5 Not Boring Documentaries & Books About Chemicals in Your Food, Clothes & Body

Written by Christine @ So Domestically Challenged, Contributing Writer

I hate to admit it, but year’s ago, I thought “organic” was just a marketing ploy.  I thought plastic bottles were all safe.  I fed my family convenience foods that came in a box.  I never gave any of it much thought.  But over the years, I’ve learned that there are a lot of dangerous chemicals and additives, even in things you wouldn’t think would have any, and that avoiding them is hard!  Searching the Internet can help, but a lot of the information is so overwhelming, it can be hard to know where to start.

I’m by no means an expert in living healthfully or organically, but these books and documentaries were really engaging and helped me learn how to make changes one small step at a time.  Here are my top 5 books and documentaries that changed the way our family lives.

5 Not-Boring Books & Documentaries About Chemicals in Your Food, Clothes and Body

1. Fast Food Nation (Book)

I read this just after Super Size Me came out.  It was the first time I had really thought about what was in fast food and what that could do to a person.  This book starts out simply enough with the beginnings of modern fast food: the restaurants, how they started, how they created systems to make food quickly.  Then it peels back that layer and starts going to the distributors, the factories and even the slaughterhouses.  Hearing about the conditions, the additives and the lack of oversight will make you think about what you’re really eating at fast food places.

2. Food Inc (Documentary)

This engaging documentary will blow you away.  A lot of the movie has to do with food laws: do you know if what you’re buying is genetically altered?  What if the chicken in your dinner is cloned?  Or from another country?  You might be surprised to know all these dirty little secrets of food laws and the arguments both for and against each one.

3. Salt, Sugar, Fat (Book)

I borrowed this as an audiobook from my local library.  Not only was it fabulous as an audiobook, but the content was life changing.  The author talks about the history of cereal and how post-WWII, with women in the workplace, it rose to the breakfast food of choice by being convenient and choc-full of sugar (seriously, in the 70s they were open about it with Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks and even Super Sugar Crisp).  In the years since sugar became seen as a negative, some major companies have relied on false advertising about how students who ate certain frosted wheat cereal scored better in tests.  These were false of course, and punished by the government, but those punishments were so small and so long after the offense that most people didn’t even know about them.

Salt, Sugar, Fat also talks about the soda industry as well as convenience foods like Lunchables.  As a kid who grew up on Lunchables, I was horrified to find out the history of them and what goes into those delicious little squares of meat and cheese.  This book also teaches you an important code word: cheesier.  Whenever a company wants to sell more of a product, they make it cheesier.  It ups the fat content which makes people crave it more.  Once you hear examples of it though, you will not be able to stop seeing cheesier marketing everywhere you look.

4.  The Human Experiment (Documentary)

I came across this a few weeks back as a recommendation on Netflix.  It deals mainly with the chemicals in our everyday lives that are altering our health.  It gives the example of BPA which we all know now was in our baby’s bottles just a few years back.  Before that, there was data that showed that babies were being born with BPA in their bloodstreams, but the information was slow to get to the consumer.  This movie also talks about chemicals you might not know about like the flame-resistant coating on children’s sleepwear, or the chemicals allowed in baby shampoo in the US that are outlawed in Japan.  You start realizing that there are harmful chemicals in pretty much everything around you, the government knows it, but there are purposeful actions to keep you from knowing about it.

5. The Flavorists (60 Minutes, 2011)

This one has a sort of honorary spot on the list because it’s not so much a documentary as a 15-minute news story.  In 2011, 60 Minutes was given a behind-the-scenes look at how flavors are created.  It starts innocently enough with these scientists figuring out how to create fruity flavors in drinks, but then it moves on to how these flavorists make their products.  All the flavors are chemicals.  While natural flavoring may come from natural sources, they don’t necessarily come from anything you’d be interested in eating on purpose: like beavers.  Then they talk to Dr. Kessler, the former head of the FDA about how packaged foods are full of additives that make the foods addictive and fattening.  Can you guess what those additives are?  Salt, sugar & fat…again.  It’s a brief film, but will definitely change the way you look at the foods you find in the grocery store.

I admit that I’m not the best at knowing all the healthiest foods and in our family, we still do buy several things that are not healthy for us.  However, knowing what to look for and the red flags has changed our habits tremendously.  When we can easily find and organic option, we do.  If we have the ability to make something ourselves instead of from a package or a restaurant, we make it.  And when we are buying those packaged foods, we’re comparing the labels and looking for red flags and keywords.  While we don’t make healthy choices 100% of the time, we’re doing it more and more and that’s better than where we started.

What have you watched or read that changed the way you look at chemicals in our lives?

About Christine

Christine is a mom of 2 in central Texas. When she isn’t blogging at SoDomesticallyChallenged, she’s a Girl Scout leader, involved in the PTO, a professional organizer and of course, stays busy spending time with her sweet family. She posts about organization for families, DIY projects, books and anything else that brings her joy.


  1. Oooooh I hadn’t heard of a couple of these! Thanks. Pinning.

  2. These are great! Thanks for spreading awareness about this. It’s so important to be mindful of what goes into and on the body.

  3. Great list!! I hadn’t heard of The Human Experiment – i’m going to add that to my Netflix list.