Here is an overview of a few health food stores in Basel and the types of products that you can find in them. You don’t need to be intimidated! See what they have and go shopping there with confidence!
A bit about me
When I first became a health coach in 2011, learning about organic food and health foods was eye opening. I had never considered shopping anywhere besides Migros, COOP or possibly the Saturday farmer’s market. I was intimidated to go inside a health food store because I didn’t really know what I was looking for. I didn't recognize some of the different foods and was confused by the language barrier with foods like Erdmandel (literally translating to earth almonds). The more I learned, the easier the experience became and this guide will hopefully help you on your way as well.
Is everything in the health food store healthy?
Defining healthy food depends on two things:
Your personal constitution (i.e. one man’s food is another man’s poison).
How much you take in of that 'food'. Anything taken in large quantities can be harmful to the body.
Health food store products are organic plus sustainably grown and processed. Their product range also includes things like cookies, cakes and alcoholic beverages that need to enjoyed within the context a balanced diet. So, you still need to choose foods that make you feel good from the inside and out.
Please remember that other supermarkets like Migros, Aldi, and Coop contain food that is also high-quality and nourishing. This is not about food shaming or putting supermarkets down. Health food stores offer a different selection of exclusive products, plus they will not offer products that do not support people, animals and the planet. It’s about a vision and mission.
Where are the health food stores in Basel?
Often called Reformhaus or Bioladen, there are quite a few around Basel. Here are my three favourites:
Höheners Bioladen (Schützenmattstrasse 30, 4051 Basel)
This store is not a chain and the only one in Basel with an organic butcher. They carry food, environmentally-friendly cleaning supplies, cosmetics and organic wines.They also support local farms, coffee roasters and cheese producers.
Alnatura – Bio Super Markt Kirschgarten (Henric Petri-Strasse 20, 4051 Basel)
This German chain of organic supermarkets has products delivered in partnership with Migros in Switzerland. You can also find Alnatura organic products in your local Migros.
Reformhaus (Freie Strasse 93, 4051 Basel and Centralbahnstrasse 10, 4051 Basel)
These stores sell natural and high-quality products that are sustainable, environmentally-friendly and regional, wherever possible.
What does organic (bio) mean in Switzerland?
Organic (Bio) normally means that the produce is farmed with less dangerous pesticides and more respect for the land and insects. You will find 'Bio' labels in Migros and Coop, but there are also many organic labels take it a bit further to bring people, animals and nature into balance. Two of these labels/certifications available in Switzerland are:
Bio Suisse follows stricter guidelines than the government asks for in the areas of sustainability, transparency, animal care, biodiversity, fairness and protecting natural resources.
Did you know, Demeter is the name of the goddess of the harvest? This is the oldest organic label in Switzerland and guarantees a consistent, sustainable agricultural process that yield extremely high-quality organic products.
What products can you find at the Bioladen?
Here’s the best part, the product overview!
Fresh, unique fruit and vegetables
Whole grains and flour
Dairy products including milk, cheese, yogurt & ice cream
Plant-based milk & products
Meat, fish & refrigerated foods
Macrobiotic & Japanese foods
Super food powders
Coffee, coffee alternatives & teas
Wines, beers, and juices
Bread and deli section
Make-up, cosmetics, and beauty products
Home cleaning products
1. Fresh, Unique Fruits and Vegetables
You will find a bizarre range of vegetables including root vegetables, leafy greens, unique mushrooms and fruit in every shape, size and colour. Some Bioladens will only offer seasonal and local produce to support the natural and local environment. Whereas others sell produce from around the world at any time.
Here are a few interesting ones to try:
Schwarzwurzeln (Salsify) – These 'black roots' look like tree roots, dark brown and gnarly, but when you peel them, they reveal a white vegetable inside similar to a parsnip. You can steam these and add butter for a dish that tastes like an artichoke.
Schwarze Rettich (Black radish) – This is a normal radish except the skin is thick and black. It’s known to be used to create cough syrup as it helps to reduce mucus in the throat.
Tobinambur (Jerusalem Artichokes) – These look like thin knotty potatoes! They contain iron and have a pleasant, sweet taste.
2. Whole Grains & Flour
Hirse (Millet) – Millet comes in grain or flake form. You can eat this like a cereal or mix with milk, eggs and sugar to create a batter to make pancakes. It has a pleasant soft nourishing taste.
Haferflocken (Oats) – Oatmeal is my favorite grain. I use it to make porridge, Birchermüsli, cookies and banana bread. I grew up eating it and find it calming as well as satisfying. It keeps me satiated with my energy up for at least three hours.
Buchweisen (Buckwheat) – Buckwheat flour is used to make crepes (sarrisan in French) and has a unique taste. If you are expecting a white bread taste, then this is not it. This wholesome grain looks like tiny corn kernels and can be used in porridge and summer salads.
Reis (Rice) – Bioladens carry more than just brown and white rice! Here you will find wild, red, risotto, whole grain, black and mixed rice. The darker rice varieties have a nutty taste, with a good al dente bite to them! Follow cooking instructions carefully as darker rice needs more water and more cooking time to be cooked thoroughly.
Quinoa (Quinoa, pronounced 'Keen-wa') – This ancient grain comes from the highest regions in the mountains. It is very nutritionally balanced, containing a lot of protein plus carbohydrates. Quick tip: let the quinoa soak in a bowl of water for about 15 minutes before you cook it. Quinoa has a natural protective coating on it that tastes a bit like soap!
Dinkel (Spelt) – Spelt can be kept as a whole grain or ground into flour. Use it to make artisan bread, hot cereals, and baked goods.
Weizen (Wheat) – Wheat is typically milled to create flour, but you can also buy wheat 'berries', which is the whole grain kernel. You cook this the same way you cook rice and can add the wheat berries to salads, side dishes or stir fries.
Gerste (Barley) – Whole pearl barley is excellent in a chicken or vegetable-based soup. When cooked al dente, they have a nice chewy texture and satisfying mouth feel. You can also cook this like a rice to create a simple side dish or add to a salad for extra texture. You’ll often see pearl barley in Mediterranean recipes.
In Höheners Bioladen, you can buy flour without the packaging! Bring your own container, they weigh it, then add the flour from bulk containers and you pay for what you buy. Less packaging! Amazing. They will also grind fresh whole wheat flour and order gluten free flour auf Wunsch (on demand).
3. Dairy Products Including Milk, Cheese, Yogurt & Ice Cream
Here you will find milk, cheese, and yogurt from both cows and goats! Goat’s milk has a slight tangy taste and many people find it is easier to digest. There are also health food stores (such as Höheners Bioladen) that sell raw, unpasteurized milk. In America, this is controversial, but the health claims related to consuming carefully produced raw milk include nutritional enzymes and supportive probiotics for better digestibility.
Health food stores also have many varieties of ice cream and sorbets with different types of sugar and sweeteners, as well as different types of milks. Just keep in mind that textures may vary.
4. Plant-based Milk & Products
As a person who is lactose intolerant, I am happy to see so many different options of plant-based milks. There is rice, almond, soy and hemp (and yogurt versions), as well as flavoured milks such as chocolate. People may choose a plant-based milk when they want an alternative to cow’s milk or when they want something that suits their digestion better. It’s a personal choice.
5. Meat, Fish & Refrigerated Foods
Meat & Fish
Höheners Bioladen has the only bio butcher in Basel. There you can order cuts of meat and fish the way you want it.
In other Bioladens, you will find meats that are prepared or handled differently than in other supermarkets. For example, you may see these words:
Ohne Nitritpökelsalz – This means nitrate free. Nitrate is a preservative and flavor enhancer often found in sausages, bacon, and dried meats. The taste is quite different than normally prepared meats, but it’s worth a try if you are curious or want to take nitrates out of your diet.
Freilandhaltung – Translates to free-range, meaning the animals had access to the outdoors.
Plant-based Meat Alternatives
If you’ve gone plant-based or vegan, you will find sausages, bacon and sliced meats that are made from wheat, soy, Quorn, mushrooms, and beans. Some words you will see are:
Soya (Soybean) – Products like tofu, edamame, and tempeh.
Seitan (Seitan) – Wheat based, looks like tofu, but has a different taste and texture.
Quorn (Quorn) – A type of meat alternative that is created using a mycoprotein, making it a high protein and high fiber meat substitute that is a complete source of amino acids.
Eggs, Miso, Yogurt, Ghee, Butter
All found in the refrigerator case.
Eier (eggs) – They carry organic and free-range.
Miso (Miso) – For use as a flavouring or addition to soup.
Yogurt – From cows and goats!
Ghee – Clarified butter which has a higher smoke point than normal butter. Theoretically better to fry with as won’t burn as quickly as butter does.
6. Macrobiotic & Japanese Foods
Created and practiced in Japan, there is a diet called the 'Macrobiotic Diet', which determines foods to be either yin or yang, and strives for balance between the two forces. Some stores will carry the specialty foods included in this diet such as:
Naturreis (Brown Rice)
Buchweisen Pasta (Buckwheat Pasta)
Other Japanese foods can be found here as well, such as sushi rice, soy sauce (with and without gluten) and nori wraps.
Most people have a sweet tooth or love adding a bit of sweetness to their day. Here you can go beyond sugar to explore other options to sweeten your foods, coffee, and teas. Remember, just because it is organic doesn’t meant it is better than sugar. Do you research. In my opinion, these sweeteners are all something to take in moderation.
Reissirup (Rice syrup) – Has a neutral taste and is quite sweet.
Melasse (Molasses) – A dark and super thick paste comes with a unique taste that fits well in some recipes.
Birkenzucker (Birch Sugar) – Known as 'Xylit', is a white powder that looks like table sugar, but isn’t. It is much sweeter than table sugar so be careful adding to your coffee or tea.
Kokosblütenzucker (Coconut Sugar) – Produced from the sap of the flower bud stem of the coconut palm.
Stevia – Concentrated from the leaves of the plant Stevia rebaudiana, Stevia has a sweetness of 50-300 times the amount of normal table sugar.
Honig (Honey) – Mostly local with different varieties.
Waldhonig – Forest honey.
Blütenhonig – Flower nectar honey.
Akazienhonig – Honey from bees who pollenated Acacia trees.
Tannenhonig – Honey from bees who pollenated Pine trees.
Ahornsirup (Maple Syrup) – Mostly imported and still tasty.
Agavendicksaft (Agave Syrup) – Sourced from the Agave plant, this sweetener is thick and sweeter than table sugar. People who need to avoid fructose shouldn’t eat Agave as it is 100% fruit sugar, which is digested differently than table sugar.
8. Super Food Powders
These are concentrated powders sourced from foods that claim to have high nutritional properties.
Turmeric Powder – Known for reducing inflammation, this yellow powder is famous right now in media.
Super Food Greens – A blend of leafy greens concentrated into a powder.
Acai Powder – Contains high levels of antioxidants.
Bee Pollen – Contains protein, antioxidants, and B-vitamins.
Cocoa – High levels of magnesium.
Chlorella – A green microalga that is rich in chlorophyll and beta-carotene.
Maca – Has what’s referred to as adaptogens.
9. Coffee, Coffee Alternatives & Teas
You can find whole beans and ground coffee from local Basel roasters, depending on which store you visit. All good quality and tasty.
I don’t tolerate coffee very well so I have trie a few different alternatives to coffee (that is not a tea). This is usually derived from different types of roasted grains, which have a similar taste to coffee, though not exactly.
Orzo Gesternkaffee (Barley Coffee) – This coffee powder originated in Italy and is made from roasted barley grains. It is caffeine free, mimics the color of a cup of coffee and tastes best as a latte.
Getreidekaffee (Grain Coffee) – Made from barley, rye, and chicory. Also, caffeine free, you can mix this powder with hot water or milk. They advertise it as being good for the whole family.
Create a new mood with tea! These shops have more than 30 different types of tea available loose or in bags.
Relax with chamomile
Digest with peppermint
Warm your body with ginger
Boost your energy with green or matcha tea
Soothe a sweet tooth with chai, rose, liquorice, flower teas, roots, or fruit teas.
10. Wines, Beers, and Juices
Mostly a local assortment of beer and wine, you can find something lovely for your weekend in every price range.
You may discover vegan wines on the shelves. This surprised me at first, because I thought all wines are vegan, aren’t they? Well, during the wine process as they filter and refine the wine to make it look clearer and taste better, producers will use 'refining agents'. These 'refining agents' can contain animal products such as milk proteins, fish oils and gelatins.
The selection of beer varies throughout the year to include local and regional beers that are filtered and unfiltered.
All specialty juices are found here. Some examples include:
11. Bread and Deli Section
Serving up fresh every day local organic breads along with freshly prepared foods such as salads, sandwiches, and soups, this is a great spot to pick up a quick lunch on the go. Just order at the bar and pay at the register.
12. Make-up, Cosmetics, and Beauty Products
Health food stores carry companies that focus is on clean, ethical and sustainable products. If you think about it, the ingredients of cosmetics and lotions get absorbed into your skin and blood like food. I encourage you to try whole food beauty products with ingredients you can recognize. Not everything works the same though. For example, I find the hair products not good for my type of curly hair, but I do enjoy using the oils, lotions, foundation, and powders.
You can find:
Cosmetics such as mascara, foundation, powders, and eye makeup.
Women’s products such as tampons, liners, and pads (some will be bleach free, no plastic, etc.).
Lotions, soaps, and creams with minimal ingredients or without parabens.
13. Home Cleaning Products
Recycled, biodegradable, environmentally conscious and nontoxic these products are great for the planet and safe for your home.
The best part is that most stores allow you to use refillable containers! They keep the products in bulk, you bring your container (or get one there) and you reuse the same container every time you purchase.
Visiting health food shop in Basel is great. The folks inside support the vision of health and sustainability and are usually kind and helpful. If you are curious about certain products and how to use them, they will take the time to share what they know. If you need a special item, they might also be able to order it for you.
I hope this guide inspires you to visit your local health food store and find something new! Happy explorations!
Many thanks to the Reformhaus on Frei Strasse for allowing me to take pictures.
Health Coach & Yoga Instructor
Vanessa arrived in Switzerland in 2003. Straight off the plane from New York City, the city of pizza, burgers, bagels and dirty water hot dogs, it was a shock to land in the land of milk, cheese, and chocolate! Even though she struggled at first adapting to the food in Switzerland, after being here for almost 20 years, she can now say her diet (and lifestyle) has shifted for the better. She loves to help people find ‘their food’ that they love in Switzerland, and the food that loves them back.
Food Changes Everything
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