Health Food Stores Aren’t Necessarily Healthy

One of the most arduous dietary decisions consumers are faced with is where to source their food. Options include shopping at discount merchants, bulk stores, supermarkets, upscale health stores or local farmer’s markets. There is a time and a place to shop at each of these different types of stores or markets but consumers should know that not everything at the health food store is nourishing, and you can make great dietary decisions at any of the stores listed above.

Many ‘health food’ stores have similar missions that involve supplying products that are nourishing to the mind, body, and spirit while also being environmentally sustainable, socially responsible and source local ingredients. This type of mission is great and if you have the means to support an organization like this I absolutely encourage it but know that just because they support really awesome things it doesn’t necessarily make all the products healthy. If you have the means to purchase local, organic, and non-GMO there is no doubt that it is better for the environment but the literature is mixed regarding varying nutritional values in produce and how they affect humans. Those adjectives probably make a food a better option than conventional, but conventional is a perfectly fine alternative and eating conventional whole foods are better than no nutrient dense food at all.

When I was younger, I fell victim to the thought that shopping at my local health food store meant everything in the building was healthy and nourishing, regardless of what food or beverage I was consuming. Sure, it might be easier to make better decisions in a smaller, more localized store like this but you still have the opportunity to make less than nutritionally sound choices. It wasn’t until later that I realized the organic gummy bears made with agave nectar aren’t much different from Harribo, or the organic Newman O’s aren’t much different than Oreos, and were nothing more than a yummy treat. Individuals still need to be astute shoppers, read the nutrition facts panel and be wary about added sugars and sodium that are found in processed foods, regardless of the adjectives labeled on the packaging. Just because packaging states that it is organic, non-GMO, locally sourced, etc doesn’t mean that it contains the nutrients your body needs to survive.

Shopping at these ‘health food’ stores tend to offer foods that meet current fads because duh, consumerism. Do you remember when the gluten free movement began and it was easiest to purchase gluten free products at the Whole Foods of the world? Consumers were willing to pay a premium price to get commodities that they perceived to be healthier than the alternatives offered at other types of stores. I personally feel like ‘health food’ stores are the places that fads are derived from and a couple years later the mass public will catch on and you will find whatever product in every supermarket nationwide.

Regardless of your personal definition of healthy, there are probably more foods that meet your classification at a natural food store opposed to a grocery store with thousands of products. There is a time and a place to go shopping at different genres of grocery stores. Staples might be purchased in bulk from Costco, specialty products from Whole Foods, day-to-day groceries from Hannaford’s, and seasonal produce from your local farmer’s market. As I stated above, local, organic, non-GMO, etc are better options if you have the means to purchase them but that doesn’t necessarily make a product nourishing to your body. If you don’t have access to organic apples or fresh picked lettuce, you absolutely should still consume produce from wherever you can. I’m not encouraging nor discouraging you from shopping at health food stores, I just want you to read the ingredients and ask questions to guarantee you’re purchasing the most nutritionally dense products you can.

Until next week.


1 Comment

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