What Foods to Avoid on the Paleo Diet and Why You Should Avoid Them
Now that we’ve covered the list of foods you should be eating on the Paleo Diet, it’s time to take a look at what to avoid. Proponents of the Paleo Diet have carefully considered how to maximize its beneficial effects; knowing what not to eat is just as important in that regard as knowing what to eat.
In general, Paleo dietitians recommend avoiding foods that contain excessive carbohydrate content, antinutrients such as lectin and phytates, salt, saturated fat, and sugar. Sometimes a little guilty indulgence is unavoidable, but first you have to know specifically what to steer clear of before you start making exceptions. The following are types of food that are best avoided–and the reasons why you should avoid them.
Paleo Diet Food List: Avoiding Cereal Grains
Cereal grains are high in carbohydrate content, which is important to avoid on the Paleo diet. This is because excessive carbohydrate intake increases insulin levels and chronically elevated insulin levels result in increased fat storage, inflammation, insulin resistance, and risk of diabetes. Cereal grains also contain gluten, lectin and phytates–all of which have toxic properties and as such have been labeled “antinutrients” by many contemporary dietitians.
No cereal grains means no wheat, corn, rice, barley, oats, rye, sorghum, millet–or any of their byproducts, including breads, crackers, all kinds of rice, corn syrup, and pasta.
Paleo Diet Food List: Avoiding Dairy
Many dairy products and those processed with dairy should be avoided on the Paleo diet as well. Lactose and casein, two constituents of dairy products, are on the whole not well tolerated by the human digestive system. They can also elevate insulin levels, which is problematic for the reasons discussed above. Additionally, milk often contains an imbalanced load of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, potentially contributing to inflammation.
Organic, grass-fed, fermented dairy products are preferable to their standard supermarket counterparts, but in general it’s a good idea to avoid butter, cheese, milk, yogurt, and ice cream, as well as most other products that are processed with dairy.
Paleo Diet Food List: Avoiding Legumes
In comparison to Paleolithic foods, legumes (along with cereal grains and dairy), contain large concentrations of antinutrients that inhibit the absorption of key vitamins and minerals. Phytates, lectin, protease inhibitors, and alpha-amylase inhibitors are some of the antinutrients that are rife in legumes. These compounds have also been implicated in the development of a number of health problems.
All beans, lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, soy beans, and all soy-based products are best avoided.
Paleo Diet Food List: Avoiding Fatty Meats
One of the principles of the Paleo diet is maintaining a proper ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids. This is accomplished through the avoidance of saturated fats and preferential substitution of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as canola and sunflower oils, respectively.
So no fatty cuts of beef, pork, chicken, or turkey, and no bacon, ribs, or lamb.
Paleo Diet Food List: Avoiding Salty Foods
The high sodium, low potassium intake in the average U.S. diet has negative implications for cardiovascular function–contributing to hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. The Paleo Diet inverts that ratio in part by avoiding added salt and salty foods in general. Cured meats and cheeses, many canned foods, and almost all condiments and salad dressing contain incredible amounts of salt and are to be avoided on the diet.
That includes bacon, deli meats, ketchup, olives, pickled foods, salted nuts, sausages, and salami, among others.
Paleo Diet Food List: Avoiding Starchy Vegetables
Starchy vegetables like potatoes (including potato products like french fries, hash browns, chips, etc.), sweet potatoes and yams, tapioca and manioc have high glycemic indices, meaning they can cause a spike in your blood sugar. They are also dense in carbohydrates and may contain antinutrients like those found in cereal grains and legumes. Advocates of the Paleo diet recommend avoiding these qualities in food, so reducing your intake of starchy vegetables is critical.
Paleo Diet Food List: Avoiding Sweetened Beverages and Desserts
Like many diets, the Paleo diet is prohibitive of sugar intake, including sweets, and sweetened beverages. Soft drinks, candy, honey, dishes with added sugar, and even freshly squeezed fruit drinks are discouraged. Insulin spikes, insulin resistance, diabetes, and fat creation are all byproducts of excessive sugar consumption. Avoiding sugary foods is particularly important for overweight individuals (who are especially prone to diabetes) or for those who are simply interested in losing weight.
Paleo Diet Foods to Avoid in Summary
Steering clear of cereal grains, legumes, dairy products, fatty meats, salty foods, starchy vegetables, and sugars seems like a tall order–especially when you consider what’s offered by many restaurants–but don’t be disheartened. There are still plenty of healthy food available to you; with a little planning, you’ll be surprised at how easy the Paleo diet actually is–and how tasty it can be. More and more restaurants are also beginning to cater to those on the Paleo diet and similar diets like Zone or Atkins’. Do a little research and you may soon be frequenting some new favorite spots around town.
[photocredit: Animal New York; Anthony Colpo; Keep Local Farms; Stirling Foods; Network of Food; Top News; GI News]