Craving a beverage but not sure what you can drink? Let’s get to the bottom of what’s paleo and what isn’t.
One of the first things that many of us turn to in the morning is a steaming hot cup of coffee. It’s warm, smells great, tastes even better, and, best of all, gives you that little jolt of energy you need to get your day going. Maybe you take it with cream and sugar, or maybe you prefer it black. If you’re new to this style of eating and still feel a bit confused about what’s allowed and what isn’t, don’t fret — your morning cup of coffee is likely A-okay.
But there’s also drinks like soda, water, tea, dairy, and the one that most of us have a love-hate relationship with: alcohol. How do you know what’s paleo and what’s not? We’re going to give you the run-down on which drinks are approved, and which ones you should steer clear of.
Let’s start with the not-so-good.
1. Not paleo-friendly:
Sugar sweetened drinks
Any beverages with added sugar are a definite no-go on the paleo diet. This includes sodas, energy drinks, fruit juices, and any other sugar-laden drinks that happen to be lurking on shelves or in vending machines.
Wondering why? Excess sugar consumption has been linked to many health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and inflammation. Despite being a natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables, fructose may increase blood pressure and promote fat storage.
Artificially sweetened drinks, or anything with artificial colourings, added flavours, or preservatives
Diet or regular — which is the better choice? The food industry likes to make us believe the diet sodas are a ‘healthier’ choice than regular ones. While there is some truth to this, diet soda really isn’t a better alternative. Artificially sweetened drinks have been associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and have been shown to interfere with gut bacteria — one of the key components of a healthy body.
So when you’re given the choice between a diet soda and a regular, passing up both is the smartest choice. But more companies are introducing drinks with no artificial sweeteners. Instead, they’re sweetened with stevia, xylitol, or erythritol — natural sweeteners that are paleo-approved and safe for your consumption.
There’s often a lot of confusion about whether dairy is paleo-friendly or not — and frankly, it’s a bit of a grey area. Technically, dairy is not paleo. Most people don’t tolerate lactose well and should therefore avoid consumption of it. In addition, conventional dairy products often contain hormones and antibiotics that can end up wreaking havoc on the bodies. They’re also in high in carbs and insulin-promoting.
But there’s one dairy product that most paleo-followers do consume: grass-fed butter or ghee (clarified butter). With high saturated fat content and low levels of lactose, both are good choices on the paleo diet.
2. Sometimes paleo-friendly:
With coconut water containing decent amounts of natural sugars, you’d think it would be off limits. But not so fast — it also contains a number of beneficial nutrients, namely electrolytes. Potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphate, and calcium are all key to body functions, like fluid balance, nerve conductivity, and muscular impulses. Coconut water has also been touted as a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
While we’re telling you it’s paleo-approved and safe for you to consume, don’t go overboard. The sugar content adds up, so keep it to just one drink to enjoy in moderation.
Alcohol is one category that most people like to pretend isn’t part of a ‘diet,’ and it’s perhaps the greyest of all grey areas. It’s well known that excess alcohol consumption is never a good idea, whether you’re following a paleo lifestyle or not. But is it okay to consume every now and again? Long story short, alcohol isn’t really paleo-friendly.
One of the key advantages to following a paleo diet is removing processed foods and toxins from the body. Unfortunately, alcohol falls into both categories. But among beer, wine, spirits, and hard cider, wine and cider are the ‘best of the worst.’
Why is this? Wine contains some beneficial compounds — tannins and antioxidants — that make it okay to consume in moderation. Cider, on the other hand, is a naturally gluten-free fermented beverage made from apples or pears. Be sure to check labels, though, as some ciders do contain gluten and/or preservatives.
Also, be careful with alcohol consumption if you have a history of gut issues, as even small amounts tend to exacerbate them.
Fresh-pressed fruit and vegetable juices
The claim to fame of fresh-pressed juices is that they’re chocked full of nutrients. Though this is true, you can get the same benefits from eating the foods themselves. If you’re going to consume fresh-pressed juice, avoid anything that’s high in sugar, even if it’s natural. Also, look for juices that contain the pulp. While it may not seem appetizing to drink, pulp is where all the fibre is.
Drinks containing natural sweeteners (xylitol, stevia, erythritol, monk fruit)
Naturally derived sweeteners are generally paleo-friendly, but can cause gastrointestinal disruptions (gas and bloating) in some people. Stevia is 100% natural, derived from dried stevia leaves, and is absolutely okay to consume on the paleo diet. Sugar alcohols, which are found in xylitol, erythritol, and monk fruit, are acceptable to consume in moderation. Of course, if you don’t tolerate them well, it’s best to avoid them altogether.
We’ve finally gotten to the category that you’re waiting for — the drinks you can consume until your heart is content. Kind of.
Tea has been a beverage of choice in many cultures for centuries, so why stop now? All types of tea are definitely paleo-approved. Green, black, oolong, rooibos — you name it. While most tea boasts some health benefits, the majority of studies have been done on green and black teas, which are high in antioxidants and compounds that help to burn fat.
To stay paleo, make sure you’re consuming unsweetened teas. But on the off chance your sweet tooth is raging, try adding just a touch of stevia.
Coffee: the long-standing do or don’t. Coffee in and of itself is paleo. What generally puts it on the ‘don’t’ list is additives like cream, milk, sugar, and honey — all things that push coffee into the danger zone.
If you love a nice hot cup of coffee to get your day started, you can keep your routine. But if you tend to add dairy to it, try switching it up for paleo-approved non-dairy options like nut milks, coconut milk, or even coconut cream to get that rich, creamy taste we all love. Need a hint of sweetness? Add a little stevia or monk fruit instead of processed white sugar.
Be mindful of when you consume your coffee and how much you’re drinking per day. Coffee spikes cortisol, our stress hormone, which not only disrupts certain body functions, but also disrupts our sleep.
Kombucha, or other fermented non-dairy beverages
Fermented beverages seem to be all the rage right now. You’ve probably heard that fermentation = probiotics, and probiotics are needed to keep our guts happy. Fermented drinks like kombucha are definitely paleo-approved because they provide our body with the probiotics we need to keep the GI system functioning optimally.
With that said, be careful about how frequently you consume these drinks. While all of them contain some added sugar to feed the fermentation process, certain brands contain more than others. It’s okay to drink kombucha occasionally, but be sure to moderate your consumption.
Last, but definitely not least, we arrive at water. Spring, filtered, seltzer, flat, mineral — whatever type you prefer, drink up. Every cell in the body needs water, and it’s used for almost every body function you can think of. Need we say more?
There you have it, folks — the drinks that are paleo-friendly, sometimes-paleo, and not so much. We know that starting a new diet and lifestyle can be hard and sometimes confusing, but knowing what you can drink shouldn’t have to be.
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