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A health food store (or health food shop) is a type of grocery store that primarily sells health foods, organic foods, local produce, and often nutritional supplements. Health food stores typically offer a wider or more specialized selection of foods than conventional grocery stores for their customers, for example people with special dietary needs, such as people who are allergic to the gluten in wheat or some other substance, and for people who observe vegetarian, vegan, raw food, organic, or other alternative diets.
The term health food has been used since the 1920s to refer to specific foods claimed to be especially beneficial to health, although the term has no official definition. Some terms that are associated with health food are macrobiotics, natural foods, organic foods and whole foods. Macrobiotics is a diet focusing primarily on whole cereals. Whole cereals, along with other whole foods, are foods that are minimally processed. Whole cereals have their fiber, germ and hull intact and are considered more nutritious. Natural foods are simply foods that contain no artificial ingredients. Organic foods are foods that are grown without the use of conventional and artificial pesticides and must meet certain organic standards.
Most health food stores also sell dietary supplements, like vitamins, herbal supplements and homeopathic remedies. Herbal supplements have never been regulated until the European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products came into force on 30 April 2004. The Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, 2004/24/EC, was established to provide a regulatory approval process for herbal medicines in the European Union (EU).
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Many foods which are now commonplace in groceries first entered the market in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Efforts by early health pioneers such as F.A. Sawall, Paul Bragg, Sylvester Graham, John Harvey Kellogg, George Ohsawa, Ellen White and others spurred an interest in health food.</ref> As early as the 1920s and 1930s health food stores started selling products.
Frank A. Sawall, began selling powdered mineral drinks door to door and lecturing around the United States on the benefits of vitamin and mineral supplements, before opening Sawall Health Food Products, Inc., in 1936. It began with powdered minerals and vitamins and also sold natural and organic foods. Frank A. Sawall, a biochemist, was described as "America's Outstanding Health Teacher and Nationally known Nutritionist" in newspapers across the United States. Sawall Health Foods is the oldest family-owned health foods store in the United States, with its fifth generation of Sawall's working in the business that is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Health food stores in the United States became common in the 1960s.
One early health food store was founded by Thomas Martindale in 1869 as "Thomas Martindale Company" in Oil City, Pennsylvania. In 1875 Thomas Martindale moved the store to Philadelphia. It is known as the oldest health food store in the United States and is still independently owned. The Martindale family eventually moved the store to 10th and Filbert St. in 1920 and was heavily influenced by the new interest in health and wellness in the 1930s. The store manufactured their own coffee substitute made from dried figs called "Figco".
- Bulk foods, a feature of some health food stores
- Health promotion, political aspects in lifestyle changes
- Lifestyle medicine, preventive healthcare based on lifestyle changes
- Organic food, food produced by methods complying with the standards of organic farming
- Reformhaus, a health food store (German-speaking Europe)
- Specialty food, food made from high-quality ingredients
- Natural Foods Merchandiser July/August 2021 pg 49-50
- Natural Foods Merchandiser Magazine July-August 2021 Cover,page 49-50
- Marshall, Lisa (7 January 2016). "Legacy natural product companies, retailers share lessons for the future". Natural Foods Merchandiser.
- Jenkins, Nancy. Health food and the change in eating habits The New York Times. 4 April 1984.
- Martindale, Thomas C. "A Health Food Store is Founded", "Physical Culture Magazine, New York, October 1938.
- Shurtleff, William; Aoyagi, Akiko (2021). HEALTH FOODS MOVEMENT WORLDWIDE (1875-2021): EXTENSIVELY ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY AND SOURCEBOOK (PDF). Lafayette, CA: Soyinfo Center. ISBN 9781948436458.
- Media related to Health food stores at Wikimedia Commons