Refining sugar is an exhaustive process. Whole sugarcane is crushed, shredded, and heated to extract the juice, which is then clarified, cooked, concentrated, crystallized, spun, and heat dried. The resulting white sugar is devoid of sugarcane’s minerals.
Purer picks: Agave nectar; or coconut sugar (bottom right), made by simply evaporating the sap of the coconut. Both have low glycemic-index scores.
Wheat berries are finely ground, partially bleached, and made into dough that’s often combined with additional gluten, high-fructose corn syrup, soybean oils, and chemical preservatives.
Purer pick: Whole-grain bread, or that made with sprouted wheat berries or grains, which are ground, mixed with water and salt, and baked. Sprouted options are generally higher in fiber and easier to digest.
To make instant oatmeal, whole oat groats are separated from the outer hull, heated, moistened, flattened between large rollers, cut into flakes, and dried. They are then fully cooked and dehydrated. Evidence suggests that extremely high pressure during rolling may chemically alter the oats’ proteins.
Purer picks: Steel-cut oats,a.k.a. chopped-up oat groats, which aren’t pressed.
Nonvirgin olive oils are extracted using heat, chemical solvents, and filtration. Some are then blended with small amounts of virgin olive oil to restore the original color and flavor.
Purer pick: Rich, tangy extra-virgin olive oil, which is cold pressed without chemicals or high heat and contains more antioxidants.