What the Health

I watched a documentary Saturday night on Netflix called What the Health. It’s a movie that talks about how processed meat and dairy products cause cancer, and following a vegan diet would quickly (in as little as 2 weeks) reverse the damage inflicted on our bodies from years of eating meat and dairy.

It’s a pretty aggressive movie, designed to shock its audience into being skeptical of organizations such as the American Diabetes Association and the American Cancer Society and what they might be trying to hide. Here are some facts from the movie:

  • The World Health Organization has classified processed meats such as bacon and sausage as directly involved in causing cancer in humans. Eating processed meat can increase cancer risk by 18%.
  • The World Health Organization classifies processed meat as a Group 1 carcinogen–the same group as cigarettes, asbestos, and plutonium. It classifies red meat as a Group 2 carcinogen.

The movie goes on to explore why we don’t hear more about how harmful processed meat is for our bodies, and instead, why we see bacon, beef, and other meat products as ingredients in suggested “healthy” meal options on the websites of organizations, although those organizations are supposed to keep you clear of cancer, heart attacks, and other health issues. It says that there’s a conflict of interest, because those organizations are being sponsored (and received plenty of funding) from the dairy, meat, egg, etc industries.

What the Health goes so far as to suggest that the only healthy diet is a vegan one, and all meat and dairy should be cut out completely.

I do think it’s important to understand all sides of the story, so I looked up reviews that debunked the movie. I agree that the producer Kip Anderson is selectively using studies that support his argument and he does use some eye-rolling gotcha journalism tactics (where he tries to “trick” reps from the health orgs into seeming that they have secrets to hide), but I also do think we could benefit from consuming a little less meat and a little more vegetables.

There’s so much confusion around what is a healthy balanced diet these days, with a new fad diet going around every few months (keto, slow-carb,Whole30, and paleo, just to name a few), it’s really hard to understand what’s the “best.” And with new studies that seem to contradict what’s been vastly accepted as scientific truth for years. For example, it’s okay to eat eggs now, since you no longer need to worry about the cholesterol in your food. Growing up, I was taught that bread, rice, and pasta were good, especially since I was a runner and needed to “carbo load.” So now you’re telling me that it’s bad?

And don’t get me started about fat. I know people are now saying that “fat doesn’t make you fat” and are encouraging the full fat versions of food rather than the low-fat or fat-free versions. But What the Health talks about how fat is terrible for you, since the buildup of fat in the blood causes insulin resistance and prevents sugar from getting to your cells, where it belongs.

Am I the only one here, with my head spinning, trying to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to healthy eating?

I’m still trying to figure it out, but here are 3 claims that I firmly believe in:

  1. Drink lots of water (at least 8 glasses).
  2. Eat lots of vegetables (the more variety, the better).
  3. Consume as little sugar as possible (ideally none).

As for everything else, I’m still trying to figure it out. I also do think that vegan diets are ideal, if you can stick with it, if you’re getting enough energy, and if you can get enough protein. Those are big if’s, but watching this movie has piqued my curiosity. I wonder how hard it would be to stick to a vegan diet for 2 weeks, and how tasty it would be. I watched the movie with my boyfriend, and he was as affected as I was, so we’re both willing to take the plunge into vegan eating together. It should be an adventure, and I’m sure we’ll learn a lot in the process. More on that later when we finally take the plunge!

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