The Champagne Life on a DIY Budget Since 2007

5 Food Documentaries That’ll Save Your Health

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Last summer ended with hospital visits, lots of them, back to back. For two weeks straight, I flew back and forth between North and South, first with one parent in the hospital, then another — as soon as one was released, another was admitted. Thankfully, they’re both in the clear, but it was scary, exhausting, eye opening. And now, tomorrow morning, I go into the hospital for a minor procedure, feeling blessed to have health insurance and to be lucky enough to live in the state that produces the best medical professionals in the world. But luck is just that.

Since last year’s resolutions in January of 2012, I’ve been actively making my health my top priority, and since my dad’s quadruple bypass surgery in August there have been fewer and fewer cheats, and fewer and fewer excuses. I was originally inspired by these documentaries and by people I admire who lead by example, like our super-buff First Lady Michelle Obama, but mostly I wanted to take back the best version of me and give that to my family, present and future. (Hey, if I’m going to give Dad a hard time about being around to see grandkids, I better be healthy enough to have and raise them.)

Getting fit and eating right isn’t just a lifestyle choice, or something we should be doing for ourseves and our families: it’s something we all need to do to save our economy. According to a recent statistics, taxpayers spend $120 billion dollars each year on preventable diseases related to diet and exercise.

That’s right: $120 BILLION dollars. On PREVENTABLE diseases. Because we’re LAZY. Think about that. Then plop down on the couch for a few hours and pull up at least one of these documentaries, which show all different aspects of the serious food and fitness issues we face as a country and how little changes can lead to revolutionary results.

The best part? Most of these films are available to watch free online by streaming from the filmmakers’ own websites, or by streaming with your Netflix or Amazon Prime membership — meaning you can reboot your health just by watching a few hours of TV. For free. Feels good, trust me.

A fabulous overview of the last 30 years of food history in America, Chris Taylor’s documentary urges consumers to “vote with their forks” and is a good entry point for those unfamiliar with current food issues. The film highlights the origins of the local food movement and the rise of the farmer’s market as counter culture efforts to save the quality of the food available to us as American agriculture becomes increasingly industrialized. Expert interviews and cameos include such luminaries as chefs Alice Waters, Jeremiah Tower, and Wolfgang Puck (among others), politicians like Wisconsin’s Congressman Ron Kind, and investigative food journalist Michael Pollan. (If Pollan isn’t already a household name, he will be after watching even just one of these documentaries.)

Featuring pioneering cardiologists Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, this film traces the life’s work and findings of these two doctors, providing a convincing argument that “most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods.” A favorite among vegetarians and omnivorous “Meatless Monday” supporters alike, the filmmakers offer a free full-length trailer (above) and local screenings, plus recipes and courses, through their website. (Bill Clinton credits Dr. Esselstyn for saving his life and making him a convert to veganism after his famous heart attack and bypass surgery.)

Taking the juice cleanse craze to extreme new lengths, Australian filmmaker Joe Cross chronicles his own transformation from seriously overweight and seriously ill to fit and flourishing in this documentary about the power of green vegetables and raw micronutrients to help the body “reboot” itself. While @JoeTheJuicer, as Cross calls himself on Twitter, can seem a little preachy and priveleged by the middle of the film, fleetingly calling into question his results and motives, it’s the true transformational stories of the people he meets along his 60-day American road trip that make this film one of the best food documentaries of the decade. Watch the full length film for free online for a limited time at

If you haven’t already seen this viral video (above) about Gulf War I vet and paratrooper Arthur Boorman, stop what you’re doing right now (and get a box of tissues handy). Proving that nothing is impossible with dedication and perserverance, Boorman chronicles his transformation from disability and pain, being told by doctors he’d never walk again, to running races — all through daily yoga and a change in diet. So many people have been moved by Arthur’s story that a recent campaign to turn his YouTube videos into a feature length documentary raised over $26,000 on Kickstarter and will soon become INSPIRED: The Movie by Steve Yu and Ken Young.

KING CORN (2007)
Back around the time that awareness was just starting to build for the dangers of high fructose corn syrup, I learned about King Corn — the story of two Boston guys who moved to Iowa for a year to grow a single acre of corn, trying to learn exactly how corn has become so omnipresent in our food chain and processed foods. (Which then won them a prestigious Peabody award for their resulting efforts). If you’ve ever wondered what’s really in your food, you need to watch this film. In the words of the Boston Globe, it’s “Enough to leave you distrustful of everything on your plate.”

We watch a lot of food documentaries in my house, and here at Shoestring, so expect more regular reviews of past, present, and future documentaries — and share your favorites with us in the comments so we can add them to our queues!

Story: Copyright 2013, Shoestring LLC.
Photo & videos: Courtesy, filmmakers.