Have you seen the documentary Food Choices on Netflix?

I was flipping through Netflix looking for a good documentary to watch and came across Food Choices.  When I read the description and realized it was about a plant based diet I was ready to take notes and tell you all about why it was a ridiculous documentary and how you should just not bother watching it. I am not going to do that though because they actually made some valid points in parts of the film. The opinions expressed in this post are just that, I do not make reference to any studies or papers. I would encourage you to watch the film and make an informed decision about what is best for your health by doing a little research and not doing something because someone, including myself, says so. 

I did find a lot in the movie I didn’t agree with but I was so surprised to find there was some parts of the movie that I actually did agree with. 

The movie starts out with a lot of information about how animal protein is really bad for you. How it will raise your cholesterol, cause diabetes and cancer. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, author of The China Study tells us that the amount of animal protein we eat is the problem. He states that too much will stress the kidneys and the liver. He states all the animals we eat for protein are vegetarians and the movie shows a picture of a cow, chickens and turkeys. 

Not all animals we eat are vegetarians. First of all, the natural diet of chickens and turkeys includes bugs which are “animal” protein and chickens will eat mice and other varmints if given a chance. They are NOT vegetarian. Pigs are not vegetarians either. They eat other animals, they eat just about anything actually. 

The movie claims that protein elevates cholesterol, starts heart disease, increases the production of free radicals and stimulates the production of hormones.   Personally, my diet is pretty high in protein and fat and my most recent (spring 2017) total cholesterol was 167. Read my post on protein and fat to learn more about why these two macronutrients are not villains. Bottom line, protein breaks down in to amino acids which help us make neurotransmitters and are the building blocks of the body. You can get protein from vegetables too, I prefer to get some protein from meat and you should know that it is okay for you to get some protein from meat too. 

The next claim was that we are getting too much saturated fat, calories and sodium from meat. If you are eating a high quality piece of meat, you are not getting too much of any of these things. Again, read my post on fat to learn why saturated fat will not kill you. Also, think about this- how can something like saturated fat which is solid at room temperature or colder go plant itself in our arteries as a solid? Isn’t fat broken down and emulsified by bile in our body? Yes it is. Our body temperature is also 98.6º which would keep that saturated fat in a liquid state keeping it from planting itself in our arteries and clogging them. 

The film goes on to vilify milk and dairy products. They are telling you to get your calcium from oranges but they don’t tell you that you would need about 10 oranges a day to get the recommended amount of calcium for an adult. Calcium is found in many vegetables including leafy greens and you don’t need to eat dairy products to get enough calcium daily. The problem with calcium is not that we aren’t getting enough but that we don’t have the proper co-factors (things in our body needed to help us use the calcium we do get) to digest and assimilate calcium. We need to have good digestion, proper pH within the body, good hormone function, enough water, other minerals and vitamins and fat (helps get calcium in to our cells). 

The film calls dairy liquid meat. “A cocktail of growth hormones engineered for rapid growth”. The campaign for raw milk would, of course, disagree with that statement. Dairy products that are not from grass fed and pastured animals would not be on my list of things to consume but if my body tolerated dairy, I would drink raw milk and consume raw milk products occasionally without worrying about the effects. 

Next on the films list of foods to avoid to be healthy was eggs. Some people consider eggs to be the perfect food. Pasture raised eggs are best. Eggs contain a variety of minerals and vitamins and are a great source of high quality protein and contain a complete protein. All the B vitamins are in eggs and contain more choline than any other food. They are a good source for most of the minerals our body requires including selenium and iodine which are important for thyroid health. According to www.whfoods.com, eggs sho no increased risk of heart attack or stroke and they can help increase your HDL, or good, cholesterol. 

Food Choices is telling us that eggs are too high in cholesterol and they show you some very moving pictures of a chicken developing in the eggshell. They also talk about the feed for chickens being full of Genetically Modified corn and soy and the toxin Roundup. They are not wrong about this if you are not buying eggs from a local farmer. Even then the chicken feed may contain corn and soy. It is cheap feed. As long as they are on pasture and getting most of their diet from bugs, you might have to be okay with a bit of supplemental feed. 

The movie moves on to talk about the high amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids needed in our diet. They say a higher Omega 3 amount in our diet leads to Type II Diabetes. I would bet that processed foods and sugar would be a more likely culprit for most of Americans with Type II Diabetes. The studies are out there at your finger tips. 

Meat will give you Erectile Dysfunction says the movie, because it blocks blood vessels. I think we covered that in talking about saturated fat.  

Low carb diets are all the rage and they claim high carb diets don’t cause weight gain. They say the paleo diet is a copy of the Atkins diet and that was written by people who have not published a scientific paper. They claim low carb diets make you sick and are dangerous. They are in agreement that cutting down on sugar and refined carbs would be a good thing. The paleo community is pretty big, just as is the vegan community. Neither diet is the be all end all for everyone. That is what we need to remember. We are bio-individuals. What works for one person will not work for everyone. 

Their next claim is that many people who are plant based are healthy but there are still a lot of vegetarians who are still sick because they are eating junk food or dairy and some fish. I would agree with the filmmakers about eating junk food. They also say that if you have not given up oil as a vegan and are still fat, then the oil is the reason why you are still fat. “Fat you eat is fat you wear” they said. Again, read my post on fat

They claim a whole foods plant based diet is free. You don’t have to pay for any gimmicks or shakes. I would say that if you are just eating real food, it is not free because you have to pay for it, then you are one step ahead of the rest of the world who is looking for that great organic convenience food to buy. 

I agree with them when they say we ought to be 90-95% plant based. Maybe 80% plant based would be more like it. We could all stand to eat more vegetables, including me. I love how I feel when my diet is mostly veggies with a little bit of meat each day. I have lots of energy, I feel clean inside. I have little bloating and my eliminations are just where they should be. 

They are telling you in this movie that you should not believe “The key to good health is moderation”. They say this doesn’t work. I know it doesn’t work for me. I can’t just have one bite of a sweet treat. I want the whole pan. Moderation might work for you. It does for some people and for some it doesn’t. 

Next on the list is blaming the media for making the Paleo diet credible. The problem was that the media “let both sides speak” in regards to the China Study which has hundreds of references and then interviewed someone on the Paleo diet which was little more than a story book.  The Paleo diet has helped thousands of people feel good just as a vegan diet has. A vegan diet doesn’t work for everyone though. A few more notable folks who really struggled with their health on a vegan diet are Denise Minger and Lierre Keith. I am sure there are people who don’t do well on a Paleo diet too. I just have not heard of them. 

I have to agree with the film when they talk about the nutrition training doctors receive in medical school. It is little to nothing. Doctors are not able to get to the root cause of your health problems because they are being taught pharmaceutical based medicine. This is sometimes necessary but there are other options out there. People on medication long term may have side effects causing other health problems and their overall health to decline. The movie is spot on here. A plant based diet may be very helpful for the short term and maybe long term. It depends on you and your individual biological make up. 

They state the cause and cure for disease is in our hands and that the money is in the drugs. We need to shift our dollars from expensive procedures to education. I could not agree more. 

Supplements- they say it is a big industry stealing your money. I am in partial agreement with them on this. There is no magic bullet supplement. The nutrients you need are in your food. You have to be able to digest and assimilate your food and for that, you may need a supplement. You may be depleted of certain nutrients and need a supplement to get you by until you are able to get them from your food again. 

The big problem for plant based diets is vitamin B12 which is found in animals. One expert in the movie says you can get B12 in a supplement or from fortified foods. As long as you don’t have a methylation problem this might work for you. Again, it is not for everyone. 

One thing I found interesting and quite intriguing is their statement of “what we eat determines how we use the planet”. They said that 98% of destroyed rainforest is used for meat production. This is sad. This is also why I tell everyone I teach and work with to know where your food comes from. Buy local whenever possible. Support your local farmers. They said 70% of farmable land is used to grow crops for animals and not humans. This statistic is also quite sad. 

Another quote from the movie, “It takes 2400 gallons of water and 12 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef.” Cows eat grass. They were evolved to eat grass and not grain so if you stop buying grain fed meat, that will help. “The excrements of 80 billion land animals raised for food each year aren't’ treated and go in to water basins and oceans”. They show pastured cows in the movie after this statement, not livestock in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO) which is more likely to be what they are referring to. This can be solved by eating local, supporting local farmers and eating less meat than you might right now. 

“The environmental impact we have is more than just about livestock. it is what we consume, the amount of stuff we acquire, overpopulation, dependance on fossil fuels, etc” says an expert in the movie. He is not wrong. All the packaging in processed foods, the cars we drive the amount of electronics in our households. All of this stuff has an environmental impact on the earth, not just factory farms. 

The movie goes on to attack grass fed beef as a fabrication by the meat and dairy industry to perpetuate the slaughter of animals. They say grass fed beef is even less sustainable because of land shortages and is worse than CAFO’s. I am not sure how they are coming up with this type of information. They do not list resources. I could put two cows on my 8.5 acres and have enough meat to feed my family and the families of two of my neighbors if we all ate meat just a few times a week. Small organic local farms that practice sustainability are better for the planet than CAFO’s in my opinion. 

Over fishing is depleting the oceans. I think maybe this is true. The ocean provides more oxygen to us than trees do. It is a very important ecosystem worth protecting. 

The final point I took away from the movie is that people have eaten animals for 1000’s of years and today there is no reason for us to eat them because it is not essential for survival as it was 1000’s of years ago. The film says we now have a choice and we can choose not to eat meat. 

They say we resist taking in information from places other than the mainstream. I agree with this. Many of my views on health and wellness are not what is considered mainstream. Things that are not mainstream are scary to some and so they choose to believe what is safer.

Lastly, “It won’t matter how healthy we are if the planet isn’t healthy. Stop following the system without questioning it. Vote with your dollars.” I couldn’t agree more. 

Tell me in the comments if you have seen Food Choices on Netflix and what you thought?

Do I Need a Calcium Supplement?

The short answer here is that you may not need one. Most of us get enough calcium in our diets but lack the needed cofactors to use and assimilate the calcium. 

Foods that are rich in calcium

  • Sardines
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Collard Greens
  • Spinach
  • Turnip Greens
  • Mustard Greens
  • Beet Greens
  • Natto (fermented soy) 
  • Egg Yolks
  • Dark Meat Chicken.

You do not have to consume dairy products to get enough calcium but if you do, the best sources of dairy calcium are raw milk, yogurt and cheese (Jarlsberg in particular). 

Calcium makes up about 2% of your body weight contributing to bone structure as well as playing a role in controlling muscle and nerve function.  We definitely need calcium but you may not need to supplement with it as long as you are eating a well balanced diet. Too much calcium in the diet can deposit itself in places like blood vessels and as kidney stones in the kidneys. 

While calcium is essential for muscle contraction, magnesium serves as a calcium blocker. It is the calcium in too high amounts that creates a muscle cramp and magnesium that creates the relaxation. So it is important for these two to be in balance especially when it comes to your heart. 

It is not enough to try to replace these minerals that may be lacking in the diet. They need to be in balance and we need to be asking ourselves why there is an imbalance in the first place. 

Some things to look at to see whether or not your body is able to use the calcium in your diet are: 

How are your hormones functioning? Your parathyroid plays a very big role in maintaining blood calcium levels, thyroid hormone decreases blood calcium levels, adrenal hormones control sodium and potassium which have a relationship with calcium and sex hormones play a role in bone structure. Vitamin D works like a hormone in the body. We need it to increase the absorption through the digestive system. More on that later. 

Are you drinking enough water? Good hydration ensures that blood is fluid or thin and free flowing enough to efficiently transport calcium throughout the body. Having balanced electrolytes will help make sure calcium is transferred in and out of the cells. 

Are you getting enough other minerals in your diet? You should not only be looking at the amount of minerals you are getting in your diet (from food) but are they in balance with the amount of calcium you are getting. 

Are you digesting your fats or taking in quality fats?  Fatty acids are needed to transport calcium in to the cells and help increase calcium levels in the tissues. 

Is your digestion working properly? Calcium is only absorbed in an acidic environment and so it needs adequate stomach acid for the body to be able to use it. 

 There are two other factors that come in to play in regards to calcium and our ability to use it properly in the body. 

Vitamin K and Vitamin D. 

First let’s look at Vitamin K which has two forms. K1 and K2. This is a very simplified explanation of K1 and K2 as there are more forms of Vitamin K that play very specific roles in the body but for the purposes of this post I am keeping it simple for you all. If you want to learn about these vitamins in greater detail google Chris Masterjohn. He has made a career out of studying fat soluble vitamins. 

Vitamin K2 Health Benefits

It prevents calcium from going in to all the wrong places, as discussed above, like keeping it out of your kidneys where stones can form and the blood vessels where it can contribute or cause heart disease. It also helps get it in to your bones and teeth where your bones will get strong and your teeth will be able to fight off decay.

It helps you make insulin and helps to prevent insulin resistance. Remember this is when your cells turn the insulin carrying glucose away because they have had too much. In this way it helps to keep your blood sugar stable. It also helps you use energy properly making exercise a little easier and protects you from cancer.   

Vitamin K comes in different forms with K1 being the most well known for helping with blood clotting so you want to avoid supplementing with Vitamin K if you are on an anticoagulant. K1 is found mostly in plants and especially in leafy greens and K2 is found most often in animal products. This is a fat soluble vitamin so you might notice that the animal products it is found in are naturally higher in fat so you can use it. This is why I tell my clients and students to eat their veggies with a little bit of fat so they can actually use the vitamins in the plant. 

Vitamin D Health Benefits

This fat soluble vitamin plays a big role in your overall health by impacting around 3000 of your genes. It turns on or off the genes that prevent or make worse diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, MS, gum disease, IBS, colds and flu and many more. 

Much of the population is deficient in Vitamin D, especially those with darker skin and those living in the north. Most of us need about ten times what the Recommended Daily Allowance is (600 IU per day for RDA) and the very best way to get it is by getting sunlight daily or taking a high quality supplement. Be aware though that if you supplement you need to have your levels checked regularly by a doctor because you can take too much. 

Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium and vitamin K2 sends the calcium to your bones, again, keeping it from depositing in the wrong places.  A build up of plaque in the arteries results from a damaged blood vessel having calcium deposited there so that you can remain alive. This is how heart disease begins. A build up of this kind of plaque can result in an eventual heart attack. Remember that sugar and processed foods are what cause the damage to the blood vessels in the first place.  Vitamin K and D work together to protect your blood vessels from this plaque formation. 

If you are taking calcium and vitamin D supplements but are deficient in K, you could be doing more harm than good than if you didn’t take a calcium supplement at all because that calcium is just one part of your overall bone and heart health. 

Bottom line:

  • You may not need a calcium supplement, you are probably getting enough from your diet. 
  • You need good digestion.
  • You need to be well hydrated.
  • You need to do some weight bearing exercise like walking or lifting weights.
  • You need those good quality fats in your diet and you need to digest them.
  • You need to optimize your vitamin D intake (and get some sun) and check your blood levels regularly. 
  • Get K2 from leafy greens, fermented veggies, or raw milk cheeses
  • Eat a wide and varied diet of real whole foods.

 

Tell me in the comments. Do you take a calcium supplement or a vitamin D supplement? Do you spend time outside getting some sunshine?