Health & Wellness Tourism in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro
If Rio de Janeiro is the capital of Brazilian beauty, then Ipanema Beach is its pulse. Within the small 3 kilometer stretch of the world-famous Ipanema Beach, you will see the beautiful men, women, and children that give the city their notoriety. But the beauty can be more than skin deep. Ipanema is a mecca for fresh fruit juice stands, trendy gyms, intensive yoga studios and healthy snacks. Here is a local’s take on how to add a dash of health and wellness while spending time in Rio de Janeiro.
THE BRAZILIAN WORKOUT
What Posto 9 is to Ipanema Beach, Smart Fit is to gyms. Peppered with celebrities, socialites and popular with the LGBTQ community, this gym will inspire you to return again tomorrow. Located close to General Osório Metro Station, it is easily accessible whether you are staying in Ipanema or elsewhere in the city. And to top it all off, daily and monthly rates are extremely reasonable, making healthy living accessible. Check about their tourism offers, they can accommodate the foreign traveler!
There are many good yoga studios in Rio, but there is only one that holds true to the roots of this traditional Indian practice, while still offering an excellent workout. The owners of Shiva Shankara have been practicing Ashtanga and Hatha yoga for decades. They personally trained their small team of teachers who also begin every class by chanting a mantra. This is not your average hippy-dippy studio, nor is it entrenched in the trend of yoga for fashion’s sake. They additionally offer a monthly vegetarian meditation/yoga retreat in the mountains outside of the city.
BEST JUICE SHOPS IN IPANEMA
Opened in late 2016, this is the start of the Brazilian “Whole Foods” generation. While on a much smaller scale, La Fruteria is still a healthy step in the right direction. With locally sourced food, organic beauty products, and green household goods, this quaint market offers all Brazilian products that taste, look and feel good. My favorite part is their juice bar in the back of the shop. They not only offer your classic Brazilian fresh juices, but add in matcha tea, chia, or flax seeds.
No list of healthy living in Rio would be complete without a mention of Poli Sucos. This shop is an Ipanema institution! A stand-up only neighborhood juice bar, Poli has a constant flux from 7 am to midnight daily. They offer the ideal after beach snack: fresh tropical juice, high-grade açai, Brazilian tapioca and fresh sandwiches.
While postage stamp in size, this shop offers the most conclusive assortment of health food items you will not find elsewhere in Brazil. From locally produced Kombucha to cashew butter, turmeric chips to fresh almond milk, Armazém 14 is a dream for the vegetarian and health conscious in Brazil. There is even a tiny bar offering whole wheat versions of traditional Brazilian snacks and vegan desserts.
Have a hankering for buying bulk from bins? Casa Pedro has been around for generations, but still is a favorite for health junkies and the old-school locals alike. Founded in 1932, you can still expect to find a lot of traditional products such as dried Bacalhau*. But do not stop there, the possibilities are endless inside. Teas, herbs, grains, nuts, dried fruit, granola, oh my! There is also a small selection of vitamins for maintaining wellness. And for any gringa missing peanut butter, there is a homemade version served at the deli counter in the very back of the shop.
HEALTH FOOD IN RIO
As the health food concept has been shifting from “diet” products to flavorful natural ingredients, there are Rio restaurants following suit. After one’s tourism adventures, you are probably aching for something green on your plate! One of the first in the movement, Delirio Tropical, is so popular that you can find one in almost every neighborhood in Zona Sul*. Meat eaters do not be shy! There is everything from fish to beef and quinoa to soy. But what makes Delirio stand out is the fact they use fragrant local ingredients, such as maracujá* sauce and cheiro-verde*.
At the forefront of the burgeoning Brazilian health mood movement, is Bela Gil, daughter of the famous musician Gilberto Gil. Born in Bahia, but educated in nutrition and Ayurvedic foods in New York, Bela has taken her sensational television food program and turned it into two Rio restaurants. Her objective is to change the country’s wellness dialogue. This restaurant takes you on a culinary adventure of some of Brazil’s forgotten foods. Highlighting the simplest and most flavorful of Brazilian ingredients, she has created the most colorful dishes for both your eyes and your mouth.
THE BRAZILIAN FARMER’S MARKET
Every Wednesday, in Ipanema’s Praça Nossa Senhora, you can find Rio’s organic farmer’s market. The majority of the stands are hosted by the farmers themselves, showcasing the simplistic perfection of the healthy Brazilian products. From eggs to honey, fruits to vegetables, local cheese to chiles, this market albeit simple is the real deal. Who says wellness can not taste delicious?
This is a mark of pride for Cariocas. A monthly meet-up of farmers from the surrounding mountainous regions, local beer producers, winemakers, bread bakers, even Brazilian/French pastry chefs, all doting their goods. Set to the music of local artists and often set-up alongside small fashion designers, this event is a can-not-be-missed for locals. The fair is held in a different location every month. However, if you would like food on a weekly basis, there is an option to order directly online and have a basket ready for pick-up every Saturday morning.
The health scene might not be as developed as Bali or California, but one can be extremely satisfied in Rio, while still following a wellness regime! Welcome to the Green side of Rio de Janeiro.
*Bacalhau: Dried Codfish
*Zona Sul: South Zone
*Cheiro-Verde: Brazilian Spring Onion/Parsley