Healthy Eating in Istanbul

Healthy Eating in Istanbul

January 31, 2014
  • 1/5
  • Wheatgrass
  • Gobi Berries
  • Himalayan Salt
  • A Balanced Plate | Photo by Elif Savari Kızıl

So many of us make plans each year to embark on a healthier journey, and 2016 will be no different. However, excessively restrictive regimes become impossible to stick to, especially in a city like Istanbul where eating out is engrained in the culture and so much delicious food tempts us at every turn. Yet, rather than starting an extreme diet that focuses more on what you can’t eat rather than what you can, you can focus on small changes aimed at improving your health from the inside out.


We met with nutritional therapist Marlene Bronte to get some tips about healthy eating in  Istanbul and to discover what her work entails. “Nutritional Therapy isn’t just about losing weight it’s about addressing health issues by looking at the body holistically,” she told us over wholesome herbal tea. “In orthodox medicine, doctors tend to specialize in one area, and don’t look at the whole. I prefer to look at all the factors that affect a person’s health both now and in the future.”


“Usually people come to see me when they have chronic issues, when their body has let them down, and rather than just finding a cure to alleviate the symptoms, we look back to see what factors in their lifestyle can be changed, to prevent it happening in the future.” Unfortunately it turns out there are no overnight quick fixes. “If it’s taken someone 30 years for their body to develop in a certain way, they can’t make a change in a week. Slow and steady wins the race. What I do is plant a seed, but people need to be ready to make a change and move onto the next stage in their life.”


Thoroughly convinced by the importance of eating the right food, we asked how to manage it while eating out in Istanbul. “Turkey actually has lots of healthy food options if you make the right choices. On a meze tray, there are always healthy options available such as bean salad and steamed samphire. Istanbul also has a lot of fresh fish, take advantage of it by ordering grilled fish with salad for a healthy main option in almost any restaurant.”


Awareness levels about healthy eating in Turkey are on the rise, evidenced by the numbers of organic food shops that are now open, and the throngs that now flock to the organic market in Bomonti. Marlene told us “Historically, Turkish people live healthy lifestyles, but similar to the rest of the world, traditions are getting lost. People used to know where their food came from, but with the urban migration that has occurred in Turkey, these connections have disappeared.


Yet things are changing. Now if you go to the market you see “köy yumurta” (village eggs) and more local, organic, seasonal produce, which shows that people are starting to look for that earlier way of life. Our lifestyles have now changed a long way from those times, especially in Istanbul. But while there’s no simpler way of living, there is a simpler way of eating.”


Healthy Eating Tips

Healthy eating is not a diet, but a lifestyle – it requires a decision to make yourself healthier and a willingness to change. Although everybody is different, there is some general advice that Marlene shared:


1. Eat a balanced diet. Each meal should consist of roughly 50-65% fruit and vegetables, 30% protein and fat, and the rest complex carbohydrates (e.g. brown rice, wholegrain breads, and cereals).


2. Try to stay away from processed foods and choose original whole foods – a whole apple is always better than apple juice, for example. Cut down (or cut out) your caffeine intake – instead drink more green tea which is rich in antioxidants.


Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

If, once you’re eating right, you also want to work on other aspects of your lifestyle. Check out our articles on the best Pilates and yoga courses in Istanbul.

3. Drink more water – way more than you think you need. Decorate your home with elegant glass water bottles to remind yourself.


4. Rather than cooking with olive oil, just drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil onto foods or salad, after it has been prepared (and keep it in dark bottles as the sunlight can decrease antioxidant levels).


5. Cook with coconut oil (available from Kundo or Macro) as a healthier alternative.


6. Live by the 80/20 rule: as long as you eat well and healthy 80% of the time, you can afford to indulge yourself 20% of the time.


7. Don’t deny yourself small pleasures, you’ll be more likely to binge if you do. So if you want a small piece of dark chocolate, eat it!


8. When Travelling: drink one glass of water for every hour you are on a plane.


7. At the Hotel: stock your room with bottled water, fresh fruit and healthy snacks like nuts and rice cakes.


8. In the Office: drink as much water as you can by placing a large bottle in front of you and  working your way through it throughout your day.


9. Eating Out: choose a salad for your starter and drink TWO glasses of water. Then order your main course.


To find out more and to contact Marlene, visit



Of course, even within the healthy spectrum there are some foods that are better than others.  Superfoods (natural products that are rich in nutrients and low in toxins) have become the mot du jour on the lips (and tongues) of anyone interested in a healthier lifestyle. We spoke to Özlem Mavi and Alev Tekinak from Kundo to find out what products they recommend. Like Marlene, they wanted to make it clear “It’s very easy to be healthy just by making the right choices, and you can still enjoy “good food.” However, they said, what’s difficult is to change people’s habits and their taste expectations, especially in a country like Turkey that has such a rich culinary history.”



Contains 17 amino acids, vitamins A,D,E, and K, chlorophyll, and up to 92 minerals. It is said to detoxify and help rebuild cells by carrying oxygen around the body. Usually taken as a shot or in smoothies, you can either buy it as a liquid, or buy the grass or seeds to grow and juice your own.



A micro algae that’s purported to be oneof the oldest life forms on Earth, which is rich in protein and amino acids. It’s the number one source of iron and contains Vitamin E and B12, also  making it good for detoxifying. Kundo sells it in convenient pill form.



Like ginger and garlic, this is a natural antibiotic. It is produced by bees as a sealant to protect their hives from external organisms. Taken as a drop, it’s more convenient than eating garlic or ginger to fight off illness. It can also be used on the skin.


They also recommend switching to Himalayan Salt. Normal white salt that sits so innocuously  on your shelves is refined to the point that it loses all its minerals and is just sodium chloride with added iodine and is apparently “only good for washing your floor with.” However Himalayan Salt contains over 80 natural minerals and is actually good for you. Take a small amount dissolved in water with a squeeze of lemon to replenish your body’s supplies. But beware of fake varieties – it should never be white, but rather a delicate peachy pink color.


Gluten Free

Just a few years ago, it would have been impossible to find gluten free alternatives, but it is increasingly available. İstanbul Halk Ekmek now bakes gluten free bread. Other products such as quinoa and Sinangil Gluten free flour can be found in Macro Center as well as from

Of course there are lots of other common superfoods that you might already be eating. Greens like broccoli, kale, and spinach are all rich in antioxidants and iron, but be careful not to   overcook them. Overcooking broccoli for example can destroy 100% of its enzymes and chlorophyll, as well as many of its vitamins and minerals. Eat it raw or lightly steam it at less than 45 degrees. Try adding blueberries and dried goji berries (both available from Macro) to your morning muesli for a superfood boost.


Then there’s the superfood of the moment quinoa, a sacred grain of the Incas that’s delicious in salads. Firik is another grain, made from roast green wheat and full of fiber. It is not so well known but is popular in Middle Eastern cuisine and makes a delicious alternative to rice or bulgur. Nuts and seeds are also very good for you, and contain high percentages of protein. Eat them as a snack throughout the day.