Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from goo.gl/Ta4oAX.
Published September 30th 2012
Food, skincare and aromatherapy
We are constantly being told about the need for a healthy lifestyle. We are warned about the dangers of high cholesterol, the benefits of vitamins and minerals, and the need for our five-a-day (all at the same time being bombarded with fast food joints around every bend). You can't look at a supermarket shelf without a product advertising how healthy it is (whether it is or not). But if you actually want real healthy products you can trust, or you have particular dietary requirements, then the best place to get quality goods is from a proper health store.
Supermarkets might sell organic and vegan, Boots might sell vitamins and minerals, but they do not have the range, nor do the shop assistants have the knowledge that is really needed if you want something specific.
I like looking in health food shops even if I am not searching for anything in particular. I find them interesting, and I like spotting various products that I've never seen before. But which are the best health stores in London?
Let's start with the chain shop. Holland and Barrett have shops all around the UK, and are Europe's leading retailer of vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements. The staff are trained and well experienced in the field, so are able to help find the right product for your needs. Holland & Barrett are also very good value for money. For example, a 1KG bag of pitted dates is £4.89, which is 49p per 100g. If you ask me, that is a fantastic price (Sainsbury's dates are between £5-£7 a kilo, and covered in vegetable oil). It's even better when they have a sale on (which is very often). No doubt you have seen the rather dashing Gethin Jones promoting BOGOF deals or Holland & Barrett's 'one penny sale'. Just think about it. 2KG of pitted dates for £4.90. You can't get much better than that.
As well as dried fruit and nuts, they also sell wheat, bran, and oats, etc. Since the supermarket stopped selling the muesli I like, I have now started making my own, using Holland & Barrett's barely and rye flakes as a muesli base and mixing it with their dried fruits.
The other day I was in one of their shops and spotted honey infused with blackcurrants; something you would never find in a regular shop, and am quite interested in trying it.
The Health Zone in Wimbledon is an independent store established in 1997. As well as being a health shop, it also runs a clinic with qualified therapists. The clinic offers alternative medicines, reflexology, osteopathy, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, and homeopathy. If you've had a long week at work, then you can ease those aching muscles with a massage, get revitalised with a facial, or spoil yourself to manicures and pedicures. They use a range of products that can also be bought in the shop, including arnica body oil, hemp lotion, and Tiger balm.
The Health Zone cares about mind, body & spirit, believing that the best way to achieve well-being is through peace of mind. They stock a number of health guide books, relaxation CDs, and yoga/pilates accessories.
In the food isle you'll find a range of superfoods like seaweed, speciality bread, and ready meals for vegans like tofu sausages. On the more indulgent side of things, the sell dark chocolate, traditional liquorice, and snack bars.
Food For Thought has a shop in Kingston and Guilford. It is the most expensive out of the three, but also has some of the more unusual (or at least rare items) available. For example, they sell bee pollen and date syrup, which I love to sprinkle on yoghurt. They also sell cacao beans, cacao paste, cacao nib, cacao powder, cacao mass and cacao butter so that you can make your very own chocolate from scratch.
They have a huge variety when it comes to preserves, including several different fruit and nut spreads not found in most shops. There's also their vintage cola organic wines, and the frozen/chilled section, supplies non-dairy ice cream and quiches, and vegan burgers and calzone. They also sell vitamin supplements, smelling oils and skin care products.
So those are my top three health food stores. I was going to put Julian Graves on the list too, but unfortunately that went into administration and all the shops closed down in August.
Health Zone is my local health shop for some 15 years now. I also have acupuncture and massages at the Health Zone clinic, which is downstairs of the shop. It may not be as big as Wholefoods or Planet Organic, but the customer service they offer is fantastic, and the staff and therapies all well qualified. Dere
By far, Planet Organic and Alara Health Store are the best food stores in London. I could spend hours wandering between the groceries and supplements packed shelves, and I've been visiting these shops for almost 10 years now.