The general sentiment lately has been that what is and what isn't techincally considered "Paleo" is not always the best question to ask yourself when figuring whether or not to keep/add a particular item to your repertoire. The question I ask myself when I'm on the fence about a dietary choice is usually something like this...
Considering what's available in today's world, does this item fit within the current understanding of what is healthy/beneficial to consume? (or if not healthy, at least not particularly unhealthy... basically neutral, yet purposeful)
Aside from one-off scenarios where you ate something questionable just because you wanted to eat it at that moment, what item(s) have you felt you had to put through this type of qualification question for regular consumption, and why did it pass or fail?
I only use "paleo" as a guide when I have no information about the item's nutrition or how it interacts with a human system on a biochemical level. It's pretty rare to have a black box food these days, so the paleo invocation is kind of rare.
I don't by any means think that all of what our ancestors ate or did is ideal. My main focus is not to become a caveman, or a hypercivilized cyborg, but rather to take that which is optimal from the paleolithic and that which is optimal from the neolithic and create a synergy that is ideal for health.
If contemporary HGs are any indication, our ancestors likely took great pains to acquire honey and would consume as much of it as possible. That's fine, but I'm not convinced that a massive dose of fructose is ideal. (Though it must be said that there are aspects of honey that mitigate the deleterious effects of the fructose.) Similarly, I don't skewer my meat on a stick and roast it over an open flame.
Heck, fruit consumption is an obvious example of something that nearly all apes and then hominins would have done for millions of years as much as possible, but I'm not convinced that it is ideal for health. I think of fruit bearing plants as nature's drug dealers who produce fructose to get us hooked so we keep coming back to spread their seeds with a nice serving of fertilizer. Sure there is some good in it, but I'm not currently of the mind that it's optimal. Fruit consumption has to be one of the behaviors that can be traced back the furthest and which obviously aided in our species coming into existence and reaching this point, but for me in 2011, it's likely disadvantageous.
On the other hand, I'm a strong proponent of consuming starches of a non-toxic type and in the correct amounts. Glycolysis is one of the oldest metabolic pathways for all life on Earth. Everything from yeast to humans are storing glucose in the form of glycogen for energy, so I find this "paleo" idea that we should avoid all glucose and only consume fat and meat without any significant amount of physiology geared toward carnivory to be quite strange indeed. Perhaps we are confusing "can" and "should."
I would wager that nearly all species that have ever existed have some percentage of what they eat or do that is hindering their ability to procreate in some way, but because the bulk of what they do is conducive to living long enough to reproduce, they persist in spite of that which is harmful. It's the positive net value of your existence as a whole that is judged on an evolutionary scale, not whether you did everything correctly. Well, I'd like to opt out of reproduction and simply be very healthy for a very long time. My path will thus diverge from what has come before because I have very different goals.
All told, however, there is obviously far more in paleo that is consistent with our design than there is in contemporary lifeways, but I rather like being parasite-free and utilizing modern technology when it's clearly advantageous.
Edit: One other point I think is important is that there is nothing consistent about "paleo" in general. A survey of contemporary HGs might yield a general consistency with macronutrient breakdowns and so forth, but the degree of variation based on the particular ecology, season etc. is huge. I'm highly skeptical of an approach that seeks out something that existed and then attempts to make the determination that because one tribe did something, then all humans will thrive doing it.
Great question! I have been stuggling with potatoes. And have decided (as a family) that white potatoes are out and sweets and yams are in. From a purely paleo perspective I don't see why the caveman would not eat a white potato but would eat a sweet or yam; however, my choice wa based on nutritional content. We don't eat sweet pototoes or yams often, but they are really great in stews to add some heft to the broth.
Another one - maple syrup. We've decided to use it in moderation as a sweetener when something really needs a pick-me-up.
I look forward to seeing other peoples answers.
The main things that I've ever wondered about and something that has shifted in my thinking about Paleo are iffy "starches" i.e. rice and non-sweet potato tubers (even if I don't eat them much)
Starches in general (especially knowing that in the big picture I get most of my nutrients from meat and non-starchy vegetables). Though, the list below would fail for people with metabolic disorders or diabetics, I is fine for those who are healthy. Many of these I rarely eat, if only because I don't like them as much as some other things. They are not necessary for anything, but can be helpful if one is doing a Paleo-based cyclical or targeted ketogenic diet.
Here are some specific starches
White Rice - as benign source of Pure Starch
Peeled White Potatoes - Not nutritionally vapid, most toxins in the skin have been removed, benign enough source of starch.
Cassava/Yucca - Toxin removed through proper preparation, starch source.
Great Question Jack! I love meat and eggs. Those are the no brainers. One thing I wonder about is fish. Do I eat the wild salmon and tuna or not. Currrently I am eating the salmon and sometimes the tuna.
I embraced the PHD and safe carbs only to find out I don't tolerate white potatoes. I can't digest them really well. I am considering white rice and gluten free white rice noodles I dont think they will become a staple though. Sushi is on the diet because it is so tasty.
Nice question. Everyone has a particular route to arriving at the food coices they make. I myself, actually don't go down the health route, I prefer to trace backwards. The other day I decided to reintroduce oats into my diet, to see how I felt, on the basis that I probably have no direct ancestors that ate sweet potato or yams (despite everyone harking their nutritional benefits), for that matter rice, I can bet even my great granfather didn't eat rice. Well, I need some carbs daily, I have decided to rotate and see what works best. I bought a honey-comb recently, was thinking of eating if over the course of the year..
I consider green beans more 'pod' than legume, and I eat the odd ear of corn. Unless someone comes up with some really good rationale for why intermittent corn would cause long term problems.
Honestly I thing 90% of health is down to what your 'staple' food is. As in what you eat day in day out as most of your calories. Anything else is law of diminishing returns territory.
Though it must be said, gluten in any quantities does me no favours whatsoever, even a small amount seems to have long lasting effects.
Having 6 kids... trying to work in the likable veggies seems to be an issue as we too hear that white potatoes are pure sugar.
We love almost everything, and our youngest will eat almost any veggie... the rest of the middle children fight us over broccoli the least. Our main staples are all bell peppers, onions, squash, zucchini, and broccoli.
Anyone have any suggestions to try something and indeed keep it paleo yet kid friendly
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