The Best Food Documentaries to Binge Watch On Netflix
Who knew chicken farming could be as dramatic as an episode of How to Get Away with Murder? The Netflix original docu-series Rotten is one of the newer deep-dives into corruption in the food industry. Each episode (there are six in total) takes on a different type of food product and features farmers, fisherman, doctors, and scientists alike. These experts tell us about the fraud, crime, and power struggles behind food like honey, fish, and raw milk. For example, after watching how Chinese prisoners are used to peel garlic in the episode "Garlic Breath," you'll never want to buy pre-peeled garlic again.
Nope, it's not glamorous. The point, here, is to be more aware of the path food takes from farm, field, and fishery to grocery store shelves. Something unique about Rotten is that, alongside the villains, you also meet some heroes—people who are just trying their best to feed the country. (If food industry corruption sounds "far away" to you, read about the sugar industry scam that made us all hate fat.)
was one of the first investigative food documentaries to hit the scene back in 2008. (It was even Oscar nominated.) The film found that most of the country's food supply came from only a handful of corporations, and these big companies didn't mind sacrificing consumers' health to make a profit.
Disclaimer: This documentary is not for the faint of heart or stomach. (It has some graphic footage of livestock being slaughtered.) Why it might be worth it: It will make you, as a consumer, way more invested in where your food comes from. (Related: What's the Difference Between a Plant-Based Diet and a Vegan Diet?)
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret
Although it sounds like a movie about cows taking over the world, Cowspiracy
is documentarian Kip Andersen's research on the level of greenhouse gases produced by animal agriculture.
The doc takes a very clear standpoint: Its website claims it's "the film that environmental organizations don't want you to see." Anderson claims the government and environmental organizations are deceiving the public about the main cause of global warming. Rather than blaming fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas) for having the biggest impact on global warming, he asserts that animal agriculture (meat, eggs, milk, and fish) is the bigger offender. While the claim may be controversial, it could inspire you to try meatless Mondays, or just make an effort to eat a more plant-based diet (which has a bunch of health benefits anyway).
What the Health
What the Health
was Kip Andersen's second food doc after Cowspiracy. In this film, he makes a case for switching to a vegan diet—but not just for environmental reasons. His theory: Corporations and the government withhold information about animal products in order to keep people sick and cash in on their health-care costs. He also claims that some nutritional information about certain foods isn't correct. Take eggs, for example. Andersen says eating an egg a day is as bad for you as smoking five cigarettes a day because of their high cholesterol content.
Mind blown (err.. scrambled)? You should know that when this documentary first came out, the wellness world pushed back against a lot of the its claims. (See: There's One Big Thing Missing from the
What the Health
Documentary). And while some of the claims may seem a bit fear-monger-y, advocating that people eat more whole foods, fruits, and vegetables on its own isn't a bad thing. So if you decide to watch, take Andersen's findings like you take your french fries—with a few grains of salt. (If it does inspire you to ditch animal products, here's what you should know before going vegan.)
The Magic Pill
With the keto diet all over your Instagram feed (perhaps you're trying it yourself), it's no surprise this hyped-up eating plan inspired a documentary. The Magic Pill
explores the effects of the ketogenic diet by following the journey of a few different people with assorted health problems (such as asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer) who switch to a strict keto diet and see the short- and long-term benefits it has on them.
This documentary created some controversy because it seems to claim that keto can be a cure for basically everything, even cancer. The keto diet isn't for everyone, but if you're interested in trying it, make sure you do your research: Here's everything you should know about the keto diet.
Forks Over Knives
No, this is not a spin-off of rock, paper, scissors. Forks Over Knives
is another docu-ode to a plant-based diet. The documentary uses compelling research from food scientists to encourage you to reduce your processed food and animal-product intake—but it's done in a way that's a little less scary than in some of the other films.
The host of the documentary, Lee Fulkerson, also involves his own health journey in the story line: After going to a checkup, he realized he was at risk for heart disease. So he goes on a strict, plant-based diet. Use this doc as a reminder to schedule annual wellness visits, and consider filling up your plate with tons of fruits and veggies. (At the very least, it'll make you happier.)
is one of the more inspiring and hopeful food documentaries on Netflix. It focuses on Marty Travis, a farmer in Illinois who refuses to fall victim to corporations. Instead, he makes way for the sustainable food movement in his community. This movement encourages all-organic farming and for farmers to grow a variety of crops—not only fostering a better ecosystem but also guaranteeing profits aren't based on one crop alone. This doc also teaches you, as a consumer, how to partake in the organic food movement without breaking the bank. (Speaking of that, the upcycled food trend is helping people eat more sustainably.)
The Truth About Alcohol
This BBC-made documentary is basically a MythBusters episode on all the questions you've ever had about alcohol. Why do different people have different alcohol tolerances? Is red wine really that good for you? Does a nightcap drink really help you sleep better? What's the best cure for a hangover?
All these questions and more are put to the test by Javid Abdelmoneium, M.D., a Brit who admits from the beginning: "I love drinking, just not too much." Dr. Abdelmoneium pairs up with other scientists in Brittan and designs experiments in a "pub-lab." He even undergoes a few himself. For example, he goes to a sleep lab to find out if having a drink before bed helps you fall asleep. The doc keeps it lighthearted and leaves you realizing that the more you know about alcohol and the effects it has on your body, the more safely you can consume it.
In Defense of Food
Based on the book with the same name, the documentary In Defense of Food admits that yeah, food in America is complicated. Their advice: Practice moderation. Or as the writer and documentarian Michael Pollan famously says: "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants." (In other words, be "healthy-ish.")
Pollan's argument is that when you cut things out of your diet, you're likely to crave them even more than before, which could end in a binge (which is super common during restrictive dieting). Instead, Pollan suggests that indulging happens—just make sure your other meals are packed with nutrients.