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Forks Over Knives Indeed!

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This week Nick over at Macheesmo posted a recipe for Spicy Orange Greens that caught my eye. The noodle salad was spot on; it was what was referenced in that post that caught my attention. Nick prefaced his recipe by stating he had watched the movie “Forks Over Knives.” The salad had been inspired by it. I decided to watch the documentary that day, and I am going to tell you how I think it fits into the REAL food movement.

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While I watched the movie, I found myself yelling at the computer. (Of course, there was no one around, except my very accepting cats and a dog that thinks I am crazy.) What drove me to yelling? If you have ever seen someone on the internet that thinks someone else is off-base, then you saw me that day.

I had to see more. I went to the book store and checked out the companion book/cookbook. What I read floored me.

Now, you know what I think of vegetarianism. Honestly though? To each his own. I just hate it when someone pushes “veganism” as a “healthy” way to cure all the diseases known to man, backed up by crappy, shoddy science.

To be fair, I actually gave the movie a shot. The companion book was a little harder, but I did skim through it. Read below for what I think of both the movie and the companion book:

The good

  • The movie starts off with focusing on what eating processed food does to you. You have to figure that out for yourself, but it’s not that hard to equate KFC with processed food. More on how this is bad later.
  • The message is that if we eat whole, minimally processed food, we will all be healthier. I can’t agree more.
  • We have the power to change our health, and even reverse chronic diseases with what we chose to eat. This is shown at the start of the movie with the reporter getting his blood work done. By the end of the movie, his numbers have significantly improved.
  • A plant-based diet is a conscientious way to eat, to feel better about how your food got to your plate. Again, nothing wrong with a whole foods diet. Knowing how your food is produced is key to making conscientious choices for your health.

The bad

  • The science is lacking, without any mention of references. An example? Talking about how the rate of cancers in places like Kenya are lower that that of the United States. Instead of saying it’s a correlation, it is implied that because they don’t eat as much animal products as we do, they don’t have cancer. Thing is, how does that correlate? Could it be because they also don’t use agricultural products that are known to cause cancer? There are too many variables to definitively state the correlation is causation.
  • Whole grains are processed, so technically they are not a whole food. In the companion book, they describe them as “lightly processed.” That’s still not a whole food. Organic apples? There is a whole food.
  • While the documentary implies that whole plant based foods are better for you, there is nothing looking at how that food is produced. Sure, there is a lot of rhetoric against meat producers, but non-existent for plant producers.
  • Why can’t they just come out and state the documentary is about veganism? I get that the word “vegan” is loaded… but why not just wear your badge proudly? I get that you don’t want to alienate people, but do you really think people are that stupid? Oh, wait… see below!

The Ugly

  • From the get go – the documentary focuses on how bad animal products are for you – while only showing people eating processed and fast food “animal” products. Where is the free-range chicken? Where is the fresh seafood? Pastured beef? Free-range eggs? Are we to believe that all animal products come from a fast food joint?
  • We hear about World War II, how the Germans occupied Norway, confiscated all the “animal products,” and after liberation, the heart attack deaths skyrocketed. They make the correlation that the decrease in deaths from heart attacks are from the decrease in eating animal products. The data used for the documentary actually shows that the Norwegians ate less sugar, butter, fruit and meat. Did you know that the average person in Norway ate twice as many vegetables, and fish and seafood instead?
  • Forks Over Knives seems to imply that there is some magic “single way of eating” to solve the problems of obesity and chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. We all know there isn’t, otherwise we would have instinctively figured it out millennia ago. Wait… we did. Is this documentary suggesting that evolution and nature made a mistake?
  • A good portion of the “science” is based on the China study. In fact the scientist responsible for the study, (Dr. Campbell,) is the main doctors pushing the Forks Over Knives diet. Denise Minger has a better post debunking the science behind the study.

The Very Ugly

  • In the companion book, there is an unfair reference to food warning labels, with a bias towards plant verses animal products. It is here where the bias really shines.
  • “A platter of tree nuts, legumes, alliums (onions and garlic), vegetables, fruits, and grains might carry this warning label:” There is a small list of things to watch out for, like – “Contains tree nuts, legumes (peanuts and soybeans), and the grains wheat, rye and barley (which contain gluten, a protein composite),” or, “Peels, shells, and other biodegradable materials.” There is no mention of herbicides, pesticides, environmental destruction, GMO products, or the systematic enslavement of people to produce the plant products. Take tomato production for example.
  • Plant products “promotion of good health…. may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer, heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, constipation, osteoporosis and other diet-related chronic diseases.” Of course, there are no references to back it up, nor any warnings about consumption of foods with the products mentioned above.
  • A platter of meat, fish, and dairy, on the other hand, would carry a more extensive label – with a huge list under headings like, “Allergens, Ask a doctor before use if you have, Biological agents, (bacteria, parasites, prions, viruses, chemical and other ethological agents, bio-accumulation in animal tissues, other risk factors, global public health risks
  • Also, curiously missing is the food-borne bacteria in plant products. Need I remind anyone about bean sprouts, cantaloupe food poisoning from Listeria (which was NOT from animals, but spread through human contact – most likely from the failure to clean the machinery in the plant,) lettuce and spinach, almonds (in which the source of Salmonella was never found,) greens onions, (a hepatitis A outbreak, no less!)
  • Farming and animal products – the thought that plant based products are cheaper/better for the environment – nothing about the impact of mono cropping, pesticide use, wholesale devastation of lands for farming practice for soy, wheat, corn – all of which are used in the “whole foods” diet..
  • Most disturbing is a doctor who has the BALLS to call poor people “not equipped” to make the “right choices.” This is implying no money = they’re stupid. I take issue with that. People aren’t stupid, unless they continuously make the same mistake without learning from it. Like, implying that poor people are stupid. Wonder how his practice is going?
  • In fact, you can’t just simply watch the movie – there’s even “Guide” to help you for when you watch the movie with your families, friends, or doctor. (The site even implies in the text that a doctor doesn’t know what they are talking about when it comes to nutrition. I agree – but they also think the doctor needs to be educated as much as the poor, stupid folk.)

Conclusion

The documentary attempts to get the watchers to switch to a whole, real foods (vegan) diet. Unfortunately, they are blinded by their vegan dogma. What could be a ground-breaking opportunity to show people that food is the way to good health is lost through junk science, outright misrepresentation of the facts, and anecdotal evidence presented as if it were actual science.

If you want to see the movie – I have added it and the companion book to my Amazon store for you all to check it out, and decide for yourselves. I might get a small commission if you buy it from this website. (About enough to buy me a tea bag or so.)

Your Turn!

Have you watched Forks Over Knives? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Helena

    I couldn’t agree with you more! It was a TERRIBLE DOCUMENTARY!!!!!!!!! I follow the Perfect Health Diet. On this site, he debunks the China Study as well.

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Helena – I have heard a lot about the Perfect Health diet. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get a hold of the book up here in Canada yet, looking for a way to find it.
    I find that I follow a lot of his philosophy – that is the primal style diet with the addition of rice and their products.
    I figure, around 4 billion people on this planet eat rice – can’t really argue with that.

  • Randy

    Thanks so much for writing on this subject!! I just watched “Forks Over Knives” a couple days ago, and found myself very confused….. I had just skimmed through Nina Planck’s excellent book “Real Food” and had been blown away by the (ever increasing hope!) that returning to Great-Grandpa’s way of eating was the best way to go. I continue to be amazed/disappointed by the medical community, and the dearth of good info on human nutrition…. A reasonably intelligent person would assume that we would have most of this stuff figured out by now! Even if you ARE concerned about how to eat in a healthy way, which of the HUNDREDS of voices do you turn to??? I had been researching and experimenting with the raw foods movement, but my Naturopathic Doctor (who includes traditional chinese medicine in her treatment regimen) was of the opinion that vegetarianism and raw foods were NOT a balanced approach for optimal health. It seems to me that the Docs on “Forks Over Knives” have missed a very simple correlation: heck yeah people switching from a S.A.D. diet to a vegetarian whole food diet would see great health improvements!! They are eliminating sugar, highly refined carbs, and franken-foods (along with all the animal products – throwing out the baby with the bath water???) For me, the big question is the long term health of these people. An M.D. internist I used to go to stated emphatically that vegetarians were the SICKEST people he treated….. I wonder if the “Forks Over Knives” people ever heard of the Inuit, or other similar “primitive” populations eating a VERY high animal based diet, all the while enjoying excellent health??!!?? The only thing that concerned me with the China Study is this: if it wasn’t the animal foods causing all those chinese cancers, then what was the culprit in those rural populations? If anybody would care to post additional primer reading for someone new to this fabulous concept of REAL FOOD, I’d greatly appreciate it!! (Please include real science and easy to read facts!)

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Randy – Thank you for your insightful comment! I have heard anecdotal “evidence” that vegetarians are the sickest people out there, but I really have nothing to prove it. I can tell you there are some cultures out there that refuse to eat anything related to animal products, (including vegetables grown in manure!) I have cooked for them in the past. They had a special chef come out and prepare their food.
    The difference in those people to a conscientious vegetarian is that they have a culture with traditions to back up their beliefs. Their race learned the hard way what works, what doesn’t – without the benefit of “science” to help them along.
    That’s where we are with REAL FOODS. The problem we have is we are really over-thinking our food, and have been for the last 80-100 years. It seems the more we get involved in the “science” behind what is proper to eat, the more removed we become with what food is naturally. A great example of this is margarine, or “healthy” canola oils. The science behind the paradigm suggested that animal fats (or saturated fats in particular,) were responsible for an increase in heart disease. Whether the science was junk, misinterpreted or not, is really a moot point – fact is, we acted on science alone. We stopped trusting our bodies, and what they are telling us.
    Now we have a society that believes that animal fat is inherently dangerous compared to an oil that is made through chemical extraction, treated with bleaches, deodorized, and homogenized to look like butter. Its as if science has provided the answer to our problems… but wait – why are cancer rates going up, obesity, diabetes, etc? This despite the “advances” in science. We are eating scientifically enhanced food – and I believe we are getting sicker from it.
    My great grandfather, (or even my grandfather) had it right – just eat REAL food, and don’t be complicated about it. It’s when Poindexter starts messing with things that we get into trouble.
    A great primer for you might be Nourishing Traditions, or even Westin A Price’s books. A book full of the science is Robb Wolf’s The Paleo Solution. I will make a post on this in the future…

  • http://gastronomicalsovereignty.blogspot.com Kristy Lynn @ Gastronomical Sovereignty

    i absolutely agree. i saw it in theaters a while back and (as a once-vegetarian) i just kept thinking to myself: “yes, they’re right. processed meat & their products are bad for us. yes, they have a point. BUT EATING NON-MEAT PRODUCTS DOES NOT = ETHICAL AND/OR HEALTHY EITHER!!….” The fact that there are labor conditions, social consequences, ecological devastation, etc… involved in eating “vegetables” doesn’t even get talked about in the film. which is why i started eating meat again. But “ethical” meat and in low quantities. Essentially, that’s where the film fell flat for me.

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Kristy Lynn – You got that right. That’s the #1 issue I have with the “righteous” vegan movement. I hear talk all day about the suffering of animals, but no talk on the suffering of humans. It’s almost as if everything is backwards!

  • Michelle Bertrand

    Hey, I haven’t seen the movie yet, but one thing in your commentary struck me. Re. the ‘lower cancer in places like Kenya’ issue, I think there’s an even bigger hole in that than the correlation-causation issue (which is not quite so simplistic an issue). Do you know if they looked at cancer rates in the populations at the SAME periods in their lives and found disproportionate rates? Or did they just say that cancer rates were lower? Reason being is that average life expectancy in Kenya is about 20 – 25 years lower than for the U.S. (depending which Google source you look at). So, if they just say the rates are lower, that’s a stupid argument because people in Kenya and similar places are dying of other things before they really get old enough to be afflicted with these ‘diseases of old age.’

    There were actually several other things in your commentary that I would like to chime in on, but I am short on time so I picked the one that would be fastest to respond to! :) But an excellent and insightful review overall! If I actually get a chance to sit and watch the movie, I will probably have another cent or two to add. :)

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Michelle – Awesome question. Nothing blows holes into a stupid argument like a good question. That brings me to why i disliked how the information was presented: there was no backup to data, except a vague, “they don’t eat as much animal products as we do in the west.”

    What’s more ironic is in that sentiment, Kenya appears to be better off – because they are not as affluent, yet further along in the movie, we have a doctor tell us that poor people are “not equipped” to make the right choices.

    That begs the question, are we better off being poor, living in Kenya, or rich living here in the West? According to the strawman logic put out by this fantastic documentary, if we just ate like them Kenyans, gosh-darnit! We’d be healthy as a horse! Pass the gruel, please. LOL

  • Michelle Bertrand

    I guess I’d need to see the movie to really comment on the “not equipped” thing, because it could be an accurate statement depending on the context/meaning. If the doctor meant it in the way that poor people are not equipped financially to make the right choices, that’s a fair statement, I think, since it is more expensive to eat good, fresh food than the cheap processed crap. But given what you’ve described about the movie, it doesn’t sound like that’s what the intended meaning was. :)

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    @Michelle – The doctor’s name is Terry Mason, M.D. he is a Urologist, and a commissioner for a city. Around 36:00 minutes, the documentary states that he contends, “Unfortunately less affluent people… have difficulty making the best food choices.”

    That’s where I kind of lose all respect. Sure, state that they can’t afford it, maybe are addicted… but implying they are too stupid to make the right choice? Not sure why the dude is in office.

  • Leonardo de la Paor

    MUMMY & KFC

    Autopsy confirms 3,500 year old Egyptian princess had clogged arteries
    If you thought McDonald’s was the only food capable of giving you artery busting bad health, think again.
    A recent study shows an Egyptian princess who lived more than 3,500 years ago had a really bad case of clogged arteries – dispelling the age-old myth that heart disease is a modern problem.
    Performing scans on 52 mummies in Cairo and the United States, scientists found that 44 of them had chunks of calcium stuck to their arteries.
    “Atherosclerosis clearly existed more than 3,000 years ago,” explained Adel Allam, a cardiology professor at Al Azhar University in Cairo, leader of the study along with his colleague Gregory Thomas, director of nuclear cardiology education at the University of California in Irvine.
    “We [obviously] cannot blame this disease on modern civilization.”
    Of the mummies studied, scientists found Princess Ahmose-Meryet-Amon of Thebes (now Luxor) who lived between 1540 and 1550 B.C. had heart disease, making her officially the oldest mummy with the condition.
    “If she were my patient today, she would [definitely] get open heart surgery,” Allam said.
    He added that her insides seemed much like those of modern Egyptians with the same affliction. The 43 younger mummies with heart problems had issues running the gamut from artery to congenital heart problems.
    Egyptologists believe the ancient Egyptians ate primarily beef, pork, mutton, antelope, duck, and other meats along with fruits and vegetables. Joep Perk, a professional of health sciences at Sweden’s Linnaeus University, believes the heart disease was caused by too much meat and not enough exercise.
    “The pharaohs and other royalty probably had more fat in their diet than the average Egyptian… The sculptures and hieroglyphs may show people who were very thin and beautiful, but the reality may have been different.”

  • Sandra

    Forks over knives scared me. I thought I was gonna have an anxiety attack thinking of all the fatty meat I’ve eaten in 34 years. Plus, I have high cholesterol. At one point my triglycerides were 300! I’m female 5’4 159 lbs. Interesting thing is I’ve tried to lose weight by working out (several times a week swimming 40 minutes non-stop) AND maintaining my part-time vegetarian diet part-time high-fat/meat diet that included burgers, fries and shakes (even if they weren’t fast food!). And I only lost one pound! After watching Forks over knives, I am making an honest effort to eliminate meat and dairy completely from my diet! Bottom line is patients on this plant based diet got better! I’m also one that trusts my own intuition (which is why I trust this documentary). That being said, eventually I will add bison, turkey, and fish into my diet (free-range of course). My ancestors (Native to the Americas) ate bison, turkey, and fish PLUS beans, squash, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and chiles (we really didn’t have lettuce) and did not suffer with diabetes (as Native people do today!) or heart disease. I am now on a Native foods diet. Happy Conscious Eating! :)

  • Tom

    I consider FOK to be an introductory presentation which has a basic message that is very motivational. They have a great cookbook with supporting materials from Engine Company 2. Once a person goes vegan for a while in a healthy balanced way they can learn as they go about the issues which the critics here have raised. There s a learning curve which takes time to process. This material gives hope and a track to get started with.

  • chris

    Very biased documentary. To start the film off, two obscure MDs in the LA area are featured who seem to practice in a residential area out of a modest house. It certainly didn’t look like any physician’s office I’d ever seen. This was the first red flag for me. Later in the film, viewers are shown a chart correlating the consumption of meat and dairy products by Norweigians and the rate of heart disease over about a 20 year period. As background info, the audience is told that in 1939 all livestock was confiscated by the Nazi’s. The chart shows a dramatic decline in heart disease around 1940. The film jumps to the conclusion that less animal protein, less heart disease. This is absurd. As a health care professional, I can tell you heart disease doesn’t happen over night. It takes years. So that rigged chart was red flag #2. Throughout the film, the producer threw in some antiquated film footage for effect which often times had nothing to do with the dialogue. While there is ample evidence that eating more vegetables is healthier than eating red meat, I think Dr. Campbell and his cohorts mislead the public implying that reversing heart disease and diabetes is achievable. They also fail to mention that those who strictly follow his diet will be B12 deficient. If being a vegan was the great way forward, then universities would have initiated studies to confirm Campbell’s findings. But they haven’t, perhaps because the correlations are not as perfect as the film suggests. For what it’s worth, a former boss of mine had diabetes and was on oral medications and insulin. He started exercising and following the Atkins diet, which as most know is a high protein diet. He was able to go off insulin and the oral meds. So clearly it’s not animal protein alone that contributes to diabetes. Final thought, the film mentions that Colin Campbell’s position at Cornell was “marginalized” because he stepped on the toes of benefactors who happened to be big food companies. And yet, you can still do an online course, for the tune of $1K, through Cornell, and become certified in plant based nutrition. All in all, the documentary was short on research and long on hype.

  • Susan

    @Jason and Michelle, I did not get that the documentary was saying that the less affluent people were not smart enough to make proper food choices. I believe from the context that the communities in which these people live are abundant in cheap foods of poor quality. Therefore, it was difficult for the populations in these communities to make proper food choices because of the inaccessibility to these people.

  • Citizens Win

    @ Jason Sandeman: Don’t have a heart attack but the nation’s poor do not have Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, they have KFC and Burger King.

    The film coupled with Michael Moore’s Sicko is plenty enough indictment of the unintended consequences of the farm subsidy bill and the health care industry. You are in plain denial or worse, a paid shill for the dairy or beef council. To rant and rave against simpler food choices that have helped people live longer is like saying that smoking cigarettes doesn’t matter because we are all going to die anyway. Your argument falls as flat as a little brat who refuses to eat his vegetables.

    This 90 minute film deserves to be seen by every American.
    So don’t let Jason’s bias discourage you. Watch the film and make your own mind up. Just the fact that that the filmmaker dramatically altered his vital numbers speaks volumes.

  • Dean MacDaniels

    Only my personal opinion, but your critique of Forks Over Knives seems a little hyper critical. It is a documentary that has to entertain and possibly go a little over-the-top to get attention and compete for viewers. Come on. Sure the producers have an agenda and they cannot be completely objective, they can’t be exhaustive in research or presentation of data, and they have a financial and time budget to present their argument within. But they make some very compelling arguments that diet affects health and well-being. And the film is a very noble contribution to an effort to make people aware that diet affects health and contributes to serious problems such as obesity, cardio vascular disease, and cancer.

    I am not a total vegan. We try to eat more plant based foods, we attempt to eat organic as much as possible, and on occasions when we do eat meat we would rather it be organic and purchased locally. We try to make sensible improvements in our diet, based on all the information we gather from books and other media. Forks Over Knives added to our knowledge, but we don’t expect it, or any other film or book, or your site for that matter, to be the end all of all dietary and health information. It led us to read other books and watch other documentaries. We enjoyed it and encouraged others to watch it. I’m encouraged by the popularity of the film. They’ve reached people your little site will never reach.

    I think your negative bias against the film is not productive. Where is your example of your documentary that handles the subjects better. You are so critical about the lack of science. Really, look your site over with same critical eye. Your quick to jump on them about the comment made in the film about poor people’s food choices — let’s turn a camera on you for several hours and see how you do. I get sick of the negative hyper critical rhetoric by simple-minded people who have nothing good to say, but want to hear their own voice, listen to themselves ramble on and on about what they think other people are doing and saying that is all wrong. Who made you the diet, heath, and now documentary sheriff for the world.

    Forks Over Knives is a great documentary. It’s not perfect. The producers, writer, director, people in the documentary I’m sure have regrets and wish they had more time to do some things differently. More time, more money, maybe they could have. It ain’t perfect. Is your site? Is everything you say or do or produce about health and diet perfect? Too bad the people involved in Forks Over Knives are not as perfect and always as well-spoken and politically correct as you.

    Lastly, you don’t have all the answers either. We all get sick and die eventually.

  • http://welldonechef.com Jason Sandeman

    Well Dean,
    Here’s the thing – I don’t avocate one size fits all style of eating. I don’t say that everyone should eat a certain way based off bullshit science. I also don’t throw bullshit cherry picked facts to “back” up my claims.
    Yes, my review is negative – about as negative as your negative review of my review. That’s my porrogative. My site, my review.
    If you eat more plants, all the power to you. More meat for me. Just don’t try and push your beliefs on me.

  • B Tol

    Too bad you didn’t read “The China Study” first. Perhaps then the video, which is lacking the research piece, would make more sense.