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Is There Such a Thing as Paleo Alcohol?

The short answer is, not really.

If your goals include weight loss or dealing with serious health concerns. I would not recommend alcohol consumption at all. For many people though, Paleo is not simply something you do to get where you want to be, it is a lifestyle! You want to be able to socialize and have a few drinks without ruining your diet or lying in bed all weekend with a hangover. With this in mind, you may not want to totally abstain from having a beverage here and there and you may as well make the best choices that you can with your alcohol selection.

With the 4th of July Celebrations upon us, I wanted to go over your best (and worst) choices if you choose to celebrate with a drink and give you a few recipes for some Paleo friendlier cocktails that you can both enjoy and feel good about.

A side note: In theory, distillation should rid the liquors of any gluten, but many who are particularly sensitive do complain of reactions when consuming certain distilled alcohols made from grains.  Tests confirm that some distilled spirits still have traces of gluten. This may not be due not to the process of distillation, but the facility practices and the possibility of cross contamination as well as the possibility of additional ingredients added after distillation and their relative manufacturing process. I would recommend avoid alcohols distilled from gluten grains.

Red Wine

Red wine is possibly the best recommendation for those who want to drink, while maintaining a Paleo lifestyle. It can be found organic, from sustainable farms that promote local economy. And, in moderation, is good for your heart, and has antioxidants like resveratrol. This is the healthiest drink on this list.

White Wine

When white wine is manufactured, the skin of the grape is removed which changes the color and taste along with the resveratrol. White wine does still contain antioxidants, but not as much 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.

Brandy & Cognac

Both are made by distilling wines from grapes, or other fruits. There are many different varieties. Cognac is a variety of brandy. It must meet requirements including the type of grape (ugni blanc), it must be 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.

Tequila

Tequila is made from the agave plant and, as with all suggestions here, is processed. Stick to 100% agave. Other options may have only 51% plant with the remainder being all sugar.

Vodka

Vodka is primarily made from distilling grains or potatoes and sometimes fruits and/or sugar. It is best to source those products distilled from potatoes or fruits like grapes or sugarcane.

Rum

Rum can be made from the distillation of fermented sugarcane juice or sugarcane by-products like molasses. Ideally you will want to choose the sugarcane juice version. Dark rum is dark because it is aged in charred oak barrels, while white in steel drums – this is not indicative of ingredients.

Cachaça

Cachaça is often confused with rum, but unlike rum, 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, making it the optimal choice when available.

Whiskey, Scotch & Bourbon

Whiskey is made from the distillation of fermented grain mash. This can include barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat and corn. The multiple distillation may not effectively rid this liquor of grains and gluten, and if you are concerned about reactions and sensitivities, avoid this beverage.

Scotch, a type of whiskey, was originally made from malt barley (grain), but now is made with wheat and rye as well. Single malt or blended makes no difference to the primary ingredient – grains and again, this alcohol is best avoided.

Bourbon is a whiskey that is made primarily of distilled corn, but also wheat, rye and malted barley and the same advice applies.

Gin

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, avoid gin if you are concerned with allergic reactions or sensitivities.

Sake

Sake is a rice wine that is served often in Japanese sushi houses. although it is mostly gluten free ( some brands add barley, which is not gluten free), it is not made from Paleo ingredients and should be avoided if you want to be strictly Paleo. If you are simply looking for a gluten free beverage, this would do. Drink very sparingly.

Beer

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 avoided on a Paleo diet and thus, so are traditional beers. Sorghum is a grain, but is gluten free, similar to rice. Sorghum beer is a better option, but still not strictly Paleo. For the best selections in this category, try to stick cider beers, but if you looking for a gluten free alternative, sorghum will suffice.

Key Take-Aways

  • 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

When Choosing To Drink

  1. Skip the mixers. Use lemon and lime instead.
  2. Eat a healthy meal before you go out or your party begins. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar levels to spike so be sure to avoid drinking on an empty stomach to lessen the absorption of alcohol.
  3. When you know you will be drinking, eat lean proteins and non - starchy veg that day to reduce overall fat intake for that day
  4. Bring a snack with you. It may not sound particularly exciting to be bringing beef jerky or nuts with you but this will ensure you are less likely to be craving a take-out at 1am. Your wallet and waist line will thank you the next morning!
  5. Have a water for every other drink. The main reason here is that by keeping your body hydrated you will be lessening the hangover the next day. Also, drinking water will reduce your consumption of alcohol.
  6. Try not to mix drinks. Mixing drinks only gives your liver extra work to do.

Paleo Friendly Mixers

  • Citrus juices including lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit
  • Herbs like ginger, basil and mint
  • Water, ice cubes, club soda, coconut milk
  • Coffee
  • Fruits including pear, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranate andkiwi
  • Vegetables like cucumber, jalapenos and avocado

Cocktail Concoctions

(In order of paleo-friendliness)

Nor-Cal Margarita

  • 1-2 ounces of tequila (something better than bottom shelf)
  • Juice and pulp of 1/2 lime
  • Top off with club soda to taste 

*Optional – add smashed cranberries and make this a Nor-Shore Margarita

Vodka & Club Soda

  • 1-2 ounces of vodka
  • Top off with club soda

*Add some smashed cranberries for a little extra pizzaz

Screwdriver

  • 1-2 ounces of vodka
  • Squeeze the juice from one orange

Gin Rickey

  • 2 ounces of gin
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Club soda
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Rum & Coconut Water

  • 1-2 ounces of Rum (light or dark, but not spiced)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Top off with coconut water (beware of sweetened varieties)

For something extra celebratory this Independance day:

The Red, White & Blue

This July 4th, celebrate your family and friends and choose your. Beverages wisely. You can still enjoy a Paleo lifestyle with a few mindful indulgences!


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

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