By Joseph Collins, Staff Writer
Documentaries about environmental degradation, vanishing wildlife, and the negative impacts of a meat-and-dairy diet have been produced in increasing numbers in the last 5 to 10 years. Many of them are insightful, thought-provoking, and well made. The latest one to join the growing list is from Michal Siewierski, a world class TV producer, director and documentary filmmaker who has won several major awards. His latest film, Food Choices, is a fast-paced and thoroughly engaging 91-minute journey focused on one burning question: what is the best diet to maximize human health and the health of the planet.
Food Choices effectively exposes the truth about the foods we choose to eat and the resulting health problems it creates for people. It also looks at the suffering we cause to animals and the damage done to the environment. The message is powerful and the images are sometimes disturbing.
To Siewierski’s credit, however, it’s not all doom-and-gloom. The main point of the movie is to demonstrate how an alternative, plant-based diet can overcome and eliminate many (if not most) of the problem caused by meat-based factory farming. And while other documentaries like Cowspiracy, and Forks Over Knives are important documentaries in their own right, Food Choices is presented in such a simple and straight-forward style, that it’s hard not to be completely won over by its arguments. Of all the films of this kind, Food Choices is by far the most accessible and the easiest to understand. It also presents some new, up-to-date information on a number of misconceptions about food and diet, offering a new perspective on the issues.
Debunking Some Myths
Early on in the film, Siewierski, himself, makes the change to a plant-based diet to lose weight and lower his cholesterol naturally and without the use of medication. While he achieves impressive results, his concerns about getting proper nutrition send him on a quest for answers and lead him to “uncover many myths surrounding our foods,” including the belief that you have to drink milk to get enough calcium, or eat meat to get enough protein. As Siewierski investigates these common beliefs, he discovers they are simply not accurate. Through interviews with a range of experts, the film makes the case that everything you need to be healthy can be found in plant foods, without any need to rely on meat or diary products. (with the exception of B-12, which can be acquired through foods with B-12 added).
Featuring over 2 dozen specialists from around the United States, including doctors, nutritionists, environmental researchers, biochemists, and chefs, the film makes a strong and compelling case. It includes interviews with some well-known names in the field like Dr. T. Colin Campbell (bio-chemist specializing in long-term effects of diet on health and the author of “The China Study,” the biggest, most comprehensive study ever undertaken of how diet affects health), Joe Cross (author, filmmaker and health advocate), Paul Watson (founder of Sea Shepard Conservation Society), Dr. Pamela Popper (expert on nutrition and health), Rich Roll (a top endurance athlete and vegan), Dr. Richard Oppenlander and many others.
Siewierski systematically approaches the topic, asking questions in chronological order so that, as the film unfolds, it builds its argument very logically and convincingly. Food Choices covers everything from the risk of not getting enough calcium or protein to the financial cost of switching to a plant-based diet. It also examines organic vs. mainstream, the terrible cost to animals exploited for the meat and dairy industry, and even looks at the issue of raising children on a plant-based diet.
Taking a Stand
In the end, the film has a strong point of view and is heavily one-sided. It makes no attempt to be objective and alternative viewpoints are not given any voice here. From Siewierski’s perspective, however, the “other side” has dominated the issue for decades, with advertising and influential lobbying in Washington—and the results have brought devastation to the planet and our health.
For people who are already vegetarians or vegans, this film will bolster their position powerfully. And for those who are avid meat-eaters, it probably won’t make much difference. But for people who are on the fence, perhaps struggling with health issues of their own, or troubled with concerns of animal cruelty and environmental issues, it’s more than convincing enough that it might help sway their opinion in favor of giving a plant-based diet a try.
While it’s easy (and convenient) to dismiss documentaries like this as simply propaganda, Siewierski’s main interest seems to be human health, and that’s something we should all care about. Certainly our current diet has led to a wide range of problems, including epidemic levels of obesity among both adults and children and rising levels of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
For those who have concerns about athletic abilities being hampered by subsisting on plants, Siewierski includes several top athletes that state that they have become stronger, faster and are doing “just fine” on a plant-based diet. There is also a survivor of an extremely aggressive form of melanoma cancer, who is certain that a plant-based diet not only saved his life, but has helped him to recover and thrive afterwards. Even emotional ailments, as opposed to just physical ones, are examined, when a woman struggling with severe depression and chronic fatigue talks about how she overcame both conditions simply by shifting her diet.
Making a change in diet has never been easy for most people, especially where personal taste is involved, and this documentary will not win over everyone. But it is, at the very least, thought-provoking and engaging. Films like this serve as important catalysts to at least get us talking about the subject, exploring new options, and finding out for ourselves.