Being a Nutritionist in a World Where "Everyone" is a Nutritionist
The other day I headed to the local health food store looking for some unusual ingredients that I was introduced to on a recent trip to Indonesia. Specifically I was looking for tempeh, a whole food made from fermented soy beans. When I approached the shop keeper she said oh yes they have tempeh AND it was tempeh that didn't have any soy isn't that great? Um, sorry but I wanted soy tempeh as that is what the traditional dish I was making was made from. Oh well, soy is toxic you know. You shouldn't be eating it!
Wow, I felt completely judged, defensive, and frankly caught off guard so I quickly told her I was "pro soy" (whatever that means 😂) and defensively and apologetically stated I was in fact a nutritionist. She said, oh well as long as the soy is fermented it is probably ok.
What was going on here? Why is a shop keeper who probably never took a single class in biochemistry giving out nutrition advice? Because she read some article on the web that said soy is toxic and now she is an expert? I am sorry but 60% of the WORLD consumes soy, everyday. The Okinawans eat the most soy products of anyone in the world and they are a Blue Zone and are one of the longest living people in the world without chronic diseases. And no, not all of their soy is fermented. And if you have been to Asia lately, it is a pretty populated place. I am pretty sure that soy is not killing them nor is it affecting their fertility. And they're are a lot leaner than Westerners so hmmmm maybe we can learn something from them???
But I digress. I am here to discuss how the field of nutrition is a field that is saturated with "experts" and that most never did a proper science degree at university. I was shocked the other day when my local Facebook group for my town had a request from a local looking for a nutritionist. After replying that I am a qualified nutritionist and have a master's degree in nutrition, the responses came flooding in from Arbonne (vitamin supplement) salespeople, personal trainers, Essential Oil salespeople, and Thermomix salespeople who all claimed to be nutritionists. How can this be? Because the title nutritionist is not regulated. So anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, sadly even the guy making my soy cap at the local cafe.
So unfortunately, we university qualified nutritionists who spent years (and a small fortune) on an education, have to work doubly hard on marketing ourselves in a competitive market that is completely saturated with charlatans. And no, my science degree in nutrition did not teach me marketing skills, food styling, photography or even how to increase an Instagram following. Because it taught me science. Like how the body works through biochemistry. And how to read a scientific paper critically. And how to interpret statistics to ensure that what a study claims to profess is actually true.
So unfortunately, you may have never even heard of some of the amazing university educated nutritionists out there that are sharing real science backed nutrition because their voices are drowned out by self proclaimed nutritionists and popular social media influencers that have mastered the art of marketing, photography and food styling. And to be a good nutritionist, you need to keep abreast of recently published research. There are literally thousands of papers published every year just on the microbiome alone. It takes a lot of time to read, sort through and analyze those studies leaving less time to make your food look pretty and appetizing.
Lately I have been critically analyzing the the content of some of these other "nutritionists" and Instagram influencers trying to figure out what makes them so appealing to amass such large followings on social media. One woman, with over 28K Instagram followers (who is a local Naturopath) produced this lovely looking hash brown-eggy dish recently that everyone loved and shared and raved about how delicious it was. She assured the public that everyone needs a healthy breakfast and that this dish was it...healthy and nourishing. I read the ingredients thinking ooh that looks good. I could use a new breakfast dish. Upon closer inspection, I discovered the dish was made from butter, bacon and full fat cheese and had a whopping 36% of it's calories from saturated fat. Not to mention that the bacon, which coated the dish, is considered a Group 1 carcinogen (cancer causing agent) according to the World Health Organization. And the dish had 650 mg of sodium and only 3 grams of fibre per serve. Hello? How is this dish healthy exactly?
So of course people would love this recipe. It photographs well and I bet it tastes damn good. But healthy....no. This dish would clog your arteries, raise your blood pressure and starve your microbiome all at the same time. But readers are easily duped into thinking this dish is healthy because the Naturopath, who is an Instagram Influencer, is telling them it is healthy. Instagram influencers by definition "are Instagram users who have an established credibility and audience; who can persuade others by virtue of their trustworthiness and authenticity." People trust her, but she is lying to the public about her food being healthy to get more followers and that makes her popular because people love to hear good news about bad habits.
So my loyal friends and followers, know that I may not have the highest number of followers on Facebook nor am I an Instagram Influencer, but I will always share with you nutrition information that is backed by evidence based science. I will try to make my food look good, but not at the expense of the time it takes to stay abreast of the latest nutrition research. I will not lead you astray by sharing recipes that look and are too good to be true. What I share with you is scientifically backed information and healthy recipes that I eat myself. And that is because I am striving for the same thing most of you are, to eat a diet that will put life into my years and keep me healthy for as long as possible.