“What the Health,” has generated quite a lot of attention in the media since its release earlier this year and perhaps it’s because this is the very first time these issues have been highlighted at scale.
This poignant documentary brings much needed attention to the relationships between diet and public health as well as the industries responsible. In particular, What The Health delves deep into the inner workings of Big Agribusiness and Big Pharma, uncovering their ties with the US government and subsequent influence their deals have on America’s public.
Following the film, many people have been inspired to embark on a change in diet. But where to begin? So much new information can be overwhelming, so we have put together 5 important messages from the film to help you on your way.
5 Important Key Messages To Remember After Watching What The Health
1. MOST CHRONIC DISEASES ARE INFLUENCED BY DIET
“When you look at chronic disease risk, and all of the things that we walk around worrying about—actually dietary choices trump smoking when it comes to those risks,” says Michelle McMacken, MD.
Just like putting the wrong fuel in your car, when you feed your body poorly, things stop functioning as they should. An example of this are the links between diabetes and the consumption of animal protein. Just one serving of processed meat per day can increase the risk of developing this disease by a staggering 51%!
As with many other preventable, chronic diseases, you can dramatically reduce your chance of getting diabetes by opting for whole plant foods instead. Eating this way can also improve or even reverse many illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.
Tip: Make an effort to ditch the meat! If you feel you may struggle, try opting for transitional foods such as meat replacements like tofu, tempeh, seitan, or bean based products.
2. CARBS ARE YOUR FRIENDS!
No, not potato chips, no, not cinnamon swirls! We’re talking about whole food! Unprocessed carbohydrates! Fruits and veggies! (No, pizza does not count as a vegetable!)
Carbs high in fibre and other nutrients which will help your body release energy slowly, you will feel fuller for longer and if you don’t eat again until you’re peckish less glucose will be stored as fat in the body.
Eating carbohydrates that have been heavily processed means you strip away fibre but it can also strip away vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy body. Fibre is only present in plant foods and it’s not only grains and starchy vegetables that contain carbohydrates, all fruit and veg contains some sort of carbohydrates and so including a variety of these foods in your diet will lead to positive heath benefits.
Tip: Find less processed versions of your favourite snacks. Love ice cream? Try a “nice-cream recipe” with blended fruits. The less ingredients in your packaged food the better!
3. OBESITY IS A BIG PROBLEM
“Obesity. It’s a death sentence,” says Garth Davis, MD. “You’re at much higher risk of getting cancer, you’re almost certainly going to get diabetes. No one wants to fat-shame, and we all want everybody to be comfortable with our bodies, but this movement to be comfortable with our bodies has made us comfortable with being sick, and that’s a huge problem.”
Obesity is a huge issue and actually one of the most common causes of preventable chronic diseases. It costs the US up to $210 billion per year in healthcare and with childhood obesity more than tripling in the past 30 years, the problem is only getting worse.
Tip: People who follow plant based diets on average have lower BMIs when compared with other eating habits. Why not take the 22 day vegan challenge to see whether you can shed some extra pounds?
4. MISLEADING INFORMATION FROM FOOD INDUSTRIES
In What The Health, Dr Neal Barnard cites a Harvard Study in which over 72,000 women were followed over an 18 year period. The results of the study showed that there was in fact no relationship between milk consumption and bone health; concluding that the women had no additional protection from hip fractures. Another Harvard paper concludes that calcium intake from dairy was actually associated with weaker bones.
“Humans have no nutritional requirement for animal milk, an evolutionarily recent addition to the diet,” -JAMA Pediatrics.
Furthermore, the film reveals how the USDA had to enforce a mandate that eggs cannot legally be labeled as safe, healthy, nutritious, low fat, part of a balanced diet, or good for you—because it is simply not true.
Tip: Soy, cashew, almond, coconut, hemp, oat, pea, or rice milk! And scrambled tofu for the egg lovers; simple!
5. IT’S NOT FATE
Ready for some good news? Yep – WTH is quite heavy hitting, but you’ll be pleased to know that in the words of Dr Michael Greger, “Even if you’ve been dealt a bad genetic deck, you can still reshuffle it with diet.”
Armed with this knowledge, you can be confident that when you eat a plant based diet you are doing something positive for your health, regardless of your family history. Plants are powerful healers! Just two weeks on a plant-based diet has been shown to significantly improve cancer defenses against breast and colon cancer cells. The blood of those eating a vegan diet for a year suppresses cancer cell growth by nearly eight times!