Blue Zone Grocery Store in Loma Linda Makes Healthy Eating Easy and Affordable

Loma Linda Market is about an hour from Los Angeles. But healthy food prices are much cheaper here.
Hilary Brueck/Insider

  • I visited a supermarket in the Blue Longevity Zone of Loma Linda, California.
  • The food there was more affordable than Whole Foods, and tasty too.
  • Some favorite nutritious items were the coconut “energy bites” and the lentil soup.

In America, healthy eating often seems like a luxury item reserved for the wealthy.

Whole Foods is reluctantly nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” and in most neighborhoods it is not practical to expect people to prioritize healthy foods in their diets because fresh produce is more expensive than fast food, offered wilted or unripe, or simply unavailable.

But somehow, just 10 minutes from the first McDonald’s location, the virtual birthplace of American fast food, sits in a small California town where eating healthy, natural foods is the norm for residents. And yours cheap.

Loma Linda Market is an unassuming, dimly lit concrete building with no flashy signs or highway billboards touting its wares, but regulars here still know it’s a beacon for simple, delicious, nutrient-dense foods.

It is in the heart of Loma Linda, the only “Blue Zone” in the USA. Here, most people are Seventh-day Adventists, who are generally vegetarian and health-conscious. They are all dedicated to staying fit and in shape well into old age, so they adhere to simple daily and weekly protocols.

Diet is a big part of your lifestyle. By entering your market, I was able to see how your infrastructure makes longevity much more achievable.

There is no meat at Mercado Loma Linda

At Loma Linda Market, the shrimp is vegan and the burger is vegetarian.
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Except for a few dog foods, it’s mostly aisles of grains, nuts, seeds, fresh produce, and vegetable-centric frozen meals.

Studies have shown that vegetarian Adventists live longer than meat-eating Adventists, a statistic that has also held true in other studies around the world.

The reasons behind this phenomenon are complex, but it’s true, at least in part, because vegetarians tend to replace meat with high-fiber, heart-healthy, cholesterol-lowering foods like beans and vegetables, which naturally fight cancer and other diseases.

Expensive ‘superfood’ staples like black quinoa and almond flour are cheaper here

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A pound of almond flour blossom at Whole Foods? $9.29 for the in-house generic brand. Here, $7.79 for the same.

The market had varieties of rice that I didn’t even know existed

Hilary Brueck

Black japonica rice, anyone? The market seemed like the perfect place to find just about any whole grain in the world.

Studies of people in Loma Linda have shown that their diets rich in grains, beans and nuts help them live longer while remaining slimmer and disease-free than other Americans.

In the grain aisle, there were several different types of bulgur and oats for sale

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Whole grains are fiber-rich foods that can help us reduce cholesterol, control blood sugar and stay full for a while.

But they can be hard to find in many neighborhoods, and many packaged foods that are marketed to us as “whole grains” actually are not.

There is no fun in the grain aisle in Loma Linda.

The market also includes some indulgences

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Above the box of raw wheat germ, I saw a wide variety of chocolate-covered nuts (yes, please!), a healthy snack, rich in protein and packed with antioxidants.

Vegan and non-vegan cookies were also for sale, made in-house by Chef Shawn “Grumpy” Wood.

The hot bar offers delicious meals packed with nutrients

Chef Shawn Wood’s hot bar is full of flavor.
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I tried the jalapeno tofu at lunchtime on a Thursday ($5.50, and deliciously spicy), and also enjoyed a juice fresh from the juicer, with ginger, lemon and spinach inside (~$4).

At the chef’s recommendation, I returned on Saturday for the $5 Saturday tasting menu, where Grumpy was trying out his latest Thanksgiving recipes.

The rosemary-seasoned fake turkey was tastier than many real birds I’ve eaten

Hilary Brueck/Insider

Although the stuffing was never put inside any animal, I can honestly say it was one of my favorites.

There are also prepared foods in the market’s refrigerator, like the tasty lentil soup in rich tomato broth ($3.25), which some customers buy. Everything I tried at the market was tasty, without being too salty.

Nutrition experts have studied how adding flavorful spices and herbs to fresh dishes like vegetables can make it easier to stick to a healthy diet.

I ate some “energy pieces” of coconut figs that the market makes at home, which were delicious.

Hilary Brueck/Insider

These little bites lasted for weeks after I got home and helped me avoid reaching for candy or chips when I wanted a quick snack or didn’t have time to make something fresh for lunch.

They reminded me a little of a recipe a celebrity trainer shared with me many years ago for healthy, protein-rich breakfast balls. The bonus here is that I didn’t have to prepare them myself, and they included figs, which I don’t even know where I would find at local markets.

If I lived near Loma Linda Market (or something similar), I would probably eat healthier and spend less doing so

This fresh tasting lunch cost me $5 and was enough for two meals.
Hilary Brueck/Insider

It made me feel both inspired and kind of defeated as I realized how simple, yet terribly difficult, this kind of healthy eating, which naturally reduces a person’s risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and high cholesterol, actually is for so many busy, busy people. stressed. apart from the Americans.

I’d like to emulate parts of Loma Linda’s strategy at home, but I don’t have the same regular access to essential foods and affordable meal shortcuts that they do.

“They made it practical,” said local cardiologist Dr. Gary Fraser of Loma Linda University, referring to the diet, as well as the easy, inexpensive access to the gym and social support that Adventists get from their church in Loma. Beautiful.

“I think it could happen in the community at large, but it will probably be a decades-long thing to do.”

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