The Journey to Real Health

4:17 PM, Sep 27, 2023
4:57 PM, Sep 27, 2023
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The Real Food Market & Deli in Helena is a natural food store with a vision of health as being fully alive. “That’s the best definition I can think of,” says Laughing Water, who co-founded the store in 1975 with the late India Supera.

“I got into this business through the human potential movement,” he continues, “the idea being that we can live healthier, more creative and more loving lives than we currently do.” Now is the time to do it, he says, because “we live in explosive times, and it’s an explosion that can either blow us apart or propel us into a better future.”

Climate change is one of humankind’s biggest challenges, and LW, as he likes to be called, believes we can not only make our personal lives better but create a better planet at the same time. That’s where Real Food comes in.

The Power of Food

Our food choices have a profound effect on both our personal health and the health of our planet. As the FDA commissioner Robert M. Califf, MD has said, “Diet-related chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S.” (FDA News Release, 3/24/23) And as LW puts it, “Nothing makes a bigger mark on this planet than your knife and fork.”

Fortunately the same food choices—plant-based, organic and local—are good for both people and planet. Those are foods where the Real Food Market & Deli shines.

The Power of Plants

The Real Food produce department offers exclusively organically-grown fruits and vegetables, and this is where one of its mottos, “Eat a rainbow and heal the Earth,” is most visible. “Every color indicates a different antioxidant or anti-inflammatory phytochemical that protects against aging and disease,” according to Real Food.

In fact, most health advice you’ll see lists a diet rich in fruits and vegetables near the top. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, it delivers these benefits:

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Reduced risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Prevention of some types of cancer.
  • Lower risk of eye and digestive problems.
  • A positive effect on blood sugar, which can help keep appetite in check.

But then there are the benefits of other plant foods, such as nuts, seeds, whole grains and beans, which are not only rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, but also contain phytochemicals, along with generous amounts of fiber and “friendly fats.”
They are also some of the most climate-friendly foods because they can feed the world on less land and using less water.

The Power of Organic Food

Raising those foods organically adds to their benefits. Health benefits include better nutrition and less exposure to pesticides and other toxic chemicals, as well as bioengineered products that many people prefer to avoid.

The environmental benefits are even more far-reaching, including greater biodiversity, less pollution and better drought resistance. By building healthy soil, organic farming has the potential to take large amounts of carbon from the air and put it back into the ground.

Real Food has gone the extra mile to become a Montana-certified organic food handler, which means getting an annual inspection to ensure, among other things, that it buys as much organic food as it sells, that its organic sources are properly certified and that it follows proper procedures for handling and pest control.

The Power of Local Food

The Real Food Market & Deli is a single store that’s locally-owned, proud to be “part of a movement, not part of a chain.” Supporting the local economy and community is part of how it does business, and that includes buying from many dozens of Montana sources.

Locally-grown foods generally travel fewer miles and are fresher and more nourishing. By and large they’re also produced by people who take pride in their products and are closer to their customers, both in space and in spirit.

And Beyond

In addition to its organic products, the local store offers strictly grass-fed Montana-grown meats. While LW himself has been a vegetarian for his adult life, he believes that people thrive on different diets and that livestock can play an important ecological role.

“I’m more than impressed by Montana ranchers I’ve known. Some are in fact at the forefront of environmental stewardship and humane treatment of animals.”

To complete the store’s offerings, it also features an award-winning deli, bulk foods, dietary supplements, and lavish assortment of bulk herbs, spices, and teas.

To help make all this affordable, Real Food became one of the earliest members of INFRA, a cooperative of independent natural food stores. LW has served on its board for most of its history, helping to bring lower prices to over 500 stores nationwide. Here in Helena that means Real Food often has over 1,000 products on sale, in addition to an Everyday Low Price selection of over 100 key foods and household supplies.

Environmental Commitment

Human health and environmental health go hand in hand, and Real Food Market & Deli is committed to fighting climate change and protecting the planet.

“We believe in caring for the Earth as if our lives depend on it, and we do that in all aspects of our business, from featuring plant-based, organic and local products to composting and using recyclable deli containers,” according to the store.

Additionally, Real Food Market & Deli is looking at what it takes to become carbon neutral by 2030, things like switching from gas to electricity, installing solar panels, and revamping its refrigeration and heating systems.

The Power of Community

Beyond bringing healthy food to the community and supporting local businesses, Real Food Market & Deli takes joy in serving its community not just by providing food, but donating to local charities, notably through its bag program that has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Montana Shares while keeping hundreds of thousands of plastic shopping bags out of the environment.

After 48 years it makes sense that LW would think of retirement, but as he says, “I don’t know how else I would get so much love from so many people. And that’s the Real Food.”

Real Food Market & Deli, at 1096 Helena Ave. in Helena, is open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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