By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
Food you can eat with only a fork: good. Food you must cut with a knife: bad.
That’s the inconvenient truth of the entrée on the plate of this thoroughly researched and persuasively argued documentary about worldwide dietary decline and the health benefits — and then some — of a whole-food, plant-based diet instead of one dominated by animal products and processed food.
And, y’know what? The next time you’re about to fork over your money for food that you know is doing you no good — given our addiction to fat, salt, sugar, and corn syrup, given our dependence on milk and eggs and meat, given the absolute inevitability that this will indeed occur and soon — maybe you’ll hesitate just because you’ve sat through Forks Over Knives.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that your appreciation of (and desire for) the mighty cheeseburger will disappear. After all, let’s make sure to factor human nature and the pleasure principle into this formula.
If you’re like me, then every time Forks Over Knives displays a shot of fish or chicken or sausages or steaks grilling as an example of unwise choices for lunch, you’ll be thinking, “Mmm, that looks good. Let me at it.”
But the very existence of this film just might diminish our commitment to a destructive diet, at least a tad.
An earnest, straightforward, what’s-up doc that makes up in zeal and authenticity for what it lacks in glitz and pizzazz, Forks Over Knives makes the case that our substantial meat and dairy consumption contributes to the widespread occurrence of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes — and thus has a profound effect on our health care system and our economy.
Substantially changing our regular diet would thus help reduce our need to go under that other kind of knife by reducing the need for various surgeries.
Director Lee Fulkerson concentrates on the findings of two scientists — surgeon Caldwell Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic, and nutritional researcher T. Colin Campbell of Cornell — whose work demonstrates the wisdom of switching our societal diet.
And he focuses on what happens when several sick people change their diet in the prescribed way.
He also, under the supervision of his physician (the film opens with a warning that that’s the only way anyone trying this approach should proceed), goes the guinea pig route (sorry about the animal-based reference) and tries it himself — recalling what Morgan Spurlock did in the opposite direction in 2004 in Super Size Me — by switching to a whole-food, plant-based menu for six months and seeing the resulting effect to his own health.
It is, by any imaginable measure, dramatically positive.
Yes, the script is preachy and, yes, it’s dry, with charts and research findings and talking heads. But it’s also compelling and convincing.
While nothing about the data on display is earthshakingly surprising, neither has this information ever been displayed in a way quite so difficult to dismiss or ignore.
And pooh-poohing the central message of the film because of unexciting production values would be like refusing a healthful, delicious meal because of the unadorned utensils it’s served with.
So we’ll order 3 stars out of 4 for a pedantic but persuasive infomovie. Difficult to swallow or not, even a spoonful of Forks Over Knives is valuable — maybe even crucial — food for thought.