The Complete Paleo Guide to Alcohol

As a Paleo follower, you might wonder about alcohol’s place in this primal diet. While strict adherence suggests avoiding alcohol, a flexible approach allows for occasional drinks. But which ones are compatible? In our Paleo Guide to Alcohol, we’ll attempt to provide a clear answer to that! For example, beer is off-limits due to its grain content, while wine may have its place. Join us to explore which alcohol options are best suited for the Paleo diet.

Specific topics covered include:

  • The surprising genetic mutation that enabled our ancestors to start metabolizing alcohol.
  • Why does grain-based beer conflict with Paleo guidelines, even in gluten-free versions?
  • How do red wine’s nutrients and lower sugar profile earn it a spot as one of the best options?

When Did Humans Start Drinking Alcohol?

Humans have enjoyed alcoholic drinks for ages, longer than we may realize. Archaeological evidence reveals our complex love of liquor dates back over 8,000 years.

In Georgia, traces of the world’s oldest wine were recently uncovered in pottery shards, clocking in at circa 6,000 BC. A fermented ancient cocktail of rice and grapes in China predates even that at 7,000 BC.

So, while we often associate beer, wine, and spirits with relatively modern innovations, they’ve actually been part of human culture for thousands of years. Our enjoyment of alcohol has been recorded throughout much of ancient history.

Drinking alcohol

The Evolutionary Roots of Human Alcohol Metabolism

Over 10 million years ago, an ancestral genetic mutation enabled primates to metabolize alcohol. This change in the ADH4 enzyme was crucial for processing alcohol.

As African forests fragmented and grasslands expanded, primates transitioned more to ground-dwelling life. Here, they likely encountered increased fallen, fermenting fruit containing trace ethanol.

This ancestral ADH4 enzyme is still present in modern humans and gorillas. We further adapted more duplicate alcohol dehydrogenase genes over time to refine the art of alcohol digestion.

Why Beer Gets the Boot on Paleo

Beer lovers, brace yourselves…this bubbly brew gets the big boot from Paleo life. Being grain-based, beer conflicts with this ancestral eating plan. And even sneaky gluten-removed versions still don’t make the cut due to other unhealthy factors.

Most beer contains gluten because of its traditional barley and wheat grains—a no-go for grain-free Paleo followers. And while innovative brewers are gluten-stripping some beers, they still use grains and tricky proteins that can inflame digestive health.

Beyond gluten, beer’s high carb and calorie counts can easily mess up your waistline goals. At over 150 calories per bottle, those brews add up fast! Plus, alcohol can increase your appetite and stop your body from burning fat. So, if you’re watching your weight, beer’s a risky bet.

Red Wine Gets the Green Light

While no alcohol passes strict Paleo protocol, dry red wine earns an exception by many in the category of “less bad.” It has antioxidants and fewer carbs than other alcoholic drinks. So, having a glass of red wine now and then might fit well in a Paleo lifestyle.

Among vinos, drier red varietals like Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Merlot win favor over sweet sippers packing more sugar. Red wine also has beneficial plant compounds like resveratrol that support health and longevity when consumed moderately.

Try organic and sulfite-free red wines whenever possible, as these align most closely with Paleo’s principles. More natural production methods result in less processing and purer products.

And while red wine technically remains excluded from true Paleo parameters, its redeeming qualities land it on the “approved in moderation” list for many Paleo devotees.

Why Red Wine Edges Out Beer

Wine enthusiasts rejoice! When it comes to better-for-you happy hour choices, red wine is better than beer in a few ways. With fewer calories and carbs, plus health-boosting compounds, dry wines, especially red, are the ones you might want to go for.

A standard 5 oz pour of red wine is around 125 calories, undercutting beer’s typical 150+ per 12 oz bottle. Red wine also wins on carbs. And bonus: it contains antioxidants like resveratrol and flavonoids that beer simply can’t claim.

Multiple studies give red wine the edge for supporting cardiovascular health compared to other booze options.

Beyond heart benefits, red wine’s lower acidity makes it less likely to erode tooth enamel over time than tooth-staining white wine or beer.

The Complete Paleo Guide to Alcohol

Top Paleo Wine Picks

Searching for the best Paleo-aligned wines? Several standout brands bottle up organic, low-sugar sippers to suit the Paleo diet. We have named some of them on this Paleo guide to alcohol.

Dry Farm Wines have sugar-free, biodynamic, and organic options sourced straight from small family farms. Their collection of paleo-friendly wines cuts out additives like sulfites, aligning better with Paleo principles.

Frey Vineyards takes the organic route, too, producing certified wines without added sulfites.

Red, white, and blush varieties give you choices. While Bonterra mixes biodynamic farming into its organic, gluten-free, and vegan-friendly winemaking.

The Wonderful Wine Company also makes organic and low sugar/carb cut for their Paleo-approved lineup.

Practical Tips for Healthier Alcohol Consumption

Follow these tips to maintain responsible alcohol consumption:

  1. First, set reasonable limits. No more than 1 drink daily for women and 2 for men max.
  2. Always eat before and while sipping. Food slows absorption, preventing intoxication.
  3. Alternate each cocktail with a glass of water to stay balanced and avoid dehydration.
  4. Pace yourself at no more than 1 drink per hour and set a limit before you start drinking.
  5. And steer clear of sketchy drinking behaviors like “pre-gaming” on an empty stomach.

What Are Some Healthy Paleo Food Options To Pair With Alcohol

Lean Proteins And Bold Reds

Grilled steak, chicken, salmon, or wild game meats make excellent pairings for full-bodied red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir. The bold flavors complement each other beautifully. Go for simple preparations like herb rubs or lemon pepper to let the ingredients shine.

Veggies And Crisp Whites

Non-starchy veggies like Brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, and cauliflower perfectly accompany crisp white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc. Roast or sauté these vegetables lightly to complement whites’ zesty minerality. Sparkling wines also pair nicely.

Protein-Packed Salads And Light Reds

Fresh salads topped with leafy greens, veggies, nuts, seeds, and proteins like chicken or shrimp make light and fresh pairings for lighter reds like Pinot Noir or whites like Sauvignon Blanc. The greens’ herbal notes interplay nicely with the wine’s fruitiness.

Fruit Garnishes for Cocktails

Vodka, gin, tequila, and rum cocktails pop with fresh fruit garnishes. Berries, citrus slices, apples, pears, and more add natural sweetness and flavor minus added sugars. Let the fruit shine by avoiding overly complicated infusions or mixes.

Off-Limits Alcoholic Drinks on Paleo

Some drinks fit well with the Paleo way, but others don’t. In this Paleo guide to alcohol, let’s explore which ones are a no-go. 

  • Beer: All beer is off Paleo limits since it contains gluten from grains like wheat and barley. Even “gluten-removed” labels still use prohibited grains.
  • Grain-Based Spirits: Many popular spirits like vodka, gin, whiskey, and bourbon use grains in their production, creating gluten cross-contamination. Stick to transparent, gluten-free liquors.
  • Sweet & Dessert Wines: High sugar levels in sweet and dessert wines can spike blood sugar, so avoid these.
  • Sugary Cocktails & Mixers: Skip sugar-spiked liqueurs, canned cocktails, and sweet fruit juice mixers. These flood your system with empty calories and added sugars that promote inflammation and weight gain.

Concluding Thoughts: What’s The Best Paleo Alcoholic Beverage?

To wrap up our Paleo guide to alcohol, some Paleo followers take a restrictive stance since no adult beverages perfectly fit this diet. But based on their redeeming qualities, a few stands as “less bad” options to enjoy in moderation.

  • Dry Red & White Wines: Organic and sulfite-free paleo-friendly wine options, including both red and white varietals like Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay make the cut.
  • Clear Spirits: Gluten-free liquors like 100% agave tequila and mezcal, vodka from grapes or potatoes, gin from juniper, and rum from sugar cane offer leeway. Just avoid added flavors and sweeteners.
  • Hard Cider & Mead: Fermented apple cider and honey-based mead also get the green light. Their simplicity and short ingredient list sync with Paleo’s whole food philosophy.

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The Complete Paleo Guide to Alcohol

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