12 Best Health Documentaries + Where to Watch Them
Trying to stay healthy and make practical food choices in a world where fast food and sugar reign supreme is no easy task. Part of taking control of your health is understanding what you’re consuming.
One of the best places to get this information is through entertaining and informative health documentaries. Thanks to streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu, there are a wide variety of health documentaries at your fingertips. These films take a hard look at the food industry, the role excess sugar plays in the modern diet, and the toll processed foods can take on the body.
However, the best documentaries go deeper than just telling you what not do. These 12 films never shy away from the human element, and they all offer viewers the knowledge they need to make better food choices the next time they hit the supermarket.
From forming healthier relationships with food to understanding the industry behind what we eat, these are the absolute best health documentaries available on streaming services right now.
Best Health Documentaries + Where to Watch Them
1. Forks Over Knives
Nutritional scientist T. Colin Campbell and surgeon Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. make a compelling argument for veganism in Forks Over Knives. The 2011 doc suggests that adjustments to a person’s diet can actually reverse the progression of diseases like heart Disease and diabetes.
Through research and a closer examination of non-Western diets, the film offers two expert’s take on how eliminating meat and dairy can lead to a healthier lifestyle.
2. That Sugar Film
By combining skits and interviews with experiential journalism, director Damon Gameau examines the toll added sugars take on his body. After several years of a sugar-free diet, Gameau begins consuming so-called healthy products like fat-free yogurt. His goal is to add 40 teaspoons of sugar to his diet a day — the national average for Australians. The effects this change has on his body and overall health are startling, and an absolute must-see for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of hidden sugars.
3. Fed Up
Narrated by Katie Couric, Fed Up takes aim at the sugar industry as a whole. The documentary delves into the lack of government regulation where added sugars are concerned and features commentary from author Michael Pollan. Not all of the film’s suggestions are practical, but it’s overall message — a healthier diet can be achieved by preparing your own meals — rings true.
4. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead
Australian Joe Cross embarks on a road trip across America and a 60-day juice cleanse. The good-humored Aussie is on a mission to improve his health while sharing his journey with others. Along the way, he crosses paths with a truck driver suffering from the same autoimmune disease that he has, and Cross shares his tips for healthier living with his new friend.
5. Bite Size
Childhood obesity is no doubt a problem, but so is the dehumanization that comes along with the way obese children are discussed. Bite Size takes aim at the stigmas associated with being an overweight tween by following four kids as they work toward self-acceptance, a better relationship with food and a more active lifestyle. This is one doc that will leave you feeling weepy, but inspired as well.
- Super Size Me
Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 social experiment made major headlines at the time of its release, and it remains an essential health doc today. For 30 days, he eats nothing but items from the McDonald’s menu, and the effects on his health are dramatic. In the years since the film’s release, America’s attitude toward food has shifted, and that may be at least in part due to Spurlock’s examination of the fast food industry.
7. A Place at the Table
Hunger is just as much a part of the health crisis as opioids, empty calories and obesity. A Place at the Table is about the topic of food insecurity and food deserts.
An alarming number of Americans go hungry each day, or buy cheap, processed food because fruits and vegetables aren’t readily available or affordable where they live. A Place at the Table not only shines a light on this often overlooked problem, but also offer practical solutions for families who struggling with food insecurity,
8. In Defense of Food
Author Michael Pollen’s philosophy for a balanced diet is remarkably simple. In this documentary, he tells viewers to, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Through his own scientific detective work and interviews with leaders in the food science community, Pollen explores the idea behind “bad” foods, and seeks to help America recalibrate their relationship with what they eat.
9. The C Word
Cancer is a scary topic, and no one knows that better that filmmaker Meghan L. O’Hara. The director of The C Word is a cancer survivor herself, and her journey inspired this doc about lifestyle changes, the pharmaceutical industry and the way cancer treatment is approached in America. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, The C Word offers a new way to think about a difficult health topic.
Knowing where your food comes from is an important part of staying healthy. Sustainable is an agricultural documentary that takes viewers inside the modern farming community, as well as diving into the local food movement. These two subjects are well-worth exploring if you’re interested in seeing how food goes from the farm to the table.
11. Beyond Food
The topics of food and lifestyle intersect in this doc that does exactly what the title says — goes beyond food by interviewing a variety of people who lead lifestyles that they consider healthy. The wide range of viewpoints are enlightening. More importantly, they also challenge preconceived notions about health, and open up possibilities about how to be your best self by not only changing how you eat, but how you think.
What does it take to get meat lover’s to swap bacon for kale? Find out in the funny and fascinating Vegucated. The film follows three meat devotees as try out a vegan lifestyle for three weeks.
Sabienna Bowman is an entertainment writer whose works have been featured on Bustle, Reelgood and Roku.
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