Vegan documentaries……. I love nothing more on a Sunday afternoon than turning on Netflix (other film providers are available), making some vegan treats and watching a good old vegan film that puts the world to rights.
But for me, these films mean more than a bit of Sunday viewing pleasure. They help instruct and maintain historical records. They document aspects of modern life and reality that often get overlooked in the mainstream media. They inform. And they inspire people to make fundamental and lasting changes in their lives.
If you are vegan, then you will know what I mean. We have all had that moment in life when the penny finally dropped. It was a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon in November. You have just been to the supermarket and are overdosing on sweets that are rotting your body and your mind. You are sat flicking through film options when a thumbnail catches your eye. You start watching and within 15 minutes your whole life has been turned upside-down. You have just realised you are living in the matrix.
The reality for most is that once you know the truth there is no going back. Within days you have removed all animal products from your house. The freezer, the fridge and even your cleaning and toiletries are not safe. Your family thinks you are having a nervous breakdown.
The documentary you watched on Saturday provoked such strong emotions that you were compelled to change your diet and lifestyle forever. A lifestyle that had remained largely unchanged since birth.
That is the power that well-made vegan documentaries can have over people. And these type of documentaries have probably done more for veganism in the last 15 years than anything else combined.
Below I have listed some of my personal favourites. Documentaries that have had profound and lasting impacts on my life. I hope you find the list useful, and if I have missed off any great choices then leave a comment in the comments section below and I will update the list regularly.
Fork Over Knives is a documentary that examines the claim (or as I like to call it, TRUTH), that most, if not all of today’s degenerative diseases can be prevented, halted and even reversed by rejecting animal products and replacing them with plant based foods. The majority of the story is focussed around the work and research of two leading Dr’s. Dr Colin Campbell and Dr Caldwell Esselstyn. The film also discusses the findings of Dr Campbell’s 20-year China-Cornell-Oxford project that were laid out in Dr Campbell’s book, The China Study. The China Study shows how the majority of diseases in the western world (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, strokes and obesity etc) are a direct result of animal based foods and other processed foods in people’s diets. This is a must watch film for anyone who is concerned about their family’s health.
Is one of the best vegan documentaries out there! The producers follow 3 New Yorkers for 6 weeks as they give up meat, dairy and eggs and adopt a vegan diet. The film documents (with hilarity at times) their journey as each of the participants discover how they can create a greener, kinder and cleaner world, one bite at a time.
I am not going to lie; Earthlings is a very tough watch. It was made in 2005 and documents how humans have created a total reliance and dependence on animals purely for economic purposes and greed. The film is broken down into 5 elements: research, pets, food, clothing and entertainment. If you are easily upset, then I suggest you watch some of the other films on the list and avoid this one.
Is one of the first vegan documentaries that was funded almost entirely through crowdfunding. And it has probably turned more people vegan than all the other films combined (slight exaggeration there!). The film chronicles the journey of Kip Anderson as he uncovers animal agriculture as the most destructive industry facing the planet today. You are taken on a journey where you learn that the meat and dairy industry is the number one cause of deforestation on the planet. The industry creates more pollution and greenhouse gases than all of the transportation industries combined. And many, many other mind-bending statistics are revealed. The story gets really interesting as Kip approaches leading environmental groups with his research only to find that there is an intentional refusal by these organisations to discuss the issues in hand. But why is this and what are the consequences for Kip’s personal safety?
This is the unbelievable journey of Kris Carr and her battle with cancer. She changes her diet, juices, takes up yoga and changes many other aspects of her life in order to beat the disease and obtain optimal health. The emotional fight is sprinkled with humour and even romance. A must watch for anyone who wants to understand the disease in greater detail.
This film uncovers what farms have been struggling to keep secret for years. The conditions that animals are kept in, as well as their treatment and diets are all exposed. This is one of the great vegan documentaries that takes viewers on a white-knuckle ride that crawls through bushes, flies in planes and hides in factories, all to come face-to-face with the farmers who are rearing animals in such poor conditions. A must see!
The Cove was released in 2009 and is an Oscar-winning film. The film follows a group of brave and courageous animal activists as they expose a small Japanese town, that is home to an industry that slaughters dolphins for meat. The film also follows the story of a former dolphin trainer (from hit TV show, Flipper), as he tries to forgive himself for exploiting these intelligent creatures in his earlier days. A great all round watch!
I only saw this for the first time a few months back, but it quickly became a personal favourite of mine. Blackfish chronicles the story of a captive killer whale, that has taken the lives of several people. The film undercovers the poor conditions that these creatures are kept in and highlights problems within the sea-park industry that have been deliberately covered up for years.
Is one of the lesser known vegan documentaries out there, but it’s still a great watch. This feature film documents the human relationship with animals. It also looks at the history of veganism and the reasons underpinning why people turn to veganism. The health reasons, the ethics and environmental reasons are all discussed.
This is a great documentary that documents the journey of 6 Americans with diabetes as they switch to raw vegan diets in an attempt to reverse this disease. The participants give up meat, dairy, eggs, processed foods, nicotine, caffeine and all cooked foods for 30 days. The results are startling. A must watch for anyone who has diabetes or who has family members battling with the disease.
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There is a common misconception that fish is a healthier alternative to meat and that it actually promotes health in the human body. In reality this couldn’t be further from the truth. While there are many reasons why fish is not healthy I have listed the main four below.
Proteins & IGF-1
Regardless of whether you eat fish, meat, eggs or dairy you will run into problems at some point in your life due to the higher concentrations of essential amino acids contained in these foods. One of the main reasons these amino acids are so detrimental in the body is that they increase the levels of IGF-1 (an insulin-like growth hormone) (study, study, study)
The knock-on effect of this is that IGF-1 speeds up the process of cell division in the body. This extra stimulation of cell multiplication has been heavily linked with cancer proliferation for many years. The science is very clear in this area and we know with certainty that animal proteins increase IGF-1 levels in the body and raised IGF-1 levels cause cancer (study, study, study, study).
Saturated Fats And Cholesterol
If you ask most people why they consume fish the standard response is that it’s heart healthy as it contains omega-3 fatty acids. So let me clear this area up for you:
While SOME fish do indeed contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA), the vast majority of fatty acids derived from fish is actually in the form saturated fats. Fish also generally contains high levels of cholesterol. Both cholesterol and saturated fats are among the main risk factors for heart disease.
To give you an idea of how much cholesterol is contained in fish – in both a 3 ounce portion of bass and beef there is the same amount of cholesterol (approx. 75 milligrams). Yet most people don’t associate fish with cholesterol.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish is derived from the plants they eat in the sea. Fish do not make omega-3’s. You can get omega-3’s by eating plant based foods like nuts, seeds, beans, vegetables and fruits. These foods provide ALA (fatty acid) which then gets converted in the body to the longer chain fatty acids EPA and DHA (both of which protect us from heart disease).
We only need the 1000mg of cholesterol our bodies make every day for optimal health. We DO NOT NEED ANY dietary cholesterol in our bodies. The more dietary cholesterol we load the body with the more we increase our risk of heart disease.
Chemicals & Pollutants
Most health authorities around the world have advisories around the amount of fish people consume. The reason for these advisories is that most oceans are heavily contaminated with metals such as mercury, chemicals such as PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) and insecticides and pesticides such as DDT and chlordane (See sample advisory). In this recent study by the United States Department of Agriculture 84% of all fish sampled from around the world contained unsafe levels of mercury. And why is mercury so bad for the body? Well mercury is neurotoxin (kills brain cells). When you eat foods that contain mercury it is very difficult for your body to remove it. It can then accumulate in the heart (for example) and inhibit normal heart function as well as causing causing central nervous system damage in foetus’s during pregnancy (study, study)
What Fish Is Lacking
So we know that fish today contains dangerous levels of mercury, hazardous chemicals and high amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol. So lets also talk about what healthy nutrients fish doesn’t contain. Fish contains no carbohydrates (essential for optimal health). It also contains no fiber, essential for healthy bowel movements and the prevention of digestive cancers. It also lacks any real amounts of antioxidants, phytochemicals and other macronutrients essential for health promotion. So in reality people are eating fish for perceived health benefits when in reality its a pretty poor dietary choice.
Surely Fish Is Better Than Meat Right?
This is a ridiculous notion that we humans love to use. Just because fish is slightly less damaging in the body compared to meat, we classify it as a “health food”. While the science supportsfish eaters being healthier than meat eaters in terms of parameters such as diabetes, weight and other important health factors, lets not be under any illusion. Fish eaters still have very high rates of disease and illness compared to those on plant based diets. So yes, you might be slightly healthier than a meat eater, but if you want to live a long and healthy life then avoid both fish and meat (and dairy for that matter!).
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Have you ever wondered why you find fatty foods so addictive? Well let me shed some light on the matter for you!
We have known for 15 years or so (because of advancements in brain scanning technologies) that fat induces a similar response to sugar in the brain. If you were to give someone a burger and another person a sugary drink, you would get almost identical changes in the dopamine reward system in the brain within 30 minutes.
People who regularly consume high fat/high sugar foods have a massively blunted dopamine reward system. It is the equivalent of a heroin addict having to use more and more heroin to get the same high. Once you have maxed out your dopamine bank you will find yourself continually overeating to achieve the same feeling you previously had. Weight gain is inevitable – even with the best will in the world!
As our understanding of the dopamine system has grown there have been many experts around the world who are pushing for obesity to be included as a mental illness. Agree? Addiction in many countries is classed as a mental illness and it could be argued that obesity and addiction are linked by the inability to self-restrain – even when you know how bad the food is for you.
The pharmaceuticals love this approach because if obesity were to become a mental health issue they would be able to flood the market with even more meds. Theoretically they would be able to offer meds that block certain brain chemicals (like opiates for example), which would numb the desire and need to eat certain foods.
But shouldn’t we as a society look to prevent the deadening of the dopamine system and advise people to consume foods that are more aligned to the foods we are designed to eat? A plant based whole foods diet? By reverting back to these plant based diets we can re-balance the dopamine system and ensure that once again we are able to enjoy even the simplest foods without having to drizzle them in sugar and fat.
In my opinion it is the food manufacturers who need to start taking a much bigger share of the responsibility. They know exactly how addictive their foods are – they designed them that way. Now is the time they should stand up and start producing healthy low calorie foods. Foods that are not too far removed from how nature intended them to be.
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In the above leading study, the researchers looked at a number of different spices. They analysed their ability to prevent DNA damage through a reduction of free radicals as well as looking at how the spices were able to reduce inflammation throughout the body. The results were unbelievable.
If you were able to pull an average person from the street, who consumed a standard western diet, and took a sample of his or hers tissue you would generally find that approx. 7% of their DNA would display damage. Add in poor nutrition and its associated free radicals and this persons DNA damage will increase to approximately 10% (not good!).
What the study showed was that when someone consumed ginger for just one week this 10% DNA damage would reduce to roughly 7.5%. But the ultimate spice they analysed appeared to be turmeric. For those who consumed turmeric they were able to cut their DNA damage down to approx. 5% (a 50% reduction – after just 1 week). And why is this study so conclusive? Well, it wasn’t a random study that added spices to cells in petri dishes. Oh no, this study actually compared the differences between the cells of regular spice eaters with the cells of those who never ate spices. This enabled the researchers to sit back and measure the actual amount of DNA damage of both test groups.
The study also showed that not only was turmeric a far superior spice, but the health benefits could also be derived from much smaller amounts. Look at the below table. The DNA protection from turmeric can be derived from the equivalent 0.3 grams a day. It demonstrates how unbelievably powerful the stuff is in the body.
But why is this? Well one of the most powerful compounds within turmeric is curcumin. Not only is curcumin a powerful antioxidant but it also triggers the production of the body’s own antioxidant enzymes (catalase being one of the major ones). And why is this so important? Well each one of these enzymes has an unbelievable capacity to neutralise millions of free radicals every second. And you can increase the quantities of these enzymes by up to 80% just by eating the equivalent of three quarters of a teaspoon of turmeric a day.
But what is the best way to consume turmeric? Can you simply add some to your smoothie? Well, you can, but you won’t get the optimal health benefits from raw turmeric. In fact, the study showed that raw turmeric only had minimal impacts on DNA protection in the body. The opposite was however found for its anti-inflammatory benefits in the body. So my advice is to consume both cooked and raw turmeric to receive maximum health benefits.
It’s surprising how many people actually skip breakfast every morning. Not such a great idea if you want to be energised for the day ahead. A good healthy breakfast in the morning will provide essential fuel for the body and also a host of essential nutrients.
Below are some of my top tips for super-charging your breakfast.
Fats, Fats, Fats
By adding some healthy fats to your breakfast you will be getting some essential fatty acids, inflammatory busting compounds and also some great antioxidants. Healthy fats also contain twice as many calories as carbohydrates and proteins, so you will have more energy and also a feeling of being fuller for longer.
Recommendations: Avocados, nuts (including nut butters) and seeds are all great choices.
Protein, Protein, Protein
Protein has some very similar characteristics to fats in that it acts as a slow release energy source. Protein contains amino acids (the building blocks of life) and are essential for body repair and growth – and just about every other function in the body.
Recommendations: Porridge and nut milks have moderate amounts of protein but if you really want a healthy protein boost in the morning then look no further than: nut butters, hemp seeds, spirulina, goji berries and protein powders such hemp and pea.
Fibre, Fibre, Fibre
You should aim for a minimum of 35 grams of fibre a day as this will help maintain a healthy gut flora as well as help with weight management and preventing various digestive cancers. Consuming a mixture of soluble and insoluble fibre will also ensure that your bowels work more efficiently as well as eliminating unwanted toxins from the intestines.
Recommendations: If you are having a morning smoothie then add some greens (kale, spinach etc) or mixed berries to your drink. Avocados will also give your smoothie a great texture as well as providing good amounts of fibre. If you’re more of a cereal person in the morning then opt for high fibre cereals, such as oats, or even quinoa or buckwheat. Avoid cereals that are processed in any way as they will usually be loaded with sugars and additives.
Carbs, Carbs, Carbs
If you choose high glycaemic carbohydrates then sugars will be quickly released and you may find yourself lacking energy and also feel very hungry by 11 in the morning. What you eat carbohydrates with, will also determine how quickly sugars are released. By adding healthy fats, proteins and fibre to healthy carbohydrates you will help slow down the transit times of foods through the intestines as well as preventing those unwanted sugar spikes.
Recommendations: Its common sense really, but avoid processed, refined or added sugars. Where possible opt for oats, quinoa, legumes, lentils (don’t be afraid of savoury for breakfast).
It Should Be Nutrients, Nutrients, Nutrients – Not Calories, Calories, Calories
Stop calorie counting and simply eat healthily. You need healthy calories for energy and vitality. If you gain your calories from “low calorie” sources then you are likely removing vital energy from your diet and replacing it with artificial ingredients that could potentially have detrimental effects on your health. It’s a simple rule to follow: Eat food in its most natural state and as a consequence your weight and health will improve. Don’t count calories!
Recommendations: Make sure you are getting lots of healthy whole foods: fruits, vegetables, oats, nut milks, and basically anything that has been processed!
Avoid Those Sugars!
I will tell you now that it is impossible to buy supermarket and commercial breakfast cereals that aren’t full of refined sugars (dextrose, cane sugars etc, etc). Therefore, the only way you are going to start the day in the healthiest manner is to consume slow releasing carbs such as oats, fruits and vegetables. It has been shown in lots of studies that if you consume refined sugars for breakfast you will be far more likely to crave sweet treats throughout the day. This is a perpetual cycle of sugar and crash that you want to avoid.
Recommendations: Again, common sense, but ensure that the only sugars present in your breakfast are those from natural sources. If you “must have” some additional sweetness then maybe use small amounts of raw honey or maple syrup, but don’t go overboard as they will cause large spikes in your blood sugar levels if you are not careful.
Variety Is The Spice Of Life
I bet you will be eating the same foods every morning for breakfast. Correct? It is easy to get caught up in that routine cycle. But, as they say, “variety is the spice of life”. By having different breakfast ingredients each week you will prevent the boredom setting in and also potentially avoiding food allergies (often caused by eating the same foods constantly).
Recommendations: Flip it up! If you generally struggle for time in the mornings then try making up breakfast meals for the week at the weekend.
We all love an indulgent treat now and again, especially chocolate milk. The problem with most shop bought chocolate milks is that they usually contain lots of blood spiking sugars and ironically fake and refined chocolates (if you can call them that!). My Goji Man chocolate milk drink is packed with nutrients and health benefits, so no need to feel guilty for this indulgence!
• 10-15 organic cacao beans (depending on how chocolatey you like it) • 10 organic cashew nuts • 3 cups of spring water • ½ cup of ice • 1 large tbsp of organic maca powder • 1-2 tbsp organic honey • 1 tbsp of organic hempseed oil • 1 tbsp of coconut oil • 1 tbsp of cinnamon