By Tench Phillips, Naro Cinema

I have been advised by my wife against tackling the topic of this month’s column–she feels that I’m not qualified to write about the relationship between food and health. You see, I’m not a cook and I would rather watch Michael Pollan’s four-part series ‘Cooked’ on Netflix than actually do the gritty work in the kitchen. Angela is the one in our family who takes care of our food choices and our meals. I have gone along for the ride and have followed her culinary creativity as she tries innovative diets and recipes in pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. I’ve even seen her reading induction hob reviews when we were looking to renovate our kitchen so she could look for the best cooking methods for our regular meals. But since Angela isn’t the one writing this column, I will try to convey the knowledge and experience of the experts.

A plant based diet is the foundation for our home-cooked meals and for Angela’s cooking classes that she will occasionally teach. Ours has been a path of moderation and only intermittently have we been strictly vegetarian or vegan or macrobiotic. Some would say that we fell off the wagon–time and again. But in having some leniency in our preferences, we have been able to win over more of our friends and family to join us in a communal critique of questioning the food we eat.

No one likes preachy know-it-alls when it comes to how one should eat, so instead we have tried to show others by example. We have nearly eliminated all dairy from our diets and when we do eat some animal, we source our choices with grass fed, organic, humanely raised meat–and at the same time we know that these labels have been compromised. We’re fortunate to be able to shop at Whole Foods and at the local farmer markets during the summer season. We know that most cash-strapped Americans don’t have this luxury. Nor does everyone have the time necessary for the preparation and cooking of fresh green foods at home.

Being of a certain age and growing up during the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s was a decidedly mixed blessing when it came to nutrition. On the one hand Angela and I were fortunate to eat home-cooked meals lovingly prepared by each of our stay-at-home Moms. Only occasionally were we allowed the supreme treat of a ‘TV dinner’ when our parents went out and left us on our own. At that time there were very few fast food take-out restaurants. The appropriation of American kitchens by the nationwide corporate food franchises was still in its infancy. I remember well the excitement we all felt when the first McDonald’s opened in Norfolk on Military Highway during the early sixties.

But on the other hand, there was little understanding of nutrition in that era. Yes, our home cooked meals contained selections from each of the six or seven designated food groups. But the emphasis of the Standard American Diet (SAD) was on eating plenty of meat, cheese, milk, eggs, and bread. Vegetables and fruits were second-class citizens. Whether our menus were created by our Moms or by our school lunch programs, corporations have always influenced the government guidance about a healthy diet.

Contrary to what my family believed, all those baloney sandwiches on white bread that I brought from home daily for my school lunch and I washed down with a small carton of milk, were not good for me. But who knew? Only much later did it come out in a report by the World Health Organization that processed meats are carcinogenic and are now classified in the same category as tobacco products. And now we know that whole milk is a poor source of calcium and that the saturated fats are a main cause of diseases like diabetes.

But do most Americans really know the toxic nature of our animal food chain? The corporate media seldom allows the voices of independent researchers to undermine the message of the ad campaigns funded by the food industry. They must wage a public relations campaign of lies that’s contrary to all current scientific evidence–except from the researchers who are in the pay of the industry. And so the connection between the addictive foods they push and our diseases is denied–and instead blamed on genetics.

A major strategy of the meat, dairy, and egg industry is to keep the public confused by continuing to provide conflicting reports about what is a healthy diet and to inject doubt about who is really telling the truth. And it works–diets are trendy and are rarely maintained. People fail to make the long-term changes in their buying and eating habits since they don’t really know who or what to believe. And the mass media is willingly complicit in the scam.

The Naro has shown several documentaries over the years about the food industry and diet. They have all been really popular and have included Eating You Alive, Forks and Knives, Plant Pure Nation, Supersize Me, Fed Up, and Food, Inc. The consistent message of all these films is that Americans are being lead down the road to ruin by the food industry through their mass marketing and their engineering of foods to make them addictive. To gain back one’s health, one must get smart and break free of this tangled web of corporate control.

Another recent film, Cowspiracy, takes a different tact. It exposes the cruel overcrowded conditions that cows, pigs, and chickens are raised in. The untreated sewage from these concentrate feeding lots is largely unregulated and pollutes waterways and drinking water of surrounding areas. The pathogens that are cultivated in such close quarters would kill off all these animals way before they were ready for market if it weren’t for all the antibiotics that are pumped into them. And the film exposes the often ignored issue that the amount of greenhouse gases released through factory farming is larger than the total amount produced by the transportation sector.

Now the same filmmakers, Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn, have just completed their new film, What The Health. It explores personal health, the health industry, pharmaceuticals, and government collusion within the food industry. It’s a film about the power of special interest groups to drive unhealthy consumer spending habits. It’s about environmental racism and the impact of animal agriculture on community health in rural areas. And it’s about why you need to rethink for yourself everything you’ve ever been told about the relationship between business and food.

Heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death in America, and obesity and diabetes are growing exponentially. One in four Americans die of cancer, one in three die of cardiovascular disease, and nearly 50% of the population is diabetic or pre-diabetic. The social costs are immense and the medical establishment cannot offer us cures for chronic disease. They can only treat the symptoms through surgery and drugs–and they make trillions from the maintenance of these diseases.

What The Health features some of the top medical doctors in the country who now advocate for a plant-based diet for their patients: Dr. Milton Mills, Dr. Garth Davis, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Michael Klaper, Dr. Michael Greger, Dr. Michells McMacken, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, Dr. John McDougall, and Dr. Kim Williams.

In making their film Kip and Keegan spent two years researching the causes of chronic disease and the collusion of the food industry, government, and the medical establishment. They learned that the giant food and pharmaceutical companies fund such large nonprofit disease organizations like the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and Susan G. Komen Pink Ribbons. Although these organization certainly do much good for people, they are also guilty of promoting the agendas of the meat, dairy, and drug industries. Of course this is contrary to their stated missions of seeking a cure for these diseases. All of this is well documented on the movie’s website

The health system in America is a perfect circle of deceit; agribusiness and the corporate food industry creates the processed foods, carcinogenic meats, cheese, and dairy products that are guaranteed to make us all sick. And then we’re later wheeled into the care of the medical establishment where the industry reaps huge profits by maintaining our food induced sickness. And they are knowingly withholding the knowledge that 80 to 90% of these chronic conditions are food driven, preventative, and able to be reversed by radically transforming one’s diet.

What The Health will show on Wed, April 19 and also April 26 with speakers and discussion. Katie Abbott will again be participating with us. She is the nutritionist for the Dr. Dean Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program at Sentara Princess Anne. There are 4 elements to the program: plant-based nutrition, exercise, stress management, and love/support. The national program has proven successful in reversing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and early-stage prostate cancer. In addition their patients are able to wean themselves off of dangerous medications.

The shift away from eating animals to a plant-based diet is accelerating. It becomes apparent when Dr. Kim Williams, the President of the American College of Cardiology states “There are two kinds of cardiologists: vegans and those who haven’t read the data.” We have seen how easily science can be manipulated and misrepresented by opportunistic politicians and corporations so as to protect their profits. For Americans to begin healing ourselves will first require truthful information to break through the filters of mainstream media and for the knowledge to become accessible. It’s just part of the battle for truth. In recognition of the challenge, the March for Science will take place in Washington on Earth Day, April 22.

Animal agriculture is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions. It’s the leading cause of global warming, water depletion, deforestation, species extinction, antibiotic resistance, and groundwater pollution. An important 2016 U.N. report is adamant; “A global shift towards a plant-based diet is vital to save the world from the worst impacts of climate change.” Let us not just be concerned about eating well for our own personal health, but also for the health of our communities, and ultimately the health of the planet.



Upcoming Film Events at Naro Cinema

SHOT! The Psycho-Spiritual Mantra of Rock

Legendary music photographer Mick Rock is known as the “man who shot the ‘70s,” especially the decade’s glam era. Think the holy trinity between Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. Equally iconic are the videos he directed, such as Bowie’s Jean Genie and Life on Mars. Now in his seventies and suffering from heart trouble, he has to take it easy as he awaits an operation. The film is a portrait of Rock from his hospital bed, with hallucinatory flashbacks and psychedelic dream sequences. Shows Tues, April 18. Presented with Chrysler Museum.



The same filmmakers who in their last film Cowspiracy revealed the disastrous environmental impacts on the planet created by worldwide animal agriculture, have now exposed the agenda of the corporate food industry that generates huge profits from selling us food that’s making us sick. When we are eventually wheeled into the medical system suffering from the modern epidemics of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer–our symptoms are treated primarily through surgery and drugs. And yet the cause of our sickness and the needed prevention is seldom addressed. We learn from some of the country’s most respected medical doctors about the true cause of chronic disease and the collusion between government, big business, and the large nonprofit disease organizations to misinform and confuse us. The film offers a simple solution to the nation’s health crisis which has largely been manufactured by the food industry. It consists of switching to a clean plant-based diet and a lifestyle that will prevent and even reverse chronic disease. Case studies are provided by individuals who have taken their health care into their own hands. (92 mins) Shows Wednesdays, April 19 and 26 with speakers and discussion.


SHADOW WORLD: Inside the Global Arms Trade

The Trump regime will need to work hard to top the Obama administration’s record of weapon deals. During eight years they brokered more arms deals with foreign countries than any other presidency since World War II. Based upon the groundbreaking book by Andrew Feinstein of the same name, this British produced film reveals the corruption, lies, and greed that exists within the defense industry, the military, and Congress. The common goal is to perpetuate and expand wars around the world so as to generate more corporate profit, no matter what the human costs may be. Shows Wed, May 3 with retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson leading discussion.



This new documentary looks at Lynch’s art, music, and early films, shining a light into the dark corners of his unique world and giving audiences a better understanding of the man and the artist. We’re invited in and given private views from Lynch’s compound and painting studio in the hills high above Hollywood, as he tells personal stories that unfold like scenes from his films. Strange characters come into focus only to fade again into the past, all leaving an indelible mark. Playdate to be announced.


FlickIt! presents the following film events



Academy-Award winner for Best Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, & Screenplay, Jack Nicholson stars in this raucous adaptation of Ken Kesey’s acclaimed bestseller. (1975) Shows Friday, April 21.


Mel Brooks’ goofy sci-fi spoof still delights 30 years later. Who will save Planet Druidia from the evil Dark Helmet? May the schwartz be with you. (1987) Shows Friday, May 5.


We’re celebrating Norfolk Bike Month BMX style. It’s going to take a lot more than skill for Cru Jones to conquer Helltrack, it’s going to take a miracle. (1986) Shows Friday, May 12.