By Mary Bolling Blackiston, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Finding organic food in Rio is not always easy, especially compared with some other major international cities. With many restaurants and juice bars serving heavy, processed foods, and most supermarkets selling non-organic products, it takes some extra effort to find fresh, chemical-free, non-processed food.
Gwendoline de Ganay, a native of France who is now living in Rio and is founder of the blog “Sustainable Brasil”, favors organic food because she says that “the regular fruit and veggies you find here are full of pesticides and toxic chemicals. I notice here that regular supermarket food here very often has chemical additives, preservatives and also added sugar or salt in unhealthy quantities.”
She continues: “I therefore recommend organic food because even though it tends to be more expensive, the effects on your health [of non-organic food] on the long run are potentially huge (risk of cancer, heart disease, weight gain, diabetes).”
Carioca Rodrigo Lopes is in agreement, finding that, “[The food] has a shorter lifespan, but it brings greater nutritional benefits to the body. So I eat it.” Even so, he states that, “in Rio, people have irregular eating habits, and this doesn’t provide the opportunity [to eat] organic food. Another factor is the price, which for many is not accessible.”
While organic food does not seem to be a priority in most grocery stores and restaurants, there are several great organic eateries in Zona Sul (South Zone). In Ipanema, Azteka Burritos and Tortas is a good choice for organic Mexican food and one of the owners, Agilka Angelova, tells The Rio Times that, “Azteka uses organic chicken, eggs, green peppers, zucchini, eggplant, lettuce and oranges.”
“Considering that all of their conventional counterparts (with maybe an exception to the oranges) are known to be laden with pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics, nitrates… us offering them organic gives the dishes they are used in much stronger and complex taste, while promoting also the customer’s health,” she explains.
Also in Ipanema, Delírio Tropical (a chain also found in Rio Sul shopping mall, Gávea, and Barra shopping, amongst other places) is an extremely popular option, especially known for its salads. The menu changes every day and with each location, proof of the restaurant’s reliance on short-lived, organic products.
Universo Organico is a popular restaurant, juice bar and market in Leblon; fruits and vegetables arrive each morning from organic farms throughout the state of Rio. In addition, none of the food is cooked above 38 degrees Fahrenheit, so as not to kill all of the protein.
According to the website, the restaurant is “…committed to providing a diet rich in enzymes, minerals and vitamins, producing healthy habits that can be introduced in the diet to achieve energy and health. We want to show that it’s possible to be healthier, without losing the joy out of eating.”
In Copacabana, Bio Carioca, a vegetarian restaurant open until late, is situated just two blocks from the beach, and therefore a practical alternative to the unhealthy beach food.
In Botafogo, check out Refeitório Organico, a buffet-style, vegetarian restaurant. Vegan Vegan, also in Botafogo, is a restaurant and shop open only for lunch. For those who are interested in learning how to cook organically, Vegan Vegan offers courses, as well.
There are more options Centro, such as the French-inspired Coccinelle Bistro, where drinks include biodynamic wines from small French producers. Here, all of the bread and deserts are homemade. Chefs at Coccinelle rely on the “slow food” method, which they believe “… preserves the quality and the taste of the ingredients,” according to the website.
Restaurante Natural Beterraba is a buffet-style restaurant in Centro, where food is served by the kilo. Beterraba promises to only use whole grains, vegetables, soy protein and white meat, without the use of additives or preservatives, “in order to preserve the nutrients found in nature,” as the website states.
For those who prefer to cook at home, in addition to the shops mentioned above, there are various shops throughout Rio that sell organic products. Another viable option are the various local markets, which are set up one morning a week, running till early afternoon.