Top 10 Best Foods at the Health Food Store

Tuesday Jul 16, 2013 | BY |
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rice

If you had walked into one of the first health food stores that opened decades ago, you would  likely have found  produce, whole grains, seeds, nuts, dried fruits, and other whole foods. In fact, that’s what health food stores still look like in many less developed parts of the world today.

If you walk into a health food store in America, it’s a whole different experience. A Whole Foods Market can be just as big as a regular supermarket, and contain essentially the same items in “health food” version.

Sometimes, the only change is that the food is organic. Sometimes, it’s just that it has particular features, like gluten-free.

So, nowadays we have to be careful about what we buy at health food stores. Not everything in the store is healthy. But among the thousands of products, I’ve identified a few worth seeking. In my next article, I’ll cover the top health foods to avoid.

The Top 10 Foods to Buy at a Health Food Store

This is not an exhaustive list, but covers some important foods you’re likely to find at a good health food stores. These are foods we should probably eat more of, or great alternatives to existing products.

Baby Bok ChyBok Choy

Many Asian cultures love Bok Choy. It’s a vegetable packed with nutrients, but unfortunately, many people don’t know what to do with it. It’s full of antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin K (very important), and B-vitamins. It’s probably one of the healthiest greens you can eat. A few ways to cook Bok Choy:

- Stir fry it in garlic and very little oil. Start with the stems, because they are the thickest part. Add the green parts and stir fry everything for about 4 minutes. If you’re cooking them for longer, you will destroy the benefits.

– Baby Bok Choy is great. Cut off the thickest part of the stems and then cut it length wise. Then boil in salted water for just ONE minute. The nutrients lost in the water in this method are minimal, since you’ll be boiling them for very little time. Add your favorite sauce!

– You can also eat Bok hoy raw in salads. But really, who likes to do that??

Black Rice

I’m personally a big fan of rice and keep about 10 varieties in my cupboard. Black rice is a type of rice that I’ve only found in health food stores (except for black sticky rice, which can be found in Asian markets). Black rice has the same benefits as brown rices, but it’s full of anti-oxidants, similar to the ones found in blueberries, so it’s like getting the benefits of blueberries while eating rice! Awesome… Just cook it on the brown rice setting of your rice cooker.

Duck Eggs

This is something that you’ll likely only find at your health food store. The value of duck eggs is that they contain more nutrients than regular eggs, especially vitamin B12. In fact, duck eggs contain five times the vitamin B12 of chicken eggs! They also contain more of all other nutrients, but unfortunately, more cholesterol too. If you include eggs in your diet, think of including duck eggs once in a while to boost your intake of vitamin B12.

Black Beans

Of all beans you can cook at home, black beans are my favorite. I discovered this type of bean in Costa Rica, where it’s part of the daily diet. As with many other pigmented foods, they are rich in antioxidants. What I like best about organic black beans is that they are so easy to cook. I never soak them. Just rinse them, add 2-3 inches of water, bring to a quick boil, reduce to minimum, and cook for about 2 hours. I cook them with whole garlic cloves, a couple of bay leaves, and one small peeled potato. Then you can add salt and other seasonings at the end of cooking. The water will get all black, and you’ll keep the beans in their cooking water. They’ll keep in the fridge for 3-5 days.

Chia

Chia is trendy these days, and for one good reason. They’re loaded with fiber (a ridiculous 11 grams per ounce!), the perfect mix of omega fats, a surprising amount of calcium, and a special fiber that prevents diabetes, among other things. In many countries, chia seeds are used as a digestive tonic. For example, when I was in Costa Rica, I tried a local drink called “chan” where chia seeds are thrown a sort of fruit juice. The seeds expand and become gelatinous, which creates a very nice consistency to the drink. Here’s a healthy way to prepare the drink:

Add 2 tablespoons of chia to 5 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil for one minute.

Remove from heat and let it set uncovered until it cools.

In blender, combine liquid, lemon/lime, and honey (to taste) and liquefy for seven seconds.

At this point, if you do not want the pulp, strain. Chill in the refrigerator and serve cold.

Note that you might not get all the benefits of chia unless the seeds are pulverized. Otherwise, they are not digested. However, soaked chia seeds have other benefits. (From: http://yo-yoinparadise.blogspot.ca/2010/06/chan-something-different-to-drink.html)

Kale

The health craze around kale is NOT overrated. In some places, a health food store is the only decent place to buy kale. Kale has a ridiculous nutritional profile. 130 grams of kale blows through several RDA requirements, such as a whooping 355% of our needs for vitamin A (or beta-carotene, actually), 88% of our vitamin C needs, 1327% for vitamin K, and an impressive load of other minerals and vitamins as well. There are lots of ways to eat kale and my favorite is to stream the green leaves (not the stems) and chop them well in a salad that includes a creamy dressing!

Organic Almonds

California almonds now have to be briefly pasteurized. This doesn’t change their nutritional value. Almonds are my favorite nut because they are so filling, and yet encourage weight loss! A recent study followed a group eating almonds every day (about 3 ounces) versus another group eating almost the same diet but replacing the almond calories by calories in other foods, such as crackers and fat-free popcorn). The group on the almond diet saw an 18% reduction in weight compared to 11% on the non-almond diet. Blood pressure also dropped on the almond-eating fellows.

I like to eat about one ounce of almonds every day, when a snack attack occurs. Chewed well, they are extremely satisfying.

Heirloom Tomatoes

There’s a reason why top chefs around the world seek heirloom tomatoes: they taste great. Besides farmer’s markets, heirloom tomatoes can generally only be found at health food stores. Heirloom tomatoes are older varieties of tomatoes that have interesting characteristics (taste, nutrition, texture, color) but are no longer grown commercially. There’s no research yet to prove that they are necessarily healthier than regular commercial tomatoes, but one thing is for sure: they taste a lot better! Better taste will result in more tomato consumption, which has proven health benefits.

Turmeric

Turmeric is THE spice that’s recommended by progressive health professionals who use nutrition as part of their protocol for overcoming disease. It has proven anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s used by rheumatoid arthritis patients, and for the treatment of diabetes. Inflammation is involved in the development of cancer, so that’s why turmeric is recommended to prevent cancer. The most potent turmeric can be found at specialized spice shops. If not, organic turmeric is a great choice. I like to use it in lentil dishes, sprinkled over eggs, and in many curry recipes. Fresh turmeric can also be juiced or blended in smoothies for a potent elixir!

Yerba Maté

I love coffee, but the crash of a coffee down can be intense. Yerba maté is a healthier alternative. Yerba maté is a stimulant like tea or coffee, but the compound at play is called “mateine.” It works similarly to caffeine. People who drink yerba maté say it’s like coffee without the side effects. I find it mildly stimulating and indeed a good choice for the occasional need for a “boost.” It’s hard to find in North America outside of health food stores, so look for it there. Loose leaves are best.

Question of the day: what are your best health food store “finds”?

Frederic Patenaude

Frederic Patenaude has been an important influence in the raw food and natural health movement since he started writing and publishing in 1998. He is the author of several books, including The Raw Secrets, the Sunfood Cuisine and Raw Food Controversies.

He was named Best Health Blogger of the year in 2011 by Renegade Health. Frederic has experimented with many diets and specializes in raw food, vegetarian and vegan topics, as well as how to balance a healthy diet in the real world. He lives in Montreal, Canada.

31 COMMENTS ON THIS POST

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  1. Tom Orlando says:

    We have always liked Health Food stores and organic source stores such as these:
    1. Whole Foods (in Texas) – big storee; lots to choose from.
    2. Sun Harvest (in Texas) – much of the goods are offered in bulk which makes shopping fun.
    3. Trader Joe’s (in Pennsylvania) – good organic, good choices.
    4. Everything Natural Under the Sun – (Pennsylvania) – small store, but the only Health store we have in our small city. (slightly expensive, but good organic selection).

  2. Karen Perry says:

    Hey Fred,
    I met you at raw food events several times (live in the Bay Area we may have met through Dave Ross or Cherie and Dan) – nice to see you are keeping up the work! I wonder about pasteurizing almonds. I have heard otherwise – that it does compromise nutrition – can you elaborate on your thinking about that? Also what do you think about Mila (chia seeds)?

    Towards a healthy, clear thinking world,

    Karen

    • Sky Fusor says:

      Exactly Karen. A decent explanation regarding why there is no nutritional loss with pasteurized alonds would be in order. From reading Kevin’s over articles it is par for the course that he did not, in fact be more thorough. perhaps we can inspire him to be more so.
      Bottom line:
      If the “raw” almond will sprout, you know it is nutritionally intact complete with all its nutrition, especially the life supporting enzymes. The purpose of pasteurization is to kill the live food by sterilization. It is a commercial move, not for consumer benefit. For example more illnes from pastruized milk than there was from people drinking raw milk, although we are not suppose to know this information.

  3. Jack says:

    That’s a great list, will keep on the look for those things, especially black rice (I always see it and it’s a bit pricey, will give it a shot at special occasions)…regarding almonds, I wonder if it’s recommendable to soak them, will they be better digested, even the pasteurized ones? Also is it worth getting unpasteurized ones from Spain or Italy in order to soak them?

  4. Tracy says:

    Just as I was getting into kale for salads, I heard that it, like broccoli and cabbage, negatively affects the thyroid in women. In fact, I was told that we shouldn’t eat them raw, ever. Instead, the solution is to cook the vegetable, even just minimally, before eating or throwing into a salad. While that is a perfectly fine and delicious alternative, there are some summer salads for which I would love to use these vegetables (kale and cabbage, in particular) in their raw state. Is there another solution to this dilemma, or is it a case where I will just need to take the risk and try to minimize the negative impact by eating them raw very infrequently?

    Thank you,
    Tracy

    • Melissa says:

      http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=250

      This link above answers your thyroid and cruciferous vegetable issue. … According to this, it isn’t the vegetables but other nutrient deficiencies within the food you are eating (such as iodine and selenium). This is a great site that lists all the stuff in food that is claimed to affect thyroid. Hope this helps =)

    • Leonora says:

      Hiya, I have had the horrible experience of eating raw kale or juicing it and wow it totally blew out my thyroid. I highly recommend no woman to eat raw kale or juice it for this reason. I have replaced Kale with Dandelion Greens. They have tremendous benefits too many to list here but they are great in a smoothie or a salad or lightly cooked (I have never cooked them though but you can) I have not had the problem with Dandelion greens on my thyroid so this is an excellent choice to replace Kale with Dandelion greens. You can get the red stem or the green stem at whole foods. Just thought to share as an alternative to Kale for women and thyroid optimum health. PEACE.

  5. Zyxomma says:

    Who likes to eat bok choy in salad? I do! I also sprout all my beans before consuming them, either raw or cooked with a bay leaf. I won’t buy pasteurized almonds; if you hunt, you can still find them raw. Raw does not mean “not roasted,” at least not to me. When friends go to Italy (especially when they go to Sicily) or Spain, I always ask them for a kilo of raw, organic almonds. Black rice is beautiful!

  6. Roberta says:

    What do you think of phytates?

  7. Tulip says:

    Hmmm. Why would you boil chia? I find it soaks well in room temp water. I love dandelion greens made into a pesto to eat on raw crackers.

  8. Melissa says:

    In B.C., we have some great mom-n-pop shops such as Natural Focus, as well as the larger stores such as Nature’s Fare and Choices Market. I buy my kale at the organic markets just because I know it’s going to be rich with nutrients, and most stores don’t carry it around here (even f they did, it would be crap within a day of purchase). I also love pizza, but hate store-bought pre-frozen junk. I buy Craft Crust Organic pizza crust. It is the most delicious pre-made crust, and I top it with our family favorites–usually just freshly grated raw cheese (Jerseyland Organics) for the boys, and tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and kale (with raw cheese) for my husband and me. I am hoping one day to be able to purchase raw milk butter in our organic markets, but I don’t think that will be anytime soon. Raw milk? Not in Canada, unless you can weasel your way into the cowshare market, and even then, the govt will harrass you till no end, from the two cases that are ongoing in Canada (one with a Chilliwack, BC farmer, one with an Ontario farmer) I should say. However, we CAN purchase raw milk in the US, bring it back across the border, and consume it legally. … Isn’t it funny that there are more regulations against the evil raw milk than there are with cigarettes? (I could go on forever on that topic!) … …

    Love your article. Looking forward to reading more on your site.

  9. Jeff says:

    I’d like to comment on the one item on this list that may not be for everyone and that’s heirloom tomatoes. I have an auto immune disease (psoriatic arthritis) and have seen many alternative/homeopathic doctors over the years. Almost every single one has recommended that I stay away from the “nightshade” foods which include: tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, red peppers, goji berries, etc. To prove them wrong, I decided to one day eat an heirloom tomato with my salad. Lo and behold, the very next day my body (trunk area) was covered with a rash which ended up being psoriasis.

    Not to say that this will happen to everyone who eats heirloom tomatoes, but I thought I’d throw out a “caution” to your readers especially to those who have an AI disease. Please research nightshade foods and how it relates to those with food sensitivities.

    • G D Agrawal says:

      psoriatic arthritis is known autoimmune disorder. Most of the autoimmune disorders are due to eating of food from animals such as meat, egg, fish & dairy. Have you ever tried removing these foods from your food. Your body becomes oversensitive to different antigens. Once you get rid of oversensitivity, vegetable foods will not harm you.

    • Sally says:

      Hi Jeff,
      I have never answered to one of thsee before but the thought occurred to me whether you have tried putting your body as ease with these foods using EFT – Emotional Freedom Techniques or even Kinesiology.
      I have RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) & am about to try EFT for the same thing, to put my body at ease & stop it from reacting to these foods & enable it to utilise the foods for its benefit.
      I hope that either of these techniques will help you.
      Take care & have a great day.

  10. Montie says:

    Thank you, Frederic, for the very interesting and informative articles. Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us.

  11. Liz says:

    Hi Fred, I also would like to eat almonds, but I read somewhere that they inhibit thyroid function, as does broccoli – is this true? Would you comment please.

    Liz

  12. Edward says:

    I’d like 3/4 of my favorite local farms io open back up.

  13. Edward says:

    Sorry for the typo, still I would like 3/4 of my local farm options to open back up

  14. Claudia says:

    Here in California we have a lot of choices:

    1) Planetorganics – online delivery service for local, organic fruits and vegetables.
    2) Trader Joe’s – organic section and fresh herbs (plants themselves)
    3) Other Avenues – neighborhood organic co-op with very good prices
    4) Rainbow Grocery – organic grocery store that’s almost as big as Safeway and sells everything organic, vegetarian, vegan plus vitamins/other supplements, cosmetics, bulk foods, and more. Just an all-around great store.

  15. G D Agrawal says:

    You should not have included Duck eggs in the health food category. All animal foods are no no as far as health is concerned. Further I don’t know why you did not include flex seeds in these health foods. Flex seed is top of health wonder food.

  16. Alan says:

    I am trying the Blood Type Diet and it seems to be working better than trying to be a raw vegan..
    It seems to make sense that your blood type can have an effect on how you react to the different
    foods out there. I have to avoid certain foods and so far it helps have a bit less brain fog..

  17. Mary says:

    From what I’ve read by Mike Adams, pasteurized almonds are both fumigated and irradiated. Not too good.

    In terms of kale, I think alot of times your body knows what it needs. So if you’re craving it you probably need it. If it doesn’t taste right you probably don’t. I think the thyroid thing is important to explore, though.

    When I eat all raw kale is my very favorite green. Not so much when I’m not all raw as I guess I get the nutriment elsewhere.
    I think it’s always good to soak beans and grains in water which you then drain (and germinate if you want) as it makes them quite a bit less acidic, but experiment for yourself, as always.

    I can’t understand boiling chia either as it destroys so many enzymes.

    Blessings Health Nuts!

  18. Anne says:

    HI Frederic,

    I love nuts also, almonds, pecans and walnuts and mostly Macadamias (but I eat those when I’m in Australia living in an area where they are cultivated, fresh, yummy and affordable at the farmers markets). My problem is that I find it hard to eat nuts in moderations as I love them so much. My only success if to not purchase them or purchase a handful at the time. If I eat more than I should, I find them incredibly hard to digest.

    All the best
    Anne

  19. Lindsay says:

    Don’t forget about blueberries!

  20. Satori says:

    I ate smores today. 2 of them. Noooo!!!
    Anyway…I bought my glass water bottle while ago in health food store and I love it.

  21. Ellen says:

    For those of you wondering abut mboiling the chia seeds….apparently chan seeds do need to be boiled, to soften them, but chia seeds just need to be soaked in water. If you click on the link to the chan recipe, in Fred’s write-up above, scroll down to the last comment. I will look for additional confirmation, but this looks like it makes sense.
    Hope that helps.

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