The Best Health Food Stores in Toronto
The best health food stores in Toronto underscore that it's time we retire the notion that such shops are the stomping ground of rich hippies and granola do-gooders, and fess up to the reality that these stores are an integral part of how Torontonians feed themselves and make themselves well, in mind, body and spirit.
Rarely does one store have it all: some focus on fresh, local produce, building relationships with suppliers and the community, some are mostly vitamin and supplement dispensaries with highly trained practitioners as staff, and some began as centres to buy bulk staples, lowering costs and packaging for customers. But increasingly, as we demand more local, environmental, democratic and sustainable food options, and look for non-traditional therapies and alternative remedies, these health stores grow and change with us.
Here are the best health food stores in Toronto.
Essence of Life in Kensington wins for best all round health store. Stocked with everything from fresh organic produce, a bulk section, body products, household cleaners and a vitamin and supplement room complete with its own knowledgeable staff, what’s really fantastic about this market institution is the price is right, consistently cheaper than the competition.
The Big Carrot feels like shopping in New England, where modern outlet malls retain the vibe of an oddly Dickensian emporium. Roomy aisles let you peruse the goods, with a separate room for body products and a whole other shop for vitamins and supplements. This long-standing co-op, with a green roof, well trained staff and extensive community engagement has been a draw to the Danforth since 1983.
Noah’s Natural Foods began in 1981 at Bloor and Spadina, and with five locations scattered across the GTA, it is a veritable empire. Heck, they have their very own app where you can order all your favourite products and pills without leaving the comfort of your home, though the cafe/vegan take-out joint Fennel hidden in the back of one location would be well worth the trip.
The Sweet Potato is run by spirited young folks in the Junction and is more of an ethical grocery store than a dispensary. Local organic food is front and centre, but you can also find grains, meat, fish and packaged foods, and a staff that is warm, enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
Herbs and Nutrition at Bloor and Bathurst has become a neighbourhood staple. Maybe it’s that the staff are so helpful, or that the inventory (a mix of dried goods, supplements and minerals and fresh items) is clearly laid out, or just maybe it’s the consistently budget-friendly pricing.
Karma Co-op, hidden deep within the Annex, harkens back to the early days of health stores, a bunch of like-minded people interested in bulk purchasing healthful food for the welfare of their bodies, the community and their pockets. Still going strong 30 plus years later, they carry fresh and frozen food, bulk items, and more.
The West End Food Co-op has only had a permanent home in the lower level of the Parkdale Community Health Centre for a couple years, but has run the Sorauren Farmers Market for much longer. Focused on sustainable food for all, the co-op has a thriving membership and is a pillar of the Parkdale community.
The growth of Ambrosia Natural Foods in Thornhill has been an evolutionary process. They began with bulk food in the seventies, adding vitamins and supplements in the eighties, organic produce in the late nineties and sports and anti-aging nutrition in the aughts. Now, with two franchises in Vaughan and Newmarket as well.
Healthy Planet has a stronghold on the greater Toronto area with locations in Scarborough, North York, Pickering, Markham, Mississauga and Etobicoke, and now has a Danforth location as well. Sport nutrition, supplements, body care and packaged foods are their focus, but they have a fresh prepared food option at some locations also.
Moberly Natural Foods, at Woodbine and Coxwell, used to be called Better Bulk Danforth. But a change in focus, from bulk to natural foods, required a name change as well. Staff is eager to guide you through the many options available, be it bulk goods, soy, body products or supplements.
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