Despite of what many online articles on the topic of paleo alcohol say, I have a basis to believe that our ancient predecessors did enjoy some buzz on occasion. According to mighty Wikipedia , discoveries of some late Stone Age jugs suggest that alcohol as a beverage could be tracing its origins to as early as the Neolithic period (10,000 BC). At the very least, it is a proven fact that the ancient pottery jars dated 7000-5600 BC revealed traces of alcoholic beverages they had once contained. Now, of course I am not talking here about neolithic folks getting wasted on vodka, but the chemical analysis of the residue established that a fermented drink made of grape and hawthorn fruit wine, honey mead and rice beer was being produced in 7000–5600 BC (McGovern et al., 2005; McGovern 2009).
Modern science has proven that moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial for the cardio vascular system and that certain types of alcohol have nutrient compounds that present numerous benefits. Having said that, not all types of alcohol have equally beneficial qualities. Without further ado I present you my list of 5 alcohol varieties graded from worst to best from the paleo perspective.
5. Absolutely worst – Coolers and Mixed Cocktails
Coolers, martinis, mixed cocktail drinks are absolutely the worst type of alcohol to consumer while on paleo diet. These are sugar bombs full of artificial sweeteners, colorings and chemicals that contain almost nothing that is good for you and almost everything that is bad for you. Not only they are non-paleo beverages but are also extremely harmful for your liver, stomach and esophagus. If increased blood sugar and stomach upset is what you are looking for, then indulge. Otherwise, stay away from these empty calories at all cost.
4. Bad – Beer
Beer is probably the most popular alcoholic beverage out there. North American culture is beer culture no doubt, and for many, beer has become water and is not even looked at as alcohol anymore. It has become a cultural staple – a must-have at BBQs, sports events, concerts and a constantly re-stackable fridge item at home. So how does beer perform from the paleo point of view? Aside from minimal nutritional value, beer is made mostly from wheat or barley and therefore contains gluten – which is #1 enemy if you’re on paleo. So to drink beer means to consume considerable amounts of gluten that we are so trying to avoid. If you absolutely cannot imagine your life without an occasional beer, opt for a gluten-free low carb variety.
3. Ok – White Wine and Hard Cider
Right in the middle of the spectrum, I place white wine and hard cider. Both have considerable amounts of antioxidants (especially hard cider) and relatively low negative impacts. I am particularly a fan of hard apple ciders of dry varieties. They contain less sugar, tones of antioxidants and also have benefits for the digestive system. I’ve been suffering from acid reflux for years and I find that apple cider vinegar and hard apple ciders do a good job balancing acid.
2. Good – Spirits
Spirits come in two general categories: unflavored spirits like vodka, rum and gin and aged spirits such as bourbon, whiskey and cognac. While the former variety is relatively neutral (zero carbs but zero nutrition as well), the latter category is actually beneficial as it contains natural phenol known as ellagic acid. This acid has been scientifically proven to prevent common cancer causes and lowering the body’s oxidation process.
1. Best – Red Wine
And the winner of the paleo alcohol contest is dry red wine. Why? Because it is relatively low in calories and rich in polyphenol and resveratrol – types of antioxidant that have been proven to have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, cancer and heart disease fighting properties. With only 5 grams of sugar per glass and no gluten content, red wine is definitely at the top of the list of paleo-friendly alcoholic beverages.
For ease of comparison, I put together a table listing nutrition information among various types of alcohol:
|Low calorie beer||12 oz||95-110||3-7 grams|
|Regular beer||12 oz||145||11 grams|
|Dry Red Wine||5 oz||100-120||5 grams|
|Dry White wine||5 oz||Under 90||3 grams|
|Vodka||1.5 oz||100-125||0 grams|
|Whisky||1.5 oz||100-125||0.03 grams|
|Pina Colada||4 oz||230||28 grams|
|Hard Cider (Dry)||12 oz||140||9 grams|
|Smirnoff Ice||12 oz||228||32 grams|
|Liqueurs (Kahlua, Baileys etc)||1.5 oz||100-150||10-25 grams|
Remember – whatever alcohol you decide to consume – it’s not paleo if it’s not enjoyed in moderation a.k.a on occasion and in small doses.
Now that I have outlined the hierarchy of paleo alcoholic beverages as I see it and as my research is demonstrating, tell me what’s your paleo beverage of choice and why?