Traditional Wellness Wisdom

Processed versus real food

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When we feed our bodies: what elements create deficiencies and chronic illness, and which support and heal?



Processed foods with additives, hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides, genetically-modified organisms, preservatives, colors, flavorings, and other toxic ingredients Real, unprocessed food with no drugs, chemicals, pesticides, flavoring, coloring, preservatives, or additives, made at home from scratch
Heat, pressure, chemically-treated processed food Raw, clean, nutrient-dense food
Beverages such as soda, juice or “juice” products, diet and energy drinks containing sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners Homemade lacto-fermented sodas, kombucha, kefir, beet kvass. Homemade herbal and plant tea and infusions such as nettles.  

Recommended via Amazon: 

Davidson’s black and green teas for making kombucha, organic nettles, organic chamomile, organic cranberry orange, organic hibiscus, Starwest Botanicals mint for tea and infusions.

Polyunsaturated vegetable oils including canola, soybean, cottonseed, corn, and other processed seed oils. Trans fat, processed hydrogenated margarine or shortening Traditional fats including pastured butter or ghee, organic virgin coconut oil, organic olive oil, palm oil, pastured animal fats including tallow (beef), lard (pork), schmaltz (chicken), and goose or duck fat. Organic seed oils, cold-pressed, virgin oils including sesame and sunflower.

Recommended via Amazon:

Ancient Organics organic pastured ghee, Pure Indian Foods organic pastured gheeNutiva coconut oil, Bragg’s organic olive oil, Bariani olive oil, Jungle Organic palm oilFatworks pastured beef tallow, Fatworks pastured pork lard

Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup (processed and genetically-modified) Raw honey, real maple syrup, Sucanat, coconut palm sugar or maple sugar

Recommended via Amazon: 

YS  Organic Bee Farms raw honey, Coombs Family Farms organic maple syrup, grade B,  Wholesome Sweeteners Organic SucanatNavitas Naturals organic coconut palm sugar

Processed toxic sugar substitutes including Splenda, Aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet), Saccharin, Sorbitol, Xylitol, agave nectar, Neotame, Sucrose, Acesulfame potassium, and processed honey Unprocessed fresh or dried stevia leaf

Recommended via Amazon: 

Frontier organic stevia leaf

Heat/pressure processed GM grains including breads, cereals, crisps, crackers, and cookies Organic heirloom soaked-sprouted and/or fermented or soured grains used to prepare breads or cereals and other foods
Genetically-modified/altered seeds generated in a laboratory and planted in depleted soil Heirloom seeds that come from plants grown in carefully cultivated, mineral-rich soil
Processed, petrochemical-based artificial colors and flavors Natural colors and flavors from real food
Factory-farmed animals and birds Pastured animals fed natural, organic diets
Processed canned vegetables and produce Fresh, raw, cultured veggies such as sauerkraut, pickles, beets, and others
Processed soy meat substitutes Pastured organic meats


Tendergrass Farms grassfed beef, Tendergrass Farms pastured chicken, Tendergrass Farms pastured pork

Processed, refined white salt Unrefined, real salt, sea salt, and Himalayan salt

Recommended via Amazon: 

Celtic Sea Salt, Real Salt Sea Salt, Bob’s Red Mill Sea Salt

Factory-farmed soy and other genetically-modified fed poultry Pastured chickens that are rotated and allowed to forage, peck, and eat insects and worms
Chemically grown vegetables, fruit, nuts, and others Organic, biodynamic vegetables, fruit, nuts and others
Confinement-raised, grain, soy, and corn-fed, genetically-modified, pasteurized dairy Pastured, organically-raised, raw dairy
“Vegetarian-fed” and GM-fed, farmed fish Wild-caught fish


Processed foods contribute to disease

A recent international study from 2013 shows a link between processed foods and the development of auto-immune disease.

Scientists examined the continuing increase of autoimmune diseases in the Western world. “Since this increase cannot be explained solely by genetic factors, researchers hypothesize that the sharp increase in these diseases is linked to environmental factors. Among the suspected culprits are changes in lifestyle and dietary habits in developed countries, where highly processed food and fast food are often on the daily menu.”

Note: this study looked at the effects of excess dietary salt on health quality.  None of the foods considered contain real, unrefined salt which is essential for optimal health.

Safe sources for food

Buying real food from local farmers you know and trust is the optimal choice. If you don’t have local farmers that offer those kinds of choices, please take a look at recommended links from quality affiliate products included in the table above. I have used many of the products mentioned here, or have had recommendations from others I trust about quality and sourcing.

Read more about the Principles of Healthy Diets from The Weston A. Price Foundation.

More information: 

Is Cheap Food Really Cheap?

In Defense of Real Food, Nourishing Ourselves

What would you add to this list?



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