Thursday, February 2, 2012

Less Meat and More Dough

While the Michael Pollan, King Corn and Food Inc certainly cemented our decision to eat organic and local whenever possible, they were not the impetus for the change in our food consumption.  However, we have watched other films that have shaped how we eat since then.  When the weather turned cooler, we started spending more time inside in the evenings and began watching other documentaries supplied by netflix such as Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.

These films clearly had an agenda - eat more fresh produce!  While this message is one that mirrored the teaching of Michael Pollan, each film had a slightly different angle.  Forks Over Knives showed that by changing the way you eat to include more plants, you could do away with most if not all medical conditions.  The film makers showed that eating an organic plant-based diet could reduce a person's reliance on medications.  While the organic produce is more expensive up front, the money saved on medical expenses and medications over time make the life change a sound financial decision.  Over the period of the film, a few short weeks, the primary researcher dropped significant weight, reduced his dependence on caffeine and Red Bull (shudder), decreased his bad cholesterol, and increased the overall health of his heart muscles so he was no longer at risk for heart attack.  The story is strengthened by the fact that the primary researcher wasnt gung-ho, excited, or even moderately convinced by the benefits of the plant-based diet at the start of the film (nor was he completely opposed to it either - he was more nonchalant than anything).  Somehow being sold a story/plan by someone who is already a believer doesnt deliver as potent a message.  Either way, by the end of the film J and I were convinced we had done the right thing by adding more fresh produce to our regular diet.

Both FOK and FM talked about the consumption of animal products such as meats, milks, and cheeses and how they contribute to increased risk of cancer and heart disease.  They arent just talking about over consumption of these food products, but the integration of these foods into regular, supposedly healthy diets.  While conducting research on malnourished children, one researcher found that the impoverished kids fed on a plant-based diet supplied by some NGO had significantly lower risk of cancer than children from the same region who were financially well-off enough to include meat in their daily diets.  The China Study, an extensive research study discussed in the films, found multiple connections between a diet of meat products and the development of various cancers throughout many cities in China.  These two movies together (along with other online research) made us come to the conclusion that we should consume less meat. 

J and I were never big on meat consumption, but we would regularly eat sauteed chicken breasts, ground lamb, or beef stew.  We decided to simply eat less of it and to make it local organic meat when we did consume some.  Instead of focusing on removing meat from our diet, we simply started choosing meals that didnt have any in them.  I scan daily for menu ideas and instead of picking the recipes for burgers and satays, I select the ones based on beans, lentils, or quinoa.  They recipes taste just as good as those that we used to eat that included meat so we dont feel like we are sacrificing.  We will buy wild caught salmon from Green Bean from time to time and will certainly be making a burger or two when Summer grilling picks up again, but most of our meals dont include animal products.

One great and unexpected side effect of not buying meat is that our grocery bill has gone down.  We were spending a lot on organic produce, especially now that we have rediscovered Whole Foods, but the bottom line for a weeks worth of groceries is nearly identical when meat isnt included.

While I feel that the message in FOK and FM isnt overly pushy or unrealistic, the message in Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead may be crossing the line.  This real-life story about a generally ill guy that goes on a 60 day juice cleanse may be taking matters a bit far.  Both he and a trucker buddy he meets along the way, drink only veggie and fruit juice for 60 days and lose not only weight but all their medical conditions along the way.  Although Joe Cross, the principle in the film, does state that one shouldnt begin a long juice fast without consulting a physician, I wonder how many actually will and with detrimental effects.  After all, the amount of weight each person looses is substantial enough to motivate most people to go out and buy a juicer at the very least!  Aside from the health risks associated with only drinking juice for so long, I doubt its a very realistic plan for anyone with a family or job.  Both parties in the film took time off from the daily routine to conduct the juice fast.  They suffered from lack of energy and sleeplessness and didnt engage in strenuous exercise for the entire time.  I feel like there should have been a word of caution at the end of the film stating that the methods used in the film were extreme and that the results were not typical - something you are also likely to see at the end of a xenedrin commercial.  :)

Still, these films promote eating micronutrients over macro nutrients and show that juicing fruits and vegetables is an easy way to get access to vitamins and minerals that may be missing from less nutritious diets.  Together with the increase in fresh organic produce and the reduced consumption in animal products, J and I are well on our way to a healthy lifestyle.

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