it is grown/raised/treated: FoodInc and Forks over Knives. The movies really highlighted several important points about our food industry, and the impact of our current diet and lifestyle on our health.
Image courtesy of Food Inc (the website)
FoodInc provided an insight into the factory farming industry, and really highlighted the conditions in which livestock are raised, plus the problems that we essentially have caused by focusing on cost-cutting, profitability and mass producing items. One of the most interesting things to me was the fact that feeding corn to cows has such an impact on the digestive health of their gut – and in turn the likelihood of contaminating our food with E. Coli. Turns out the cows were never meant to subsist on a diet of corn (used as livestock feed because it is a hardy grain, easy and cheap to produce, easy to store and therefore heavily subsidized); but have always traditionally lived off grass, in grassy pastures. The diet of corn affects their intestinal health and fosters the growth of a harmful strain of E. Coli. So are we essentially creating our own problems (with food contamination and illnesses) by commercializing and changing the diet of our livestock – simply to cut costs?? Ironically, instead of switching cows back to a diet of grass – our industry decides to treat the beef with ammonia to kill any bacteria…. great…. Love some ammonia with that beef…or beef with that ammonia….
FoodInc also provides a look at the conditions in some traditional farms, where livestock are allowed to roam free, and highlights several other important issues such as the impact on our health, the growth of the fast-food industry, genetically modified crops etc. I won’t describe everything in the movie because (a) it would take too long, and (b) I wouldn’t do it justice. I just highly recommend watching the movie to really appreciate it. The movie really made me think hard about the food I buy, and to care about where it comes from and how it was grown/raised. I no longer eat meat, poultry or fish, but I do sometimes buy it for M, and I do sometimes eat eggs. I need to care about where that meat and those eggs come from – for ethical, health and environmental reasons. Because factory farming and the commercialization of our farms and food industry has a widespread and cascading effect on our health, the health of our environment and ultimately the health of future generations – who will inherit the environment that we leave behind.
The movie also reinforced one of my primary reasons for transitioning to a plant-based diet; the ethical factor of caring about how my food was raised. It is easy for us to buy packaged meat and isolate it from its source – the animal, but should we really maintain the shroud of “Out of sight, out of mind?” Is distancing ourself from our food source a healthy stance to maintain? Because doesn’t that by default make us stop caring about how the food was raised, treated, fed and ultimately slaughtered? And when we stop caring, does commercialization, convenience and cost-cutting take over?
Image courtesy of Forks over Knives (the website)
Forks over Knives has a slightly different focus. It’s a powerful documentary that shows how many diseases which are prevalent in our society right now (diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol etc) can be reversed simply by adopting a wholesome, plant-based diet. Sounds too good to be true? Watch the movie! The documentary highlights the work of Dr Colin T. Campbell (author of The China Study), and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, both of whom did independent studies on the effects of plant-based diets on different populations, and the evidence they provide in support of this statement is profound. Their evidence comes from studies done in Norway, the Philippines, and China. Dr Esselstyn’s evidence also includes results from patients he has treated, reversing their diabetes, high cholesterol etc, simply by witching them to a plant-based diet (without ANY medications) for just over a month.
One thing that I feel the movie missed is actually providing examples of what the plant-based diet included; something that I think would be beneficial for most people who watch it. However, the book “Forks over Knives,” does include recipes from the plant-based diet that the subjects ate, and so that might be a useful accompaniment to the movie (I am planning on buying the book).
So whether or not anyone decides to follow a wholly plant-based diet, I do highly recommend watching the movie. It really does force us to re-evaluate our current diet and lifestyle, question our reliance on commercial, processed foods, and meat and dairy, and question whether or not we are perpetuating our own health problems in society. Maybe it’s worth looking back at and seeing the virtue in our traditional diets: the emphasis on wholesome, unprocessed foods, moderation, eating locally and eating foods that are in season.
Maybe we wouldn’t be as plagued with obesity, heart disease and diabetes if we just cleaned up our diet…
Stay tuned for Part 3 … On what can we do to make these changes, and the types of foods we can and should be eating!