Vanessa Rissetto is a registered dietitian, the Co-founder of Culina Health, and the newest member of GEM’s Scientific Advisory Board, an ever-evolving collective of experts that help inform our formulations. Vanessa received her MS in Marketing at NYU and completed her Dietetic Internship at Mount Sinai Hospital where she worked as a Senior Dietitian for five years. She is certified in Adult Weight Management by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and her work in private practice also includes treatment of GI disorders, bariatric surgery, weight management, PCOS, and family nutrition. She loves helping clients take an active role in their health journey, motivating them and ensuring that they always achieve success. Vanessa was named by one of the top 5 black nutritionists that will change the way you think about food by Essence magazine.
You can probably see why we’d want her on our team. Ahead, find out a bit more about Vanessa, as well as some of her favorite ways to stay on track.
GEM: Tell us about your discipline as a registered dietician.
The nutrition space is really fragmented so people don't actually know that a registered dietitian is clinically trained to understand how food is metabolized, every disease state, and how food can help prevent those diseases. Because the RD license isn't protected, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist and it makes it pretty confusing for people—but an RD goes to school with nursing students, med students, PT, and OT. We learn chemistry, anatomy, physiology, and microbiology and then we do a 1200-hour internship. Many of us do that within the walls of a major medical institution learning from physicians.
GEM: How has your discipline changed over the last decade or so as consumers become more educated and vocal about rejecting “diet culture”?
I think it's been great and terrible all at the same time. Because we are rejecting diet culture and the standard beauty norms I sometimes think that people want to reject science and things we know to be true. The other day someone told me that paying attention to carbohydrates as a diabetic is not the way to counsel. I think we have to remember that as practitioners, we are aware as to what would be triggering or harmful to our patients. Explaining to my diabetic patient how carbs affect their blood sugar is entirely different than someone telling their patient to count calories, restrict calories, and fat shaming.
GEM: Tell us about your journey with Culina Health—what do you envision its role in members’ lives looks like?
We aim to provide sustainable accessible nutrition education to people despite their socioeconomic status. We are here to make sure that everyone's living the best life they can.
GEM: You’ve been vocal about your goal to bring holistic nutrition education and accessible healthcare to everyone — what has that been like? What inspired it and how do you implement it in your practice?
I grew up as a first generation American, and my parents always talk about the reason to come to America is access to whatever you want. The thing is, my parents are educated and could afford that access, but what about everyone else? Culina Health was born out of the idea that everyone should have access and autonomy over their own healthcare.
GEM: In your practice, what are common pitfalls that you often see in adult men and women and what can we do to better address it?
No one eats enough. It's so wild. There's so much misinformation out there, so everyone is on a fast, cleanse, time restriction; except it's not sustainable so they end up overdoing it at other times and find themselves in a cycle of binge/restrict.
GEM: What does “food as medicine” mean to you?
Nutrition equals prevention. We know that nutrition has the power to reduce the burden of, prevent, and even reverse disease.
GEM: How does eating real food vs. taking pills or capsules can help the body absorb vitamins and minerals better? Tell us about some of the key herbs and roots we use across different GEM products.
There are all sorts of reasons why people need vitamins. For example, we know that magnesium is something we are all deficient in but also we aren't exactly sure what the right amounts are. GEM has a solution for that.
Beta Glucans are soluble fibers that come from the cell walls of bacteria, fungi, and yeast. They're known mostly because it is believed that they help to lower the risk of heart disease, by preventing the body from absorbing cholesterol from food. Sometimes we see that they are mixed with hyaluronic acids in skin care products for maximum hydration and plumping benefits
Probiotics are defined by the World Health Organization as “live microorganisms, which when consumed in adequate amounts confer health benefits to the host.” Simple enough right? It’s believed that the use of probiotics can increase microbial diversity by improving the balance of organisms within the GI tract and reducing the risk of colonization by pathogenic bacteria. Probiotics compete with potentially pathogenic microbes along the GI tract, and in theory win out in that environment, keeping you healthy. They have anti-inflammatory properties, help with immunity, and can modify gastrointestinal transit—think less constipation or diarrhea—if that is an issue for you.
People ask for supplement recommendations everyday, I'm glad we can recommend something that I know is backed by science with quality ingredients.