The golden rule of health: you get back what you put in.
How do you do this? By providing your body the best quality food and nutrition for everyday healthy living. Those who know Medellin love the city for being far ahead of the health curve that’s sweeping the world. It’s full of delicious, nutritious, conscious and craft food.
That means organic vegetables, GMO-free products and locally sourced products of all kinds. All of which are a far cry from from the processed and the unhealthy mainstays ruining many a modern dinner table.
From the farmer’s markets to the organic juice bars, from the vegan and vegetarian dining to the plethora of health food markets, Medellin is a favorite of health foodies. Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or just health-conscious, this city makes it easy to stay in good shape by eating right.
Let’s take a tour through the tastiest and most exotic spots in all of Medellin. This is only a sample of the glories of green and healthy eating awaiting the health-conscious.
The 3 Must-Go Health Markets in Medellin
In order to really settle in and enjoy a healthy routine, nearby shopping is a must. Fortunately, various options are available to enjoy fresh, organic and locally-sourced whole foods and ingredients around Medellin.
Mercado Campesinos – Parque la Presidenta, Poblado
Sunday mornings are all about the farmer’s market. Every week from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., local farmers and artesanal producers display their finest and freshest for eager shoppers in the gorgeous Parque la Presidenta. Offering everything from snacks to essentials, jams to jewelry, potted plants to special lotions, this is a lively experience that makes for a rewarding ritual.
Those who come early get the choice selections of hand-picked and ready-to-eat raspberries, strawberries, pineapples, mangos, coconut, granadilla (passion fruit) and papaya. Try the platanitos, or miniature bananas. These are true finger food: ripe bunches of two-bite sweetness no longer than your pointer.
While you stroll, help yourself to a fresh-squeezed juice medley. Have you ever tried a mango and coconut smoothie with freshly shaved coconut stirred in? Delicious! Maybe you prefer the pineapple or the strawberry mint; all are sugar-free, 100% juice delights.
Peruse the vegetable stands for an abundance of organic greens. Everything from cilantro, chives, chard, leeks, kale, lettuce, broccoli, spinach – you name it, it’s here. Those looking to fill their bags with the yucca, red potatoes, tomatoes and mushrooms will be quite pleased.
You can even try out different varieties of avocado; many are as big as cantaloupes! Some like it hot, so farmers showcase a variety of red, green and orange peppers in various stages of preparation. Be warned: they range from sweet to exceptionally spicy! Colombia’s answer to hot sauce is called aji: it’s a lightly spicy sauce that’s a perfect complement to empanadas and arepas.
Speaking of arepas, small-batches are available for sale. The quinoa and cranberry combo is a real hit, as are the garlic yucca and quesito flavors. These tasty flatbreads share a stall with the cheese and chorizo vendors. This setup allows you to pick out your favorite hearty toppings in a convenient fashion. There are numerous condiments, tapenades, jams and local honeys available as well.
Before you leave, grab a primo cup of Colombian coffee and stroll amongst the pastries. Colombians enjoy crispy baked croissants in creative shapes, galletas dulces and a host of sweet breads for those looking to snack. Or maybe just grab yourself a hearty whole-grain loaf to take home.
The best part of the farmer’s market is that it’s located just off the Ciclovia. Every Sunday, Avenida Poblado shuts down and becomes a walking-biking boulevard between Envigado and Poblado – known as the Ciclovia. Be sure to enjoy a pleasant stroll among the shaded avenues of your favorite neighborhoods to get to the market.
Ceres Organic Market – Lleras, Poblado
Ceres is a specialty market that has it all. It connects to the restaurant Verdeo below and hosts a cold-pressed juice and smoothie shop on the upper side. The juice bar is known as a refreshing and healthy stopover for those cruising the Lleras neighborhood. Whether you’re shopping, strolling in the tranquil bamboo garden scenery or in search of a potent detox drink, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Ceres.
Those familiar with Whole Foods will feel right at home amongst the many self-serve bins of nutritional mainstays. Brazil nuts, chia seeds, puffed quinoa, cacao nibs, dehydrated plantains and a plethora of rice varieties are all available in bulk.
That’s just the start. Cooking essentials such as coconut, peanut and olive oil are well-stocked nearby Himalayan pink salt and organic spices. Pastas made from carrots, spinach and quinoa – and well as plenty of quinoa itself – are a hand away. Pull organic potatoes, avocadoes, bananas, carrots and various other garden varieties from the bins to round out your shopping list.
A satchel of the Jamaica flowers will reinvent your idea how good iced tea can be. There’s also a choice of kombucha and coconut waters to sip. Ceres showcases plenty of vitamins, essential oils like eucalyptus and lavender as well as elixirs and lotions. They also offer a selection of environmentally-conscious household supplies like soaps, deodorants and cleaning supplies for everyday use.
Integral – Envigado
Integral is the health gem of Envigado. Located just off the Tunan Verde (the famous ‘Green Tunnel’) thoroughfare in the heart of Envigado, this market offers specialty goods you can’t find anywhere else in the city.
It’s this author’s go-to for almond butter, organic peanut butter, amazing quinoa and amaranth granola. Equally abundant is the sesame oil and tahini they offer; hummus, anyone?
Plenty of grains and seeds are available en masse, including almonds, walnuts and shaved coconut. Integral is also a great source for gluten-free breads and GMO-free dairy like yogurts and cheeses. Many find their array of SunWarrior supplements and vitamins a staple.
With a fantastic selection of fresh juices and stevia-sweetened, dairy-free ice cream, Integral makes a choice stop when looking for smart afternoon refreshment.
3 Must-Go Vegetarian Restaurants in Medellin
Vegetarian or vegan, these restaurants are proven … satisfying and delicious!
Verdeo – Lleras
As mentioned earlier, Verdeo is attached to Ceres Organic Market. It’s a popular, yet pleasantly uncrowded, lunch and dinner spot. Relax and soak in the charming upcycle motif with a playful interior that hosts plenty of plants, light and high ceilings. You’ll find a great menu of soups, salads, imaginative entrees as well as beer and wines, tea and organic coffee.
Verdeo’s lunch del dia (menu of the day) is always a hit. It includes soup or salad, entree, dessert as well as tamarind or papaya juice. Sometimes it’ll be a savory quinoa minestrone followed by polenta with mushrooms, tomatoes and thyme. Other days it’s a vibrant salad of greens with squash, pickled beets dressing in a lemongrass vinaigrette followed by falafel and garbanzo curry. Dessert could be lime sorbet or candied walnut parfait.
Start a meal with the organic roasted tomato soup garnished with pickled vegetables. The Portobello mushrooms and asparagus are basted in a tangy vinaigrette and grilled with a smooth goat cheese for a meaty, earthy treat.
A favorite dinner is often the Thai mushroom stir fry served in a mint coconut milk sauce over a bed of rice or quinoa. The tortellini boasts almonds stuffed with ricotta cheese and marinated in a white wine reduction with asparagus croquettes.
Entree price: 19.500-24.500 COP ($6.50-$8.50 USD)
Vegarden – Laureles
Located in the University area of Laureles and facing into the park itself, Vegarden is fantastic lunch or dinner location. With a lovely outdoor patio area wrapped in trellis vines, it’s a serene step outside the hubbub of busy Poblado.
It’s also the only 100% vegan location in the city. Vegan fusion, that is. Yum.
The hummus and pita plate is a fantastic start to the meal. The pita comes warm and fluffy, accompanied by three savory and sweet dipping sauces. The spinach soup with tarragon and rosemary is also sure to please.
Wash these down with a fresh mango, strawberry or coconut lemonade (no sugar added), and you’ll know you’ve made a great choice.
For the main meal, a diversity of wraps, salads, burgers, pastas and entrees await. A quinoa and lentil burger donned with pesto salsa, green tomatoes and onions is a wonderful choice. The side of baked mini golden potatoes with lemon and oregano pair well. Try out the ravioli with basil, roasted tomatoes, baked tofu and portabella mushrooms bathed in a rich and roasted tomato sauce. Also, the vegetarian lasagna is out of sight. In the mood for Asian? You can’t go wrong with the rice noodle stir fry with vegetables in teriyaki sauce.
Finish the meal with the vegan ice cream and leave happy!
Entree price: 13.000-24.000 COP ($4.50-$8.00 USD)
Prana – Envigado
A recent addition to the already booming restaurant scene in Envigado, Prana brings a lot to the table. Reggae, jazz and mellow-mood tunes play amongst wooden chairs and walls painted with wildlife murals, leading out to the charming patio.
There’s a micro-market at the front and it shares a space with the consciously-made clothing company, Arbol. It offers a fantastic menu del dia for around $4 and even gives the option to add meat (for those in your party who may not eat purely vegetarian).
Chinese medicine dictates that we need five types of food in a meal, one to nourish each of our vital organs. The generous portions at Prana are delightfully designed with this in mind.
The avocado cucumber salad with lime dressing is a wonderful starter.
The quinoa stir fry with zucchini medallions, sweet peas, cilantro and avocado in in a garlic lime sauce sure made my day! The tomato risotto is outstanding, served with lentils garnished in ginger, carrots and a sweet sesame sauce.
Overall, great food and a unique experience!
Entree price: 15.000- 1.000 COP ($5.00- $7.00 USD)
We’ve only begun to touch upon the nutritious and delicious ways to eat in Medellin. Walk down the streets and there’s diced mango and whole slabs of pineapple for sale! How can you resist being healthy here? With the farm-fresh vegetables and fruits abundant in the markets, and the vegetarian restaurants multiplying, it’s only getting easier to eat well (and cheaply) anywhere you go in Medellin. The only question is: how much do you value eating healthy?