Paleo dietary restrictions are a challenge to adhere to because we have grown up with processed foods that are a normal part of our general diet. From birth, we may have been bottle-fed, served with cereal when we were toddlers, enjoyed ice cream while growing up, and subsist on sandwiches to save time during lunch. Because of our hectic lifestyle, we have resorted to everything instant – from fast food to immediate indulgence on sweets. As a result, a lot of our modern foods fall under paleo dietary restrictions because they are highly processed, sugary, starchy or a combination of the three.
In its strictest sense, the Paleolithic diet consists of foods that were only available to our Stone Age ancestors, which means that the paleo diet restrictions today would consist of foods that our caveman ancestors didn’t eat. This means only eating lean meat, nuts and seeds, fish, game, fruits and vegetables that our ancestors likely encountered in their hunting-gathering way of life. This also suggests that paleo diet restrictions include foods that have been processed by cooking. Since the use of fire during this period was not widespread, food was processed very little (drying, for instance), if at all.
So what are the foods that do not make it to the paleo diet?
1. Grains. Grains maybe an abundant source of fiber, carbohydrates and trace minerals and vitamins, but they are restricted because agriculture was only developed after the Paleolithic era. This suggests that if our ancestors had come across patches of grains, they would not have likely consumed them because grains are inedible uncooked.
2. Dairy products, and any food that contains them. Paleo diet restrictions include a food group rich in calcium: milk, cheese, butter, cream, yogurt (and ice cream, chocolates, cakes). Like grains, ruminants were not domesticated until 8,000 to 9,000 B.C., which make goats and cows (and mares, whose milk sustained the Huns) relatively newcomers in the evolutionary chain of our food sources.
3. Legumes. Because legumes were not part of human diet before the agricultural revolution, they are also considered restrictions. This means that anything hanging from a vine contained in a pod does not qualify: all beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, sugar snap peas, snow peas and even peanuts. Soy and peanut products like tofu and peanut butter, respectively, are prohibited, too.
4. Starchy vegetables and crops. Because they need to be cooked for them to be edible, starches are restricted, too. This means tubers, cassava roots, manioc, potatoes (and all derivatives) and yams.
5. Fatty meats. Food laced with or made of animal fat – chicken and turkey skin, pork, lamb, bacon – are also restricted.
6. Salt. Salty paleo diet restrictions include all commercial salad dressings and condiments, bacon, deli meats, frankfurters, ham and a whole slew of salted foods. Cavemen licked each other’s faces to consume the salt their body needed. But the amount of salt in today’s foods is far higher than our metabolic requirements.
7. Sweets, juices and soda. Our Stone Age ancestors enjoyed fructose, or fruit sugar. The ‘sugar’ that we mean today, however, come from sources that were not available to Paleolithic man. By extension, processed foods loaded with sugars are restricted.