There is often much discussion around whether alcohol is healthy and if it is part of a Paleo Diet. On both accounts, a positive answer is probably wishful thinking.
The studies showing that alcohol is potentially healthy are usually confounded by extenuating factors like the social interaction and recreation that usually go along with drinking. These aspects of life are challenging to quantify and measure, but are nevertheless very important.
- Alcohol is toxic to the liver.
- It is a known and documented addictive drug
- Excess alcohol in your system will cause your liver to prioritize the detoxification of the ethanol over the uptake of nutrients.
- Fat metabolism is delayed while detoxifying from alcohol consumption.
- The liver cannot metabolize alcohol into sugar, which can cause a dip in blood sugar and a rise in blood fats.
- As some toxins are not processed, they are stored as fat.
- Alcohol is causes dehydration and can affect electrolyte balance.
In essence, a Paleo Diet does not endorse the consumption of any alcohol. That being said, each individual gets to choose what does and does. Not work for them. It’s your body and you can decide what you want to put in it. As with most lifestyle choices, some semblance of balance and compromise is necessary.
If alcohol is a real point of pleasure for you, there are Paleo-friendly drinks that promise not to totally wreck your week or get you called out by the Paleo police. These options follow the principles of Paleo itself: limited ingredients, avoiding added processed sugar and keeping things as natural as possible.
There is no definitive answer out there on which kinds of alcohol you're allowed to indulge in on your Paleo Diet, but there are a few easy rules to remember to ensure you can still partake in happy hour and not completely sabotage your healthy lifestyle efforts.
Choose The Right Alcohol.
Or avoid choosing the wrong ones!.
First of all, know that beer is the least Paleo-friendly alcohol out there, and is best avoided. Nearly all beer is made from wheat or barley, and thus contains high concentrations of gluten. Even the gluten-free beer is made from gluten-free grains which are avoided on the Paleo Diet for many reasons. (Read more on grains here). The good news is that wine and spirits are on the list. there are plenty of options in both these categories that even purists would find tempting.
Wine is something can choose to dabble in on your Paleo Diet, especially considering that ancient man likely fermented his own fruits and created some sort of wine of his own. Wine is often considered the most Paleo friendly of alcohol choices. There are various organic options, especially for red wines and antioxidants such as resveratrol can help prevent damage to blood vessels, lowers ‘bad’ cholesterol, and prevent blood clots. When consumed moderately, red wine is often considered to be a healthy alcoholic option in the Paleo community.
White wine removes both the skin and the tannins from the grapes, resulting in a lighter colour but this process also removes the resveratrol.
When it comes to spirits, vodka, gin, and tequila are said to be the best choices within Paleo parameters.
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.
Gin is distilled from botanicals like juniper, coriander, or cinnamon, so you can enjoy this clear liquor without much concern.
If tequila is your drink of choice, make sure you're looking for one that is made from 100 percent agave Anything less means there are likely added sugars. There are also some brands of tequila that have been partly made from grains, so take a look at the label before you pour yourself a drink.
Hard cider is another drink that need not be avoided. It is made from fermented apples or pears and generally does not contain gluten. This makes it a good substitute for beer if you're feeling like a cold, fizzy drink. You still want to pay attention to added sugars, and reach for the dry variations whenever you can. They tend to have lower sugar content than others.
Switch Your Mixers
Pretty much anything that gets mixed with or added to alcohol is neither Paleo friendly nor healthy. This includes juice, soda, diet soda, tonic and sweet and sour mix. Each contains some form of sugar or artificial sweetener, along with a whole list of other additives.
Choose club soda/soda water, which has no sugar.
Acidity also tastes great with most alcohol and mixing in some lemon or lime can create a fun drink. Alcohol is also going to spike your blood sugar and adding in some tart citrus has actually been shown to support insulin sensitivity and give you better blood sugar control!
Drinking often ends up in binge eating and/or eating foods you generally would avoid when not drinking. You might even have a few fond (or not) memories of greasy fast food and other incredibly unhealthy meals after a night of drinking.
It is fruitless to think that this time will be different or that this is the night you will make better decision. Have a meal or snack lined up, so that you are be able to avoid the late-night French fries, sandwich, or whatever-other non-Paleo-food you might eat.
You can even keep something quick and delicious in your freezer, ready to heat when you need food NOW.
Limit your Consumption
No matter what research you look at, any potential benefits alcohol consumption may have decreases substantially after 1 - 2 drinks per day. Over 3 drinks per day results in more inflammation, disease and other unwanted health concerns.
Stop Drinking Early.
Sleep is important and an integral part of your Paleo lifestyle. Get your drinking done early
Alcohol disrupts your sleep a little no matter what time of day you drink. However, if you drink during the 2-3 hours before you are planning on going to bed, alcohol will interfere with sleep even more.
As a general rule of thumb, it takes approximately one hour for one serving of alcohol to be metabolized. This means if you are consuming a few drinks, you will want the last to be at least several hours before your bedtime to avoid impacting your sleep.
Certain supplements will protect your body against alcohol by supporting your liver detoxify the ethanol more quickly, preventing hangovers, and minimizing the damage.
Some effective advice has been to take a little bit of Vitamin C, a little bit of Cysteine, and a few B-Vitamins with each drink.
Darker coloured alcohol like rum, brandy, some tequilas, red wine contain a higher concentration of congeners which are impurities that are produced during fermentation that can make a hangover even worse and recovery more challenging. Taking some activated charcoal while you are drinking or immediately afterwards will help your body clean up a little more efficiently in the aftermath.
The Bottom Line
The most important thing to keep in mind is that alcohol should be consumed moderately or sparingly on your Paleo Diet. It is perfectly fine to enjoy a drink with your friends on the weekend, but making having a drink or two a daily habit will. Not support your ultimate health goals. It is important to remember that one of the main Paleo premises is, the fewer processed foods (and yes, alcohol is processed) you can put in your body, the better.
When navigating your personal decisions around alcohol, I recommend choosing, and forgetting about it! There is no right or wrong way to choose a drink – of course there are better options, but they are still that, options. Alcohol consumption is a much deeper topic than its physiological effects on your body. It becomes about how you connect with other humans, a question of digesting your daily emotions and a question of your ability to deal with stress.
Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com