Heart Foundation responds
The Orchardist put some questions to the Heart Foundation’s national nutrition advisor Delvina Gorton:
o:Why was the avocado placed in a position where people would assume it was "bad" food, right at the bottom under "use some"?
hf:The visual food guide isn’t a ‘ranking’ of good and bad foods.
The relative proportion of the food groups in the visual food guide is a guide to the proportional volume of the food groups to eat. The foods we want to encourage people to eat are shown in the heart. The foods we recommend people reduce their intake of are outside the heart.
Healthy oils and nuts, including avocados, are a very energy dense food group and so they take up a smaller proportional volume. However, they are an important part of a heart-healthy diet, which is why the visual food guide recommends people ‘use some’. The visual food guide was designed as a positive tool that focused on what we want people to be eating, and this is exactly how everyone it’s been tested on interpreted it – they loved that it focused on what they should eat. Avocado is botanically a fruit. However, food groups are developed based on nutritional equivalence and how foods are commonly used. As avocados are high in healthy fats, which is quite different to other fruit, they are included with other sources of healthy fats like nuts and oils. It is well accepted that good dietary sources of fats are vegetable oils, avocados, nuts and seeds. Avocados are also used in different ways to other fruit. Most people don’t eat an avocado in the same way they would, say, an apple.
Q:HortNZ has asked you to remove the avocado from the visual. What is your response to HortNZ? What have you told the avocado industry in response to their approaches to you?
hf:As a source of good fat we believe it is important avocados are represented on the guide. We encourage people to include avocado within their diets but it’s important to remember that one avocado has half the total fat an average person should eat in a day from all food sources, and one-fifth of their energy intake.
The Healthy Heart visual food guide is based on the cardio-protective dietary pattern. These guidelines were developed by the Ministry of Health, and are supported by the NZ Society for the Study of Diabetes, Te Hotu Manawa M-aori, Kidney Health, Stroke Foundation, Diabetes NZ, Heart Foundation and the NZ Guidelines Group.
The diet is based on a detailed examination of the scientific research on foods and nutrients and their impact on cardiovascular risk, and has been in place since 2003.
We have been in touch with the relevant parties to discuss our position.