With the festive season approaching the subject of alcohol becomes more prominent than it does at any other time of the year. With Christmas parties on the horizon, either through work or with friends and family, or indeed both, it is likely that you will be considering having a few drinks over Christmas. But how does this sit within a Paleo lifestyle?
Many of the Paleo foods that come into question often turn out to be those that are considered healthy in moderation. A case of choosing between the lesser of two evils, such foods are either benign or those that can both harm and heal; often with an element of helping to maintain our emotional balance in terms of providing enjoyment.
Alcohol is a prime example of this. Health studies concerning alcohol, from whichever point of view you are looking from, show mixed results and as with many things reveal a good side and a bad. One that suggests a moderate approach could be the way forward.
Whether to consume alcohol, how much, and what type, is a very personal choice. You may belong in the camp that feels alcohol is nothing short of a toxin, and has no place within your life. If you feel that way, then any other points such as whether it contains gluten or not are fairly redundant. Another school of thought is that a little bit of what you fancy does you good but that some choices are more harmful than others. If this is you, then you may enjoy the odd tipple but try to make decisions as to what to consume based in line with guidance such as the damage gluten can cause, or the impact of excess sugar.
I personally place alcohol into the “consume within moderation” category. I still consume alcohol but I am much more aware about what I drink and how much I choose to consume. I find that saving alcohol as an occasional treat, usually over a good dinner with good company, I actually appreciate and enjoy it a lot more than if I was having it on a more regular basis.
Whatever your point of view, here are the ins and outs of Paleo alcohol consumption.
To begin with moderation is key. Perhaps a little more moderation than your average “moderate” drinker may take. Little and not very often just about sums it up. If you drink to excess every single day and experience all the attendant problems of the constant drinker, then it matters little if what you imbibe contains gluten, sugar, or anything else.
Then it is about what you drink. Mixing your drinks, by which I mean several types of alcohol not a vodka and lime, has quite frankly never been a good idea. Anyone who has ever woken up on a strange carpet with the hangover from hell will know exactly where I am coming from. Pick your poison and stick to it.
Eliminate everything that you would during the course of your average Paleo day. That’s beer (gluten), liqueurs (sugar, colour), alcopops (more sugar and colour), and most mixers (yet more sugar).
What does that leave you with? Quite a lot actually.
Wine, red wine in particular is the number one choice. It comes from grape, not grain, and contains many antioxidant compounds. Officially good for you then.
Next, comes tequila. Again it comes from a fleshy plant part as oppose to a grain and has none of the other nasties. In short, it is a pretty pure product. But it also has a fairly distinctive flavour that not everyone can get along with so then you need to look further afield.
Next down the list are the spirits. Granted, many of them are made from grain, but the distilling process removes all of the protein particles that can do you damage. Rum, vodka and whiskey are all considered reasonably Paleo choices but watch your consumption as they are pretty high in alcohol.
When drinking spirits, especially over the course of a night, you may want to mix them to dilute and make them last longer. There are plenty of Paleo choices, and you can have really great fun with Paleo cocktails as long as you stick to the natural choices.
Choose freshly squeezed juice or smoothies; even top them up with soda water to make them fizz and keep the sugar intake lower. Make sure you keep an eye out for my cocktail recipe coming up later this week which creates a delicious vodka based cocktail with fresh juices and mint.
Cucumber makes a lovely refreshing mixer for vodka; add ice cubes and mint.
Vodka is on the menu so how about a freshly squeezed bloody Mary with freshly grated horseradish.
Don’t forget coffee; it is an excellent mixer for cocktails, hot or cold. Many cocktails, especially coffee ones, have a sugar cube muddled in with the alcohol. If you really need a sweetener, then add a little coconut sugar.
Add a little zing with herbs and spices. Again an excellent addition for making some really interesting Paleo cocktails. Fresh mint, basil, lemongrass as a swizzle stick, even coriander all work well. Grated ginger will add a fiery spark and the drink does not need to be warm; just think of all the botanicals in gin.
The important thing to remember is that you need to do what is right for you. Keep things in moderation, but with the upcoming festive season you may want to indulge more than you usually would. Make informed choices based on your Paleo principles and have fun.
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