Essential Versus Optional in Paleo

When I developed my list of Modern Paleo Principles in early 2010, I’d hoped to be able to sort out the essential principles from the optional tweaks. So forgoing grains would be essential to eating paleo whereas intermittent fasting would be just an optional tweak that a person might never even try. Sounds reasonable, right? Perhaps so, but the attempt was a total non-starter.

Almost as soon as I sat down to write out my list of principles, I realized that I couldn’t possibly separate them into “essential” and “optional,” except in a few clear cases. Similarly, I couldn’t rank its principles by priority except in a very rough way. Despite the core features of the diet captured in my definition — avoiding grains, sugars, and modern vegetable oils in favor of high-quality meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables — that just wasn’t possible.

But… why not? Why can’t we identify …