One of the most popular questions we get is, of course, “Can you drink alcohol on a Paleo Diet?”
The simple answer is – it depends.
Technically alcohol is not really Paleo per se, and we ourselves are not promoters of regular drinking on any diet. We also don’t believe that a drink for enjoyment now and then should be frowned upon. Life is meant to be enjoyed, mindfully.
It’s a personal decision as to how you feel about incorporating alcohol into your Paleo lifestyle and an equally personal experience as to how your body copes with it.
Many studies have found positive health benefits from moderate alcohol consumption over not drinking at all. Personally evaluating the benefits of partaking in an alcoholic beverage means that alcohol may, in some way, fit in with your Paleo diet choices.
Moderate alcohol consumption:
- Is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Improves insulin sensitivity.
- May reduce the risk of infection with Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that causes ulcers.
Regular and/or excessive consumption of alcohol may be hindering you in achieving your health and wellness goals. Under these circumstances maintaining a high level of health is challenging at best (1; 2; 3).
- Alcohol is an addictive drug.
- Alcohol is toxic to the liver.
- The liver cannot metabolize alcohol into sugar, which can cause a dip in blood sugar and a rise in blood fats. Too much alcohol in your system makes detoxification a high priority. This causes your liver to prioritize detoxification over the uptake of nutrients.
- As some toxins are not processed, they are stored as fat. It is challenging for the body to burn fat while detoxifying from alcohol consumption.
- Alcohol is dehydrating and can affect electrolyte balance.
It is important to find a balance between maintaining some type of social life and the interactions that go along with it (an important part of a Paleo lifestyle) without destroying all the hard work and sustained effort you have put into making yourself and your life better. Choosing the right beverages and consuming them in a responsible, intentional way is key.
Paleo Alcohol Guide
Traditional beer contains 3 basic ingredients: wheat, barley and hops. Wheat and barley are grains, and hops are actually the female flower clusters of a vine. Grains are not part of a Paleo diet, and thus, neither are traditional beers. Sorghum is a gluten-free grain and a sorghum-based beer, although still technically not Paleo, is one better option. For the best selections in this category, try to stick cider beers, but if you are comfortable with a gluten free alternative, sorghum will do as well.
Red wine is a favorite recommendation for those who want to drink, while maintaining a Paleo lifestyle. Red wine can be found organic, from sustainable farms that promote local economy! Additionally, it has been found to be good for heart health and contains antioxidants like resveratrol.
White wine is made from grapes with the skin removed, which changes the color and taste (called tannins) and removes the resveratrol. White wine still contains some healthful antioxidants, but not as many as the red wine.
Champagne & Sparkling Wine
Sparkling wine is made from grapes and sent through a secondary fermentation of the wine in the bottle to create the carbonation, this is done by adding yeast and sugar.
Sake is a rice wine which is part of Japanese cuisine. Although rice is gluten free, it is a grain and should be avoided if you want to be strictly Paleo. However, if you want a gluten free beverage, this is an option. Some lower quality sake brands do add barley so it is important be aware of your choices.
Vodka is traditionally distilled from potatoes, although there are a few that are made from grains (like Grey Goose) and grapes. Ensue your vodka potato or grape based.
Cachaça is often confused with rum, but, Brazilian law requires that the liquor can only be made from the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice. No by-product molasses or additives of any kind can be added, making it the optimal choice when available.
Rum can be made from the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice or sugarcane by-products like molasses. Sugarcane versions are your best choice. Dark rum is distilled in charred oak barrels, while white rum uses steel drums – the color has little to do with the ingredients.
Whiskey, Bourbon & Scotch
Whiskey is made from the distillation of fermented grain mash. This can include barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat and corn. Although it is unclear whether the multiple distillation rids this liquor of grains and gluten, it is still best to avoid this beverage.
Bourbon is a whiskey that is made primarily of distilled corn, but may also contain wheat, rye and malted barley. Again, this beverage is best avoided.
Scotch was originally made from malt barley (grain), but now is made with wheat and rye as well. Single malt or blended Scotch does not change this fact and, again, this beverage is best avoided on your Paleo diet.
Gin is made from the distillation of grain mash including barley, corn and wheat, very similar to whiskey. The difference is that gin is usually infused with juniper berries and a variety of floral or fruit extracts. No matter the variety, gin is not Paleo friendly.
Tequila is made from the agave plant. Although, as with everything on this list, tequila is processed, as far as alcohols go, this is one of your best options for Paleo. Choose a brand made from to 100% agave. As with rum, the difference between silver and gold is that gold tequila is aged in oak barrels.
Brandy & Cognac
Brandy made by distilling wine. It is made predominantly from grapes, but can be from other fruits as well. This makes brandy a Paleo option. Lower quality brands can sometimes add caramel color and other additives to their product making it important to be aware of ingredients.
Cognac is a variety of brandy which must meet certain requirements including the type of grape used (ugni blanc), along with being twice distilled in copper pots and aged at least 2 years in French oak barrels. The grapes are combined with yeasts and left to ferment.
Good food should always accompany your alcohol. Order this weeks menu here >>>>>>>>
- Wine is fine- as long as it has no added sugar. Dry & sparkling are best
- Choose non - grain based spirits
- If you must have beer- ensure it is a gluten free variety
Before you pour yourself a beverage, consider your health goals and overall eating habits so that you can then make a smart choice. Our advice is to listen to your body and, if you do choose to indulge, try to limit your indulgences to the more Paleo-friendly alcohol choices.