Patient Resources — books and movies

Categories: Articles

There have been a number of great books and movies in the past few years that connect the modern American diet and its concomitant issues with industrialized food production methods. I thought I’d recommend some of them here in case anyone treats a patient who is enthusiastic about the subject of diet and wants to learn more.

If you’ve read or seen other interesting books or movies about this subject, or about diet at all, please add them to this discussion. I’d love to hear what other people have found useful in their search for good information about food.

BOOKS:

In Defense of Food
by Michael Pollan

Straightforward advice about how to navigate the modern supermarket knowing what we know about how we should eat. Well-written and accessible to a general audience, this book encapsulates Pollan’s other, longer books into a set of principles that should help the reader make good dietary decisions for themselves.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma
by Michael Pollan

An in-depth look at food production practices in the United States, from farm to table. Pollan traces the origins of three different meals back to their roots in this book, which is more detailed and longer than In Defense of Food. Maybe not where I’d start someone just getting interested in the subject, but if they want to know more, this is a great source of information about industrial farming, organic farming, foraging, and susatainable agriculture.

Fast Food Nation
by Eric Schlosser

A comprehensive investigation into the history and development of the fast food industry in the United States. Schlosser takes on all of the issues raised by fast food’s industrial processes: health issues, animal cruelty, abuse of meat packing workers, fast-food marketing to children. If someone really wants to know where fast food comes from, and is ready to never eat it again, then this is the book they should read.

MOVIES:

“Fast Food Nation” has also been made into a movie, but in terms of a compelling story about fast food overload, “Super-Size Me” wins the prize. Morgan Spurlock eats only at McDonald’s for 30 days to the horror of his doctors and his vegan-chef girlfriend, and he seriously endangers his health in the process. Entertaining, disturbing, and a little gross, this movie is definitely fun to watch; and it’s full of interesting fast-food factoids.

“King Corn” is the story of two guys who plant an acre of corn in Iowa and then trace its journey from farm to processing plant to make animal feed and high-fructose corn syrup. An interesting picture of Iowa farms, and an unsettling story about how corn became the #1 crop in the U.S. and the most prevalent ingredient in the modern American diet.

“Food, Inc.” covers very similar ground to the Pollan and Schlosser books above — in fact, it heavily features both men and is co-produced by Schlosser. A good, brief introduction to the problems created by current industrial methods of farming, from diabetes to unfair immigration laws.