As I scrolled through my emails on my afternoon coffee break, I came across my daily “Nutrition and Dietetics SmartBrief.” For those who may be unfamiliar, this is one of the benefits of becoming a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). The SmartBrief contains headlines from current research and news articles that our professional organization finds worthy of sending out to credentialed Registered Dietitians / Nutritionists (RDNs).
I am not fond of the SmartBrief. I rarely open the email because the content feels relatively unhelpful; reiterating information we already have pounded in our heads from the four to six years of extensive schooling on everything food related. Many professionals in our field want to read something more meaningful than another research article on how eating red meat may increase your risk for heart disease. We want research updates that reflect a certain level of innovation and nuance.
Despite my lack of interest in these emails, the opening line for today caught my eye. It read – Study: Daily avocado intake promotes gut health. And with one click, I found myself reading about how eating added avocado to every meal for 12 weeks results in “great microbiome diversity.”
Now many of you are probably thinking – Yeah, what about it?
Here is my bone to pick.
- This contributes to the issue of trendy consumerism. Our profession has a way of lifting up certain foods as quick solutions for complex health problems that require more advice than “you are eating the wrong foods.” Do not get me wrong. Avocados are incredibly nourishing and tasty treats that have such great culinary versatility. I am all for adding more plant-based foods in the average American diet, but that is just the thing. We know having a diet rich in plant-based foods can enhance microbiome diversity. So why just emphasize one food while we can uplift many options for our patients and clients?
- There is a lack of consideration in how this study may be influential in practice. We know that avocados are just like other plant-based foods in their ability to enhance microbiome diversity. Now let me just paint a scenario. Let us say that over half of the RDNs that read this SmartBrief start promoting avocados to their clients. Those clients go out and take this word to heart. They start eating avocados every day for 12 weeks. Perhaps they eat only half an avocado each day, totaling to needing only three to four each week. That is not too bad! But when we think about how thousands of people buying three to four avocados each week – in addition to the hundreds of thousands of people buying three to four avocados each week – now we have an issue. The United States had the greatest global demand at 2288.6 million pounds of avocados back in 2018. Already, the current growing consumption of avocados is causing extensive harm to the environment. This climbing demand is resulting in deforestation and increased greenhouse gas emissions. Let us not forget about how the increasing demand has resulted in horrible working conditions for producers, who often refer to avocados as “green gold.” Of course, this is not to boil down a complicated situation to millennials enjoying their toast every morning. And, I know this one SmartBrief is not going to drastically motivate many RDNs to aggressively force avocados onto their clients and patients, but my goal with this reflection is to simply shed light on how one research article can influence professional guidance, and therefore have larger impacts on societal and global issues (i.e. sustainability, labor issues, food access and affordability, diet culture). This brings me to my last point.
- The Academy should do better about what they are promoting and sharing to its practitioners. I know that SmartBrief is simply a learning tool created by the Academy to highlight food and nutrition-related content to its subscribers. If done with the appropriate level of detail and nuance, these updates could actually be of great value, especially considering how much is published about food and nutrition every day. However, I do believe that both the one-dimensionality of the content - and lack of discussion around said content - is reflective of the many faults associated with the Academy. We need to start fostering a community and platform that encourages our profession to be more critical of what promoted as “health” – it must embrace intersectionality and train its community members to think, communicate, educate, and practice in such a way. By sharing an article about how beneficial avocados are to microbiome diversity, what are we really saying? That trendy consumerism is acceptable? That we are okay with creating a hierarchy of healthy foods without regard for how that may impact global supply chains, workers’ conditions, or the environment?
I have high hopes that we as a community can do, and be, better by embracing and promoting intersectionality as foundational to our core professional competencies.