are our health food supermarket healthy?

are our health food supermarket healthy?

Growing up in France, supermarkets were just starting to get really big, but we went to the “boulangerie” for our daily bread, the “boucherie” for meat, “patisserie”for pastries etc…Those shops were the heart of the town, district or neighbhorhood.

Shopping was different then. You knew your baker, or butcher; their children played with us and no names like “ORGANIC”, “FRESH”,”NATURAL” were necessary.  There was a trust that just came with the territory.

You did not think to read the labels to make sure that you were not been poisoned; You did not need a dictionary to read them, as very few things came with a label or package.

Cooking, eating together for every meal was the norm, not the exception. Eating out was an event, certainly not a convenience. Fruits and vegetables were mostly regional and did not come from far away countries. We stored for the winter, we ate with the seasons, littering was minimal, plastic had not taken over the world yet… zooooommm!!!…..  to the present, all of that seems soooo far away!

Supermarkets are the way of life, TV dinners our daily bread, processed food fills up our refrigerators, packaging has turned Mother Earth into a trashcan! Mad scientists have now replaced our cooks and kitchens. Children are raised not knowing what real food looks like. Seasonal does not stand for much as you can find anything, anytime, anywhere… You do not shop for food, but for a label. Convenience has turned into slavery, time has become money, food an afterthought…

Spinning! spinning! spinning! faster and faster…

Diabetes, cancers, heart attacks have become mainstream, while the industry is trying to make us believe we have never been so healthy and we’ve never had it so good.

It was not till after my 18th birthday that I became vegetarian. No one forced me, I was not sick, I didn’t even know about it beforehand … Over one summer, my world was turned around, and I discovered health food stores, brown rice, whole wheat bread, anything organic… At the time, I lived in Paris, with my parents. My Mom even called the doctor thinking I was going to die from not eating meat!!

My friends came to the health food store with me just as a curiosity. Everything there was new, and I trusted totally healthy!!! That was the 70’s!!!

Now health food stores have become health food supermarkets, they sell everything there, from conventional, to irradiated, processed… the whole thing mixed with organic (so they tell us),claims of freshness (I guess that is true as it comes out of the freezer) natural,naturally preserved ( the adjectives keep escalating!)

Chains of health food supermarkets have developed, not too different from conventional supermarkets. You can find everything there, but you cannot trust it without checking the labels, reading between the lines, the super savers, the claims of organic,whole etc… we all know that “Monsanto” is in there,hiding like a shadow, at the produce section, at the salad bar, at the buffet and all the aisles of the supermarket.

Why is that? whom can we trust? what to do? who’s fault is it?

We humans have a tendency to trust, to follow and not question too much. We are so busy making a living that we forget that making a life comes first.

We can easily blame others, start a war in the name of peace, accept most anything under the sun, as long as it is official ( USDA approved, NSF) Hey! as long as there is a governmental seal of approval, a doctor’s prescription, a scientist “New” discovery it must be okay!!!

So we don’t know anymore how to cook, grow a garden, what and when to eat, what is healthy and what is killing us. Diseases are normal. Obesity, diabetes etc… are blamed on our genes. Vegetables must be grown in the freezer section, ready packaged; Zip it thru the microwave, et Voilà!!!…

This cow, this fish must be happy to die for us!!! The meat killing industry must be right, the machine is in place to make us healthy, happy, whole….Brave New World is not the title of a futuristic book anymore. We have lived in Brave New World for a while now.

Out of balance, the world is out of balance. How are our health food stores different? We want convenience, fast, ready to eat… Society is only responding to the demand.

Is it possible now for a working family to sit together around the dining table? to eat the same food? to meet the neighbors? to create community?  Or are we destined to TV dinners, fast everything, working all the time, isolation, sickness, despair….

Sooo next time you stop at the health food store, go to the produce section instead of the frozen one. If it is december avoid the tempting strawberries, peaches etc… and go for the root vegetables, the collards and kale; look where it comes from, and choose something organic, local or in state if available. The less your vegetables travel the less taxing on the environment. You want a dessert, avoid sugar, artificial sweetener or coloring. Choose a natural sweetener or make your own if not available.

No time to cook today, you want to stop at the daily or buffet? ask what kind of oil they use. Ask if they put sugar or coloring in the food, ask if the vegetables are organic, tell them that you care!!…

Go home, take the time to fix dinner, enjoy it knowing that you are giving your family the gift of health; invite a friend or a neighbor…. make a difference!!!

“ Really be the change that you wish to see in the world…”  GANDHI.

RECIPE: Butternut squash, sweet potato  mash

*4 to 6 cup of cut squash and potato (I leave the peels as it is very nourishing and soft, but you can peel them if you like) cut in big chunks the size of a ice cube.

*1 tsp of salt

*1/2 cup of water or apple juice if you want them sweeter


*1/4 cup of toasted walnuts or pecans ( soaked for 2 to 4 hours first)

  • a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon
  • 1 or 2 TBS of tahini
  • 1 or 2 TBS of olive oil

Place water, salt and squash in a pot on the stove. cover and bring to simmer.

cook for about 20 to 30 mn or till tender, add other seasoning and spices if you like, mash ( I like to leave some chunks in there). Serve topped with toasted nuts and chopped parsley or cilantro.

Make a feast and serve some brown rice  and steamed kale with that.

A little more fancy? vegetable fried rice goes well with it… tell me what you do different!

Bon Appetit


The betrayal of our health food stores: what can we do?

It is sad indeed that our health food stores are following the corporate trend and have mostly let go of the initial vision that inspired the health food movement. As a macrobiotic student, I remember the stories of Aveline and Michio Kushi importing brown rice and bagging it in their kitchen for their students. Aveline Kushi was a pioneer and created Erewhon, the first health food company. One of Michio’s students created Whole Foods in Boston…It was the time of the small health food stores with bulk products, tofu and all these exotic new foods.

Recently we met an important CEO of one of our health food stores. He readily admitted that he was a regular meat and potato guy who did not anything about most of the products in his store. His role was marketing. Period.

So, yes, it is good that the movement and awareness have spread but I think we all need to be proactive and keep putting pressure on our health food stores to demand integrity. We need to ask them not to put sugar in the buffet food (a more and more common practice), not to use canola oil. Like Didier says above, let’s not be naïve as the industry is constantly in touch with the latest trends and tries to “trick” us into the brand new products, creating confusion with difficult to read labels and strange names. Erythritol…xylothol..lovely names for “safe” sugar?? latest kids on the block! using all the confusion about the various names for sugar: sucrose, dextrose etc (please refer to my article archived in about the various sugars in the market.) Make sure you keep informed. It can be tiring but our health, the health of our children are at stake. Corporations do count on our confusion, tiredness and naïvete. Let’s hold our health food stores accountable. Let’s keep asking. Let’s keep leaving notes of protest. Let’s educate one another and refuse to buy the foods that do not meet our standards of health, compassion and integrity.

How about we start an Asheville-based petition with some very clear demands. What do you think? what should we include in such a petition? Any ideas?

Let’s not be passive…

Food for thought: a little story

This past summer, my nephew, Didier and myself went tubing in North Carolina. We got caught in a nasty storm and had to take refuge under a bridge. As we were waiting for the weather to clear up, we suddenly saw, on each side of the bridge, two men with big nets full of fish. They were dropping the fish into the stream. They did several trips like that so that the number of fish they poured into the river must have been in the hundreds. Big huge fishing nets full of them. I asked the men what they were doing, first naïvely thinking that they were putting back some of the fish they had caught. The sheer number quickly showed us that the story was different. The fish were all big and pretty much all the same size. So, I am sure you have guessed. They said they were “repopulating” the river. Basically they were dropping farm-raised fish into the stream….all along, from each bridge, fishermen were happily fishing their “wild fish”…no comment except “what a world”! Who is to blame? what do you think?

About Changing Seasons

Changing Seasons Personal Chef service offered by Chef Didier Cuzange. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine offered by Dr. Liliane Papin. Serving Western North Carolina in the Asheville, NC area. Blog posts about vegan cooking, acupuncture & macrobiotics.

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