Choose Your Booze: A Guide to Healthy Drinking

It’s the question every Primal adherent faces: how does alcohol fit into a low carb lifestyle? Maybe you’re out with friends, bravely resisting the assorted chips and fried concoctions in the center of the table. You don’t mind waiting patiently for the steak and salad you conscientiously selected, but must you be relegated to the likes of club soda and tap water? What would happen exactly if you ordered, well, a “drink-drink”? A nice glass of red wine perhaps? Hmmm…maybe that’s too much to ask at a place where onion blooms are a specialty…. A mixed drink? You begin reminiscing about those great sidecars your best friendused to make. Maybe a shot? That’s simple enough, isn’t it? How about those memories? Well, maybe we’ll fast forward through those recollections. Beer? Beer belly. What about a light beer? They’re low in carbs, right? Whatever the case, you presume there’s no Guinness in your future tonight. Or? Sigh. Now you really need something. What’s a Primal type to do when it comes to a simple social drink?

Indeed, there are some legitimate scientific reasons to enjoy alcohol in moderation. Alcohol as a blood thinner enhances vascular health, and the phenolic content (potent antioxidants) can pack a healthy punch. Research has compared alcohol abstention with moderate and “heavy” drinking. Moderate alcohol consumption appears (PDF) to lower the incidence of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, total and ischaemic stroke, as well as result in an overall reduction in mortality. And it seems older folks have the most to gain. Not only do they appear to benefit the most from a vascular health standpoint, research has linked moderate drinking in those over 65 with superior cognitive and memory function. It has also been linked to higher bone density in postmenopausal women. (There are still cautions, however, for those with a history or high risk of breast cancer or haemorrhagic stroke.)

Although we can likely obtain the same vascular benefits from fish oil and a low carb, high antioxidant diet (and through supplementation), there’s nothing wrong (and perhaps something to be gained) with the occasional drink, provided you’re someone who tolerates alcohol well. Not everyone does, and there’s nothing wrong with that. With that said…

When it comes to alcohol itself, there’s no reason a low-carber can’t indulge. Alcohol isn’t metabolized as a carbohydrate product, and it doesn’t send your blood sugar shooting upward. (It might actually lower it.) The body sends alcohol to the liver where it becomes first in line as an active energy source rather than stored glycogen. As long as you aren’t looking to lose weight, a modest drink here or there shouldn’t make much of a difference. If you’re looking to lose weight, however, we’d suggest avoiding alcohol all together. Alcohol doesn’t offer anything you can’t gain from a healthy Primal Blueprint diet, and you won’t have extra calories standing in the way of fat burning.

At the heart of the alcohol question, however, is a principle we often invoke: wise selectivity. In other words, not all drinks are created equal. Number junkies can check out the USDA’s breakdown of alcoholic beverages and brands (PDF) or scan a quick snapshot poster (PDF) put together by the Consumer Federation of American some years ago. It highlights several of the highest selling varieties and gives both calories and carb counts.

For our part, however, we thought we’d serve up our own PB-inspired alcohol hierarchy to assist you in the art of Primal indulgence.

Top Shelf

Red Wine

We’re not talking specially colored labels or price tags here of course. We mean the biggest health benefit with the fewest carbs and additives. The pinnacle, not surprisingly, is red wine. Research has supported time and again the impressive polyphenol power of red wine.

Another bonus with red? Resveratrol – that super antioxidant, able to combat cancer and reduce signs of aging, among other feats.

Any red (other than port) offers high antioxidant power with somewhere around 3-5 grams of carbs, however differences exist even in this top tier of Primal imbibing. Research has demonstrated that organic red wine boasts higher antioxidant and resveratrol content as well as lower OTA mycotoxin contamination (a common red wine contaminant defined by the European Scientific Committee for Food as “having carcinogenic, nephrotoxic, teratogenic, immunotoxic, and probably neurotoxic effects.”).

The same research showed that basic table wine had less antioxidant power than Controlled Denomination of Origin brands. In terms of USDA ORAC value research (PDF), Cabernet trumped red table varieties (5034 versus 3873 units per 100 grams), but red in general trumped white. Go for richer, higher quality reds, and seek out organic if you can.

Respectable Middling Choices

Wood Aged Spirits (particularly Whiskey, Brandy, Scotch and Cognac)

An underappreciated class, we’d say. Unflavored distilled spirits in general are a low-carbers dream. What could be better than zero carbs? Well, how about zero carbs with a kick of antioxidants? Research has found impressive antioxidant activity in Bourbon whiskey, Armagnac brandy and cognac.

In fact, whiskey contains more ellagic acid, a free radical fighter, than red wine. Wood aging, researchers believe, confer the benefits of high phenol and furan concentration.

The research has been less clear about the health benefits of other wood aged spirits, including dark rum and 100% agave tequila. Although agave itself has been linked with cancer-fighting properties, it’s disputed whether these properties are fully present or potent in the tequila form. Furthermore, one small study found that a daily serving of tequila during a 30-day period decreased insulin sensitivity.

Berry Daiquiri (Primal Style)

Surprise! What do you get when you add alcohol to berries? Try a thirty percent hike in antioxidant activity!Researchers stumbled upon the finding while trying to find alternative means of preserving fruit. Note: they happened to use strawberries and blackberries. For a true Primal version, skip the sugar and syrup, and go easy on the lemon/lime juice. Add crushed ice to the pureed berries and liquor, and you’ve got yourself a respectably healthy dessert drink. (For an even bigger boost, make brandied berries.)

White Wines

Sure, red wines generally contain about five to ten times more phenols than white wines. And as for resveratrol? Nada. If you’re a diehard white wine lover, don’t sweat the occasional glass. You’ll still enjoy a healthful dose of antioxidants for around 3-5 grams of carbs.

Light Beers

Beer, like wine, offers polyphenol power. According to research, beer seems to hold its own with white wine in terms of antioxidant activity. As for carb content, light beers vary generally between 3-6 grams (although a few like Michelob are more than 11) and contain around 90-100 calories.

Bottom Shelf to Bottom of the Barrel

Other Spirits (Vodka, Gin, Clear Rum)

As mentioned, unflavored spirits don’t come with carbs, and the alcohol content itself can boost vascular health. Nonetheless, these varieties don’t offer much in the way of antioxidant benefit either.

Hard Cider

Hard cider offers an impressive and healthy antioxidant boost, but the carbs typically measure around 15 grams per glass. As good as hard cider is, we’d suggest skipping the Strongbow and eating a heftier salad.

Regular Beer

As mentioned, beer offers an antioxidant boost, but at 10-15 grams of carbs we think there are better choices to be had. (And, by the way, the basic Guinness variety falls into this category. The calorie and carb count for beer can often be deceiving. Darker and heavier doesn’t always equate to more calories and carbs, and vice versa. It might be worth looking up if you aren’t sure.)

Creamy/Dark/Stout or Rich Microbrew Beer

We know it’s tasty (especially a good microbrew), but those 15-25 grams of carbs just aren’t worth it.

Sugar Swill

All right – this is admittedly the fun one, but did anyone really expect us to promote the likes of Jello shots and mudslides? Let’s see what else we can add here: hard lemonade, packaged or otherwise sweetened hard liquor drinks like Smirnoff Ice, Fuzzy Navels, etc. (This is reading like a bad Spring Break story.) And then there are the cordials. And the liqueurs: Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Irish cream drinks, Kahlua (sorry Lebowski fans), Frangelico. You could be looking at at least 15 grams all the way up to a whopping 40-some grams of added sugar. (No wonder The Dude spent so much time in that wrap around robe.) Add to that American schnapps varieties. (The Germans, Czechs and others do true schnapps without added sugar.) Finally, keep your distance from any packaged mixers. The labels say it all: high fructose corn syrup, colorants and all manner of preservatives and stabilizers. (Now there’s a recipe for a hangover….)

A word about mixers…

You know to skip the 7Up, Coke, etc., but even much beloved tonic water sets you back nearly 90 calories. Keep it simple, and drink straight up. If you need water, go for a light tasting mineral water, seltzer or club soda.

However Primally compatible any beverage might be, we don’t intend this as an endorsement to drink on a regular basis. As mentioned, a good diet can offer the same nutritional benefits and then some. You aren’t missing out if you choose to abstain, and we’d recommend it, in fact, if you’re in weight loss mode. For an otherwise healthy individual, red wine or – more occasionally – other low carb drink choices can certainly fit into the Primal 80/20 principle. It’s ultimately about making an educated choice among the many options and then being perceptive to your body’s response. It’s that good old Primal lens at work. For all of you who have been looking for an excuse to enjoy, bottom’s up!

We’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions. Have questions or want to share how alcohol fits into your Primal practice? If you enjoy the occasional libation what do you usually reach for and why? Thanks for reading.

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198 thoughts on “Choose Your Booze: A Guide to Healthy Drinking”

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  1. We know it’s tasty (especially a good microbrew), but those 15-25 grams of carbs just aren’t worth it.

    We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one Mark. If I’m drinking a beer, it’s going to be some thing I really enjoy and that means some thing dark and microbrewed. I’m pretty sure doing this a couple of times of month isn’t going to derail me to much.

    1. Sure, one_eye_mike. I hear you. It’s all about individual choices, and even I will go for the occasional microbrew time and again. Generally speaking though I try to avoid them.

      1. Hi Mark,

        Just got your book…loving it so far! I was under the impression that a high quality ale such as one that is organic and unfiltered has a much higher nutritional value (range of b vitamins, etc.) and is better for heart health than even red wine. Anti-aging doctors such as Dr. Al Sears, Dr. William Douglass, and others have stated this in their writings. Are carbs the only real concern with occasionally imbibing? Also, I have a preference for Scrumpy’s Organic Hard Cider (purely fermented apples with nothing added). It doesn’t have a sweet taste. Wouldn’t the fermentation process eat up a lot of the sugars/carbs? Thanks for any advice.

    2. Try one a day… I’m still losing weight and wind down well with my daily treat. I definitely agree, that last category or it’s just natty-ice and a game cube(ref-derrick comedy).

      1. There is still hope for the microbrew drinker!

        Thanks for this post

    3. I’m with you, one-eye-mike. If it’s not a micro brewed porter, stout or sour, it’s not worth drinking at all.

      “Light beer?” Please! That is an oxymoron.

      1. FYI on Guiness. Just found this on chowhound:

        Guinness is brewed in fifty-one countries and the carbohydrate count for this product varies from an anecdotal 5.20 grams of carbohydrates per 12-ounce serving (from Stout by Michael J. Lewis; Brewers Publications, 1995), up to a documented 17 grams or so, depending on where it’s brewed.

        The home office for Guinness (Diageo) says a 12-ounce serving comes in at 10 carbs and 125 calories. The Guinness in Australia, however, hits the high end, though with no understanding as to why. A recent check was just done with the Lion-Nathan Brewery for their version of Guinness Draught for New Zealand—5.50 carbs in a 12-ounce serving. In Nigeria, Africa, where three Guinness breweries are located, local grains such as maize and sorghum are used in the dark brew. Analyses of Guinness Stout done in 1995 and 1998 at the lab services division of the Siebel Institute of Technology, puts the carb count for a 12-ounce serving at 13.79 and 09.98 respectively.

    4. I have to agree with you! I am up every day at 5 for a work out and eat according to paleo standards 6 days a week..when it comes time to have a beer I’m not wasting it on a crappy, macrobrewed light lager. For that matter, most of the big light beers have things like corn, high fructose corn syrup and rice added to them in order to produce alot of product for little cost. Meanwhile, craft/microbrews focus on QUALITY of ingredients. Many of the unfiltered beers (especially wheat beers like Allagash) have live yeast in them which provide protein and vitamins. On another note, they usually have a higher ABV (most common light beers are about 4.2%, while many craft beers are at least 5.5-6) so if you’re aiming to catch a bit of a buzz, one great craft will do the trick instead of numerous nasty light lagers.

      If you’re going to have a beer, have something worth while!!

  2. living in France it isn’t hard to make red wine my alcohol of choice, though I confess to drinking some chilled rosé too in the summer 🙂

  3. But jello shots have protein right? 🙂

    This is very apropos as I am going wine tasting this weekend! I’ll focus on the reds…

    Very interesting about the wood-aged spirits. Though I personally prefer anejo tequila and dark rum to whiskey.

  4. Alcohol does not metabolize like a carb? Way wrong! You need to watch SUGAR: THE BITTER TRUTH on UCTV. It metabolixes EXACTLY like fructose in the liver and body. Both ethanol and fructose are metabolized in the liver primarily and 30% turns into FAT. Other byproducts are uric acid(gout and hypertension) and insulin resistance in muscles. Delude yourself all you want about alcohol…its not primal and NOT good for the body.

    1. Gordon, thanks for stating the facts about metabolism of alcohol. I have Type 1 diabetes and the break down of alcohol to fat and then to glucose raises my blood sugars. Everyone is unique and alcohol may not raise their blood sugars but beware. I do enjoy a glass of wine occasionally and take a little extra insulin to cover.

      1. As a type 2 diabetic i watch everything i eat, and avoid sugar like the plague. My blood sugars are very controlled. I also enjoy a glass of red wine almost every evening and it is the one thing that consistently lowers my blood glucose, that’s a fact. Furthermore it has not contributed to weight gain for me at all. Cheers!

        1. I think it is worth noting the following:
          a, red wine and certain spirits with very little carbohydrate content ie starch, sugars (ignoring alcohol content as it is metabolised differently) will tend to lower blood glucose as they seem to impact the ability of the liver to release glycogen into your bloodstream. This fall in blood sugar in your system may lead to a moderate or severe case of the “munchies”

          b. There is a lag between the alcohol being processed by your liver and its availability as “energy” therefore be mindful of that.

          I bought a lifestyle libre embedded glucose monitor and the results with spirits were the same every time at least in my body, a bottle of beer would cause a rise in blood glucose and drinking vodka/ single malt whisky , a fall in blood glucose between 3 to 4mmol/litre causing severe munchies lol.

          some alcohol with a low carb meal is probably a good idea, you get the benefits of getting pissed and at the same time your digestion releases carbs and you feel satiated.

  5. Man, I really miss those dark stouts. I am somewhat required to avoid them now b/c the gluten. Even though they had carbs, one or two pleasurable stouts per week were probably much better than pitcher upon pitcher of the light stuff.

  6. Hi Mark – We don’t talk about light beer in the UK so I’m not sure what it means. Is it just low alcohol? Or is it special low-calorie beer?

    1. Ah, yes. Light beer means different things around the world. Outside of the US light beer, as I understand it, generally means beer that is lighter in color only. In the US light beer refers to beer that is reduced in alcohol content, in calories (mostly be reducing carbs) or both.

  7. I have to agree with one_eye_mike… go for the good stuff… If you’re gonna drink beer, might as well go for the stuff that tastes good… i know it’s subjective… but c’mon… do people really like low carb beers?

    Also here are some interesting links to the benefits of beer and why it’s probably just as decent a choice as wine according to some studies…

    Some could even argue that it’s even “healthier” than wine since it doesn’t raise your homocysteine levels as wine can… either way, I love it all so I’m glad to incorporate all alcohol into my diet as a sensible vice in moderation. Thank you 80/20!

  8. Hooray about Bourbon but Boo about Microbrew beer. I cant help but enjoy some good beer once in a while. Good timing on this post though, it being football season and all.

  9. People are always surprised that I’m a bourbon on the rocks gal. Being so near Kentucky you just come to appreciate it 🙂

  10. I am trying not to let this (very useful) post be a license to engage in bibulous habit, but I do enjoy a glass of red wine almost every night. Sometimes I go for a nice glass stout — but typically a glass of red wine unwinds me before a meal of grass-fed steak with sauteed squash and mushrooms!

  11. Ultimately, I probably agree with Gordon about alcohol not being good for the body, not primal, etc. But you know what? Who cares! It’s enjoyable and what I’d call a reasonable indulgence for those that are into it. You won’t win the “more primal than thou” of the year award but you might find that a slight alcohol buzz feels much better than the feeling of superiority.

    Ever since I went “primal” I have cut back on the cream stout I love so much (read: stopped drinking beer altogether)and have placed my choices in the wine and whiskey categories. I’ve always been a fan of good single malt Scotch whiskey and now that I don’t buy beer, well….there’s more money for Scotch! If your interested in sipping Scotch, I recommend both neat and rocks. Definitely choose a single malt. Each one is different but a good place to start is with Glenlivet 12 yr as a benchmark. Sherry cask varieties are also very good and I highly recommend The Macallan 12 yr. Both are available relatively inexpensively at Costco. Also a good source for red wine.

    1. And when you really want the smoky peatyness, go for an Islay!

  12. I am SO thirsty all of a sudden!! and have a craving for olives!!!

    I might have a “how do you do” tonight!

  13. What about this:
    Paleo Colada
    1/4 can coconut milk
    1/4 cup pineapple
    1/4 strawberries
    1oz dark rum
    1/4 cup crushed ice
    Blend and make it last…
    high in good fats, healthy fruit. Meet your body halfway…

    1. This sounds delicious! Would have been perfect in the hot summer months. Guess I’ll just have to try it anyway, you know so I’m ready for next summer! 🙂

    2. Are you kidding me? I did a similar drink mix for a BBQ-swimming-pool party over the summer, and half of the crowd was frightened by the saturated fat in the coconut milk! It was more drinks for the rest of us. 🙂

    1. Amen to that. If you get some extra scratch, try Balvenie single barrel (15 years). Very nice.

      1. I have hated Scotch for most of my life. Then a friend brought over some 12-year-old Balvenie Doublewood…..YUM. No kerosene or burnt cork taste, just smooth deliciousness in every sip. A little on the rocks would be good right now 🙂

  14. Not sure which of the Michelob’s you are referring to in saying it has more than 11g carbs, but their Ultra line has the lowest carb count that I know of, coming in at 2.6g. It is my beer of choice when I “have” to have one. Coincidentally, the AP announced today that Lance Armstrong will be Michelob Ultra’s spokesperson.

    Great article, Mark! I was never aware of the benefits of wood aged spirits, and it’s always nice to learn something new.

  15. As an avid homebrewer (but not much of a drinker…I know, weird) I am setting my sights of developing a good tasting lower gravity beer that will (1) satisfy my demands for tasty brew and (2) not kill my weight loss momentum. As I only drink 2-5 beers a month it really isn’t much of a problem, but I’m taking this challenege up for my fellow Primal brewers!! 🙂

    1. Interesting… I’m also an avid homebrewer and aspiring microbrewer but I love drinking beer which is why I’m starting this diet in the first place.

      I’ll continue to brew beer, I guess I’ll just have to enjoy less of it.. :-/

      Anyways, good luck with the low gravity homebrew let me know how it goes.

  16. I am a homebrewer too… now I have more of an incentive to try my hand at making wine!

    But a quality microbrew (Dogfish Head, New Belgium), that’ll fall under the 80/20.

    1. I know…barleywines and my Imperial IPAs are no longer an option!!!

      I think I am going to be doing some wine as well.

  17. There is NO WAY Grok would ever have consumed any alcohol. Just like he never would have consumed cheese. So if you want to include this as an “occassional treat” go nuts. But I don’t think alcohol has any place in a healthy diet. You could live your entire life without any alcohol and not be missing out on any health benefits. I mean come on… If your whole premise is “What would Grok do?” Alcohol is CLEARLY out. You can’t argue in one post that sugar free chewing gum is not primal, but alcohol is. I disagree with you on this one. Everybody has non-primal things in their 20%. I like the occasional slice of cheese pizza. But I’m doing it purely for taste. I know it’s not primal or healthy. Be clear alcohol is NOT primal, and should be in that 20% column, not the 80% column. Just because it’s overwhelmingly present in society doesn’t mean it’s healthy. …or primal.

    1. FixedGear,

      You may have misread or misinterpreted the intent of this post. As the Worker Bee stated:

      “However Primally compatible any beverage might be, we don’t intend this as an endorsement to drink on a regular basis. As mentioned, a good diet can offer the same nutritional benefits and then some. You aren’t missing out if you choose to abstain, and we’d recommend it, in fact, if you’re in weight loss mode. For an otherwise healthy individual, red wine or – more occasionally – other low carb drink choices can certainly fit into the Primal 80/20 principle. It’s ultimately about making an educated choice among the many options and then being perceptive to your body’s response. It’s that good old Primal lens at work.”

      Whether Grok would have consumed alcohol if it was available to him is debatable, as is whether or not he did in fact consume alcohol by chance (fermented fruit, for example).

      I agree with you that “You could live your entire life without any alcohol and not be missing out on any health benefits.” Read the quote above again.

      The intent of this post was to help readers pick among the varieties of alcoholic beverages that exist if they are going to choose to do so. Again, this post isn’t so much an endorsement to drink, or to suggest that drinking is healthy, but an admission that people do drink, and that there are more healthy ways to do it than others. In other words, if you’re going to drink drink this, not that.

      1. A few things I’m sure of…

        I’m sure I get all the benefits of alcohol in my highly fermented homemade foods which are largely absent from western diets.

        I’m sure Grok ate whatever was laying around without much discrimination.

        I’m sure that meant a diet high in fermented fruits during the fall season. He may have even figured out how to ferment them further.

        I’m sure Grok was a lot more in tune with his environment than most people could ever imagine. Grok was extremely efficient, resourceful and not stupid. That’s why we’re here today.

        I’m sure Grok didn’t have a fridge or an igloo cooler with ice, so fermentation was probably a large part of his food preservation.

        I’m sure I don’t remember my point of writing this now 😉

        Oh yeah… While he didn’t have bottles of Jack laying around, there were probably Groks in some areas of the world with diets containing more alcohol than we think.

    2. Many animals have and do get inebriated off fermented fruits. It is a natural part of life and it is more than highly likely that Grok would have partaken in some natural ‘spirits.’ This would have of course only occurred on a very limited basis. Here’s a very simple explanation: but you can look further by taking a social anthropology or social psychology class. Humans began their love affair with alcohol long before they began harvesting grains. Enjoy!

      1. And…. just think about this: who didn’t (or doesn’t) spin around in circles till they get dizzy, as a child? The need to alter our consciousness is as old as… dare I say it? Yes, I do: Grok.

        This is an opinion piece, but if you really want to research it, go right ahead and “gts” (our family acronym for google that sh*t, due to a 2-year-old in our midst).

    3. I bet Grok ate some berries he carried around for awhile. Blackberries kind of make their own alcohol after being squished and sitting. Grok would have liked the sweetness.

  18. Mark,

    What about tequila ?

    Since it doesn’t suffer as a grain based alcohol wouldn’t it be a decent choice for a night out ??

    1. Yes, I’d probably put a fine tequila right below a good red wine and maybe below a few other wood aged spirits in light of some of the evidence listed above.

      1. Hi Mark,

        Happy to see a little revision in that:
        re: GRAINS
        My rigorous Elimination diet revealed that re-introduction of grain based alcohols creates immediate negative effects in the body (just like grain fed animal products do).

        The symptoms are hard to recognoze when you’re ingesting a low-level toxin all of the time, but elimination and reintroduction allows the body to get a break and then be ADAMANT about there being a problem.

        Celiacs are told to avoid gluten based alcohols for a reason: 1 mg introduced into a human system causes an autoimmune, inflammatory reaction.

        1. Yep. I’ve noticed the same thing since having to go gluten free. Where I would only get a small reaction before, now my immune system kicks in and keeps kicking in. There’s no way I can drink any kind of beer or malt product. Guess I will go back to cider, which was my first choice when I was much much younger. Not a fan of wine and whiskey disgusts me. For the two or three drinks a year, though, I guess I won’t obssess about it!

      2. Oh, goody! I like a shot of tequila with salt and lime. Who needs margaritas?

      3. “a fine tequila” for those of us with a few less bucks is 1800. Yum. Thanks, Mark! you always tell it like it is.

  19. I’m all for alcohol – with Primal and Crossfit I hover around 10% body fat and drink wine EVERY day. It’s awesome, I love it, and bottom line: if your life isn’t enjoyable, it’s not worth living.

    That being said, I understand for many people, enjoyment comes from pointing a finger at others versus celebrating the many ways we find happiness.

    To those who need to judge – I salute you! Bravo! And good luck!

    1. Its not about judging..its about balance. Alcohol is Not healthy..a little bit may be ok but millions do Not stop with a little bit. Alcohol has major implications in breast cancers as in other cancers as well as many serious diseases. It is a mycotoxin(poison) and thats why people feel badly after drinking too much. It metabolizes to 30% fat in the liver and many inflammatory factors.

      Can we drink in moderation? Maybe but too many people take license to overindulge. The life expancy of Russian men is about 58 because of excess alcohol consumption. I think people can intelligently choose but celebrating a health hazard is not encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

      1. Russian’s starved to death because of communism. Alcohol has very little to do with it.

  20. It’s so painful to be confronted with the carb content of some of my favorite regular beers.

    Flying Dog Gonzo 19g? Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 32???? There has to be some hope for beer drinkers other than Michelob ultra light…

  21. Alas, microbrews are the alcohol I do enjoy most. Just gotta cut down on the quantity (which I suppose means that I can spend more on quality!)

    I have no idea how many carbs and empty calories Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops or Stone Imperial Russian Stout or Double Bastard Ale has, and I don’t want to know!
    But it’s not like I’m drinking those every week anyway.

  22. Why is it about alcohol that you recommend not having if you are trying to lose weight? Considering the low carb content, say of wine.

    1. Alcohol is bad for weight loss for at least two reasons:
      The body preferentially uses the alcohol for energy, which delays burning your fat stores.
      Alcohol is a stress on the liver, which must clear the toxins while processing the alcohol. That leaves less “processing power” for fat-burning, so to speak.

  23. Nice to see that my beloved scotch and bourbon do well on the scale.

    I have to take issue with one statement though. Regarding heavy/dark/craft beers: yes, it really is worth it. Living Primal isn’t worth eliminating the basic pleasures of life, which for me includes fine local craft brewed IPAs, stouts, and porters. I won’t nix cheese for the same reason. Moderation always; but prohibition of basic pleasures is no more sustainable than constant indulgence.

  24. I reserve at least 50% of my 20% for Red Wine, or the ocasional Beer and make no apology for it. Being happy, and having a positive additude are very important to overall health and wellness, so if a glass of wine or an ocasional beer makes you feel good, and has some health benifits I say give er! Not to mention for most people it would add stress, and potentialy restrict socialization to not drink at all.

    It may be to tempting to have a drink if I go out with the boys so I’ll just stay home…..I’m just sayin…

    And yeah we all know you dont need booze to Blah Blah Blah…And don’t kid yourself Grok would have drank himself to death given the chance.

  25. My drink of choice is plain vodka, sparkling water, fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, and stevia. The sugars in almost all alcohol set me up for skin problems, hangovers, and an upset stomach the next day. I find plain vodka to be least offensive. It may not have any health benefits, but it’s definitely a lesser evil.

  26. Your timing is perfect, Mark. I went mostly primal last November, except for one cheat day per week. I take that one day, and sit in my hot tub, and drink beer. Lotsa beer.You see ,I’m also a Primal, Ultra Running, Ironman Triathlon, Beer drinking guy, and after a long training run, or 50k, or triathlon, I need my beer.Actually, I need beer to celebrate having gone primal for 6 days with no beer.I normally try to take in 100 calories/hour of gels while running/biking,starting after the first hour.
    I know you think Grok never ran all day to chase down food.But Grok ran on trails with no shoes, my theory is marathoners injuries are caused by running on pavement, in shoes that don’t let the foot react naturally to running, as you do.And what about endorphins?
    Anyhow, I get all my carbs from beer on the day after the big event. I think that lets me have about 10 beers,and still stay in the 100-200 grams of carbs zone.I have eggs and cottage cheese for breakfast,a chicken breast and a piece of Asiago cheese for lunch, and then it’s beer and meat for dinner, usually ribs or chicken, no vegatables.After dinner, more beer.
    As an aside, I can’t drink red wine, although I love it, because I have gout, and the tanin in red wine sends the uric acid levels off the charts. I wonder if Grok ever had gout?
    Also, I weighed 216lbs 17 years ago, got down to 185 using CW, but couldn’t lose any more. Now, I’m 155 since November, thanks to MDA.I could probably lose another 10lbs if I wanted to.Not bragging, but since going primal, I usually win place or show in my age group, which is 50-55 years old.

  27. I’m skeptical of the claim that moderate drinking enhances health. I think there’s an argument to be made that moderate alcohol consumption is often a symptom of health, not a cause.

    That is, healthy, financially secure, and vivacious 65 year olds who have no addiction problems are more likely to enjoy one, and only one, glass of wine with dinner on some days.

    On the other hand, sick older people either drink pathologically (several drinks a day), or else they are teetotaling because they have addiction problems, or perhaps they are are too poor to afford alcohol or are forbidden to drink due to health problems.

  28. I LOVE that you can put alcohol on the ‘healthy’ list! I’m not sure my primal ancestors were fermenting prior to domestication, but I do enjoy my wine.

  29. I would forgo every other carb source in existence just so I could have my brew!

  30. There are a lot of primitive people who drink alcohol. Leave something with sugar(i.e. fruit) outside sometime.It ferments.It’s not hard for me to imagine Grok discovered,and drank, booze.

    1. Which primitive people are those? I don’t believe any modern hunter gatherer societies use alcohol. In fact when alcohol is introduced it causes havoc as happened to Native Americans. The introduction of wine and beer was probably only a few thousand years new. Beer and grain liquors are products of agriculture and wine is also for a few thousand years now. The introduction of alcohol, sugar, and processed grains into hunter gatherer societies is followed by rapid deterioration of health.

      1. The Tarahumara for one;

        The consumption of alcohol plays a key role in Tarahumara society. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that almost every social activity that the Tarahumara engage in includes tesgüino. From organizing communal labor to performing marriage ceremonies, the role of tesgüino in Tarahumara culture is crucial. In fact, the use of alcoholic beverages is often cited as the defining characteristic of Tarahumara culture. Kennedy (1963:635) states that, “it is no exaggeration to estimate that the average Tarahumara spends at least 100 days per year directly concerned with tesguino and much of this time under its influence or aftereffects.” The creation of tesgüino is a simple process that all households perform on a regular basis. The Tarahumara call tesgüino batári, sugíki, or paciki depending on how the brew is prepared. Sugíki is the general term for alcoholic beverages made from fermented maize, while batári is maize beer made with a particular catalyst of the same name; paciki refers to tesgüino made from fresh corn stalks (Pennington 1963:149-150). The varieties of tesgüino made from maize are the most important, but the Tarahumara also make similar drinks from agave hearts or stalks, cactus fruits, berries, peaches, apples, crabapples, wheat, and Mesquite seeds (Pennington 1963:149-157).

      2. Mead (delicious fermented honey drink) has a history that goes back 20,000-40,000 years.

        “Wine has been part of human culture for 6,000 years, serving dietary and socio-religious functions. The history of mead dates back 20,000 to 40,000 years and has its origins on the African continent.”

      3. The Kalahari bushmen drink plenty of alcohol. How many modern hunter-gatherer societies do you actually know about?

  31. I have heard/read…and I’m sorry for not having the exact facts…that if you compress the whole existence of Mankind into a day, beer was brewed within the first 20 minutes.
    Alcohol has played a very small part in my own life, but I don’t believe for one second that Grok didn’t do a few Irish jigs when he discovered the joy of barley, hops, and wheat.

    1. Love of beer was always my biggest conflict with living primally. I think I found a compromise.
      Ultra running is my second love that is apparently in conflict with the PB, I just try to consume the proper amount of carbs while running so that they are all used by the time I am done.
      So far, so good!

      1. “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

        Benjamin Franklin

    2. Grok used none of those things. He was a hunter gatherer not a farmer.

      1. And his life expectancy was at the most twenty years or so. The big question is, Has the human life expectancy gone up or down with the advent of agriculture? Show your work…

      2. What makes you so sure about that? You do realise that “hunter-gatherer” most certainly does not of necessity mean “nomadic”. What convincing reason is there to believe that Grok didn’t brew alcoholic drinks?

  32. Very informative article. Thanks for writing it. How about champagne ? Does it contain resveratrol ? and anti oxidants ? Thanks. I have trouble drinking warm beverages like wine.

  33. I really doubt alcohol is part of a healthy social life, maybe to fit in because everyone else was doing it to make you feel like you belong, but alcohol is pretty much the demise of healthy social events.

    Anyways. If we look at the massive alcohol industry like we do with the vegetable oil and grain industry, we might have to take some of the claims with a grain of salt(excuse the pun).

    Combine that with all the things we know that are negative about alcohol, socially, environmentally and on health, I don’t really understand how you can go so leniant on it.
    You wouldn’t go telling people to have a couple of slices a bread a night, sure you’ll be fine, but it defeats the whole purpose.
    Sure everyone does it, but I think the most positive thing you can do is to not support it, or strongly reccomend against it, you never know, it may be the catalyst for some positive change. You’re the one who controls so many people’s lifesstyle habits, and you’re shaping them so positively already, you may be able to give more positive influence.

    1. To give Mark the job of “controlling so many people’s lifestyle habits” is to give him a job I’m guessing he wouldn’t want. Give people credit! We can think for ourselves and are not mindless followers.

    2. I agree. You put into words what i struggled to do without sounding pissed off.

      I really cant think of anything worse to put in my body.

  34. I can imagine how a lot of the people that post on these articles are real “life of the party” types…Not.

    What’s scary though, is how similar many here sound to the aggro-hyper guys I used to be in the military with…the “fighting elite” – they considered themselves superior, and how “civilians” were idiots and just in the way. They “knew it all” and anything other than their way was wrong. It was scary then, and it was one reason I got out of it.

    Sorry Mark, while I like the basic tenets that you espouse, I have to leave it at that. The aggro attitudes& comments here ruin for me whatever positive gain you’re trying to achieve with the general public. I know if I came across the comments like the ones on this page and others when first learning about this way of living, I’d roll my eyes and move on.
    Signing off,

  35. As a fan of good micros and a homebrewer this has been a hard thing for me too. First two light beer that actualy have flavor in my opinion are Amstel Light and Sam Adams Light. Also I’m a huge hard cider fan. Most comercial brands taste like apple soda.
    Yuk! Go out to your local cider mill and grab a gallon, put it in a glass jug, throw in some white wine or champagne yeast and let it go for a month(higher alchohol, drier taste, less residual sugar) Cant think of a better thing to serve with thanksgiving dinner. Also apples/pears come from trees while barley from massive monocrops. Cheers! This guys vids are great. This one will help you make your cider.

  36. I seriously think I’m the only white person in the world who shares the Asian trait of flushing when drinking alcohol. Asians are aparantly deficient in a particular enzym that helps break down alcohol on consumption, so they suffer from flushed faces, sweating, dizziness and nausea – just like me.

    I cannot handle alcohol, it makes me hot, flushed and sick as a dog. I really marvel at you who can sit and enjoy a whisky without sweating from the face and feeling like the room is moving.

    Does anyone else suffer while drinking?

    1. I know it’s a very late reply but no Natalie you are not the only white person with the enzyme deficiency to process alcohol. The deficiency is most common in southeast Asia with Vietnamese being 90% likely to lack the enzyme. The percentage decreases as you move north in Asia and if I remember correctly is under 10% in Japan. The least likely to lack this enzyme are Norse and Fins, with Norway and Finland having almost no reported examples. For Europeans and their diaspora the rate is generally under 2% but there are in fact other ‘white’ people who lack the enzyme.

  37. A couple hardliners here are suggesting that Mark is doing a great disservice to everyone by writing up this article. They say but alcohol isn’t ‘healthy’ or ‘primal’. I think that Mark is actually doing us all a great service. Sometimes you get wrapped up in an idealistic lifestyle concept that alienates you from everyone. Thank god Mark isn’t this super dogmatic nutrition guru, he makes us feel like it’s okay to indulge once in a while. Some people see food as being white or black, good or bad. I don’t want to see food like that because I know what it does to you, you become paranoid.
    Thanks for posting great articles like this one Mark, I really appreciate it.

    1. Erika,

      I completely agree. Lifestyles like the Primal Blueprint, which are healthy and exciting to learn about and try, can be very difficult transitions for people, particularly because (however unfortunate it may be) they are not in the mainstream. We are confronted every day with modern, non-primal temptations and marketing (and I am not just talking about processed food in the grocery store…there are also ethnic foods and flavors, baked goods, alcohol, lack of sleep/time in the day, socializing without alienating ourselves, etc). I can’t help but wonder if the emotional and mental stress of trying to maintain “perfect” primal health and the guilt we feel when we occasionally cannot do it doesn’t negate the health benefits from going primal in the first place. I appreciate Mark’s understanding that we still have to live vibrant, individual lives – and hopefully if we are as primal as we can be under the circumstances (80/20), healthy and long ones, too!

  38. Duke

    Like the military web forums attract certain types of people. Most internet forums have “internet tough guys”. This site has very, very few of those people. Try reading through a bodybuilding forum it is hard to beleive there are such acid people around. Also I think comments are worded harsher than is meant.

    Regarding Grok and alcohol though, Grok would most certainly have consumed ethanol. Yeast uses sugar to produce ethanol. Yeast has been around way longer than humans or mammals even and is found naturaly on the blush of fruits.

    So sure Grok would not have drank beer, wine, mead, spirits, etc. but certainly fermented fruit of some sort.

    The fact we can use ethanol as fuel is proof. It’s not like we can use isopropyl alcohol for fuel.

  39. Yeah!

    I’d say it’s about time this article came out, nice job guys!

    Personally, I’ll stick to the Light Beer but if I come across any Red Wine, I’ll be sure to take it.

    I’m sure that Grok did somehow drink fermented fruit in his lifetime, but I’m sure it was an occasional thing. I keep my drinking very sparingly and because of that, I get a great buzz from only two or three beers. Party on!

  40. I have always been confused by the calorie counts of alcoholic beverages. If you look at a beer and do the math on calories per gram of fat, carbs, and protein as listed on the label, it does not sum to equal the number of calories on the label!
    Does any one know what the other calories are?

    1. BTW, I guess this applies to all alcohols.

      If a shot of vodka has 96 calories and zero carbs, are we to assume there is fat and protein in the 1 1/2 ounce shot?

      If so, fat-free vodka could be an excellent source of protein (19 grams)!

        1. So shouldn’t that be considered a carb, at least for dietary reasons? And I am speaking in terms of health concerns not FDA definitions.

          Messages above indicate the body metabolizes alcohol like it does fructose.

          Is this the right way to view it?

  41. 80/20 is adequate probably for “healthy” people but those with a weight or health problem should stick to a strict primal diet until their problems are resolved. I recommend the “phase one diet” by Doug Kauffman. It is Prima and Mark often appears on KNOW THE CAUSE as a guest and advertiser. Go to and view thw FAQS. One of the no-nos on the diet is alcohol as it is mycotoxic. Also grains, peanuts, and sugary fruits.

  42. I’d like to think Grok would skip ETOH altogether and go find a coca leaf or Peyote.

    I have a question as to relation of alcohol use and ability to perform working out.
    When I go out, I usually exceed the suggested dosage and go for a higher theraputic level, somewhere in the 2-3 pints of beer. I do this once a week.
    Sometimes I feel sluggish at the daily workout at 1730, sometimes I don’t. How long does drinking like that affect performance?

  43. FWhile discovering the many benefits of going Primal…it seems that some people take a turn towards the fanatical.

    Some of you need to lighten up. You don’t “win” because you are MORE primal than somebody else.

    Moderate alcohol consumption has health benefits? Maybe that is debate-able on a purely biological level…but for every person that becomes an alcoholic and destroys their life through abuse, there are an exponential number of people that do not abuse it, use it moderately, and gain a lot of benefits from it.

    Is not the whole point of “living primal” to give you the best opportunity to live an enjoyable life?

    So what’s wrong with eating healthy, exercising regularly and being in great shape physically…unwinding once in awhile and having a few drinks with good friends and having a good time?

    Some of you deride it as “conforming to peer pressure.”

    Moderate alcohol consumption FEELS GOOD. To deny this is just dumb.

    Used moderately, it is relaxing, and yes, it does help people “loosen” up.

    That being said…once in awhile, my wife and I will have dinner parties…and sometimes, we like to have “mexican” night.

    And let me tell you, I would be an asinine, OCD-head case if I were to stop making my excellent, home-made Hawaiian mango margarita’s that everyone I know loves, simply to adhere to some concept of Primal perfection.

    But what I have done, is throw out the use of commercially made, HFCS laden sweet and sour mix. Instead, I buy organic, fresh squeezed lemon juice and mix it with fresh squeezed lime juice and sweeten it up with a bit of Grand Marinier or Contrieau.

    Yeah, there’s a bit of sugar in it. But so what? I eat Primal 95% of my life. An occasional indulgence is not going to “de-rail” or “ruin” all of the efforts and personal focus I’ve put into eating wholesome and healthy for the majority of my life.

    And it is certainly a blast to make margarita’s and have long time bartenders tell me I make the best margarita’s they’ve ever had. They can’t believe my secret — that the key is to avoid the HFCS-based “sweet and sour mix” and use the real thing!

  44. I can think of no other thread on this blog that justifies compromise. Most threads unequivocally teach us how to live primally. The recipes are primal. This is the first one I have seen that celebrates a bad habit…drinking alcohol. The purpose of primal living is not getting a buzz or feeling good but being healthy in the modern world.

  45. I can think of no other thread on this blog that justifies compromise.

    Than you haven’t read or you don’t remember probably one of the most important threads found here, “The 80/20 Principle.”

    This is the first one I have seen that celebrates a bad habit…drinking alcohol.

    Not all alcohol drinking is a bad habit. That’s why Mark stressed MODERATE CONSUMPTION.

    The purpose of primal living is not getting a buzz or feeling good but being healthy in the modern world.

    You don’t think primal living has anything to do with feeling good?!?!?

  46. I’ve heard it said that alcoholism is a really extreme sweet tooth. I find that when I avoid sugar and starches entirely my craving for alcohol disappears (and I can drink like a college freshman, only without passing out in my own vomit or hooking up with frat boys). For those who can enjoy a daily glass of wine or a beer without wanting to empty the bottle or case, more power to you. For me and for now, however, I have to stay away because it causes problems. Going primal is helping immensely with that.

  47. I gave up caffeine, starches and sodas. I be damned if anyone dares to take away my beer and smoke.

    I’ve made piece with my vices and I will have fun and enjoy them. I’ve always been a tiny girl… 5 feet, 102 pounds since adulthood. Even if I weren’t, I would still keep in mind where my 20% is going and what I think it’s worth to me. Better than pharma drugs any day, I say.

    I no longer have the innocence and naivete of youth but I have my beer and my smoke and that makes people MUCH easier to deal with. I will not make any excuse or apologies for it. It is what it is and life (for the most part) is good. 😉

    Good post Mark.

      1. Gordon,
        you are kind of a tool. I am sorry to hear your life does not include “feeling good”. What a waste! Maybe a stiff drink now and then would help!

    1. > I’ve always been a tiny girl… 5 feet, 102 pounds since adulthood.

      Exactly. You’re a girl, that’s why you’re tiny. Wait until you get older enough and you won’t keep your tininess that easily anymore.


  48. All addicts say the same thing about their addictions.

    I guess no one is as PRIMAL as Gordon!


    Even Mark is a failure, since it’s obvious that this thread fails to live up to the standards of what exactly constitutes PRIMAL perfection!

    Get over yourself.

  49. Really Mark? This one is fail.

    Guinness has 14g for the extra stout and 10g for the draught. If you had a salad with your dinner (a whole whopping 5-6 carbs) and that beer you are talking 16-20g…

    It is also equal or lower in calories per 100mL than MOST comparable beers that taste like watered down horse pee.

    Remember alcohol is 7 cal per gram, while carbs are 4 cal per gram. Again…fail. Alcohol is more calories and yup, calories count.

  50. Not eating grains and limiting dairy, eating abundant amounts of vegetables, meats and fruits, skipping juices… this gets you indeed 80% down the road or more. Sticking to that yet having a glass of wine, a hard drink here and there is a totally different story than when someone is eating a horrible diet and having an occasional drink (or even smoke). I don’t smoke, and wouldn’t recommend someone to start, but if you are, I’m glad that you’re eating a paleo diet rather than a high sugar/carb diet.

  51. Finally got around to reading this as I’ve been meaning to for a while. Glad I mostly have been staying away from drinking, mostly sticking to red wine and straight gin when I do. Surprising to see that light beer may be a better choice than gin due to the benefits.

  52. Some folks around here are fanatics. There’s nothing wrong with having a drink now and then especially if your regular diet is healthy.

    Perhaps the people who have extremist views on the subject had an alcohol problem in the past and now they want to impose their ideas on alcohol consumption on everyone else. Kind of like how some folks got together and decided that a grain and wheat based diet is healthy for everyone. The fact is, for every one person who cannot handle alcohol, there are many more that have no problems using it and no health repercussions from it.

    Not everyone has issues with alcohol and on rare or occasional use there is no problem (unless you are an alcoholic). To each his own. Great post!

    1. Well said.

      I choose not to drink because I know I probably would be an alcoholic (tons of family history & I love the taste). I gorge myself on highly fermented foods. I get enough alcohol from that.

      Easier for me to not drink it at all. Just like grains 🙂

  53. I suffered from stomach pain and burning mostly, couldn’t sleep well and just hated those extra pounds I couldn’t get rid of no matter what I did. Now I stumbled upon this system that is easy and it doesn’t require expensive medication or difficult exercises.

    1. yo – Mark! – i think this one is a “remove by moderator” one… 🙂

  54. So where does non-alcoholic beer place on this scale? I love beer but quite dislike being drunk so am a huge fan of the stuff.

  55. Just started P90X and stumbled upon this site. Is there any question on correct eating that you DON’T answer?
    I am a huge fan of Merlot and other red wines. This is great news. Here’s to our health! Cheers!

  56. Stop peddling this antioxidant bullshit. Please do some research, and you’ll discover that antioxidants have never been proven to do anything.

  57. I’ve been researching where my favorite drink ‘Sake’ would be on this list, but I’m at a loss. I know this is an old thread but hopefully someone will update it.

  58. In college I beer was my drink of choice and as a result I struggled with my weight. I switched to Vodka waters and haven’t had a problem since.

    That being said, moderation is really the key of course.

  59. “Life is too short to drink light beer…thus it is written…thus it shall be!”

  60. Alcohol may not be good for the liver, and it may not be primal but I drink a cup of red wine with my evening meal anyway. Let me share why it is healthy even those it is mycotoxic.

    After a hard days work we are a little stressed. Our muscles tighten up, we feel stiff in the shoulders and back and neck. This is not healthy. Tight muscles cut off the blood circulation, and starve tissue’s of oxygen. After a cup of red wine I am very very relaxed, and all my muscles are relaxed, and my circulation improves.

    So it is not all bad, my liver may have to do a little extra work, but since I don’t eat grains my liver is not flushing out near the amount of toxins as it used too.

    After reading Dr Eades book ‘Protein Power’it said according to one study of people who ate low carb diets, wine drinkers lost even more weight then those who did not indulge.

    I know that meditation will also relax me too, but life is to short not to enjoy some things.

    Cheers everybody.

  61. hmmm…

    Isn’t whisky grain based? Isn’t vodka potato based? Does the alcohol rule out the ruinious effects of grain/starches?

    Mine is a Gin and Soda, squeeze of lime/lemon. Loving called a Gin Fizz.

    My friends are coming up this weekend for a party. I will be sticking rigidly to primal but will still be joining them for a drink…I’ll be staying in the rest of the month!

    1. yes, grain based. But the grains are malted (sprouted) than soaked and fermented. I doubt the anti-nutrients and gluten and other troublesome aspects of grains are left after the fermenting of the wort and subsequent distillation.

      1. Wrong. (sorry) 🙂
        I went through a long and rigorous elimination diet to discover the sources of my growing chronic health problems. Reintroduction of grain based alcohols created immediate negative effects in my body (just like grain fed animal products do).

        The symptoms are hard to determine when you’re ingesting a low-level toxin all of the time, but elimination and reintroduction allows the body to get a break and then be ADAMANT about there being a problem.

        Celiacs are told to avoid gluten based alcohols for a reason: 1 mg introduced into a human system causes an autoimmune, inflammatory reaction.

  62. You didn’t mention anything about how alcohol harms the absorption of minerals.

  63. For the whiskey drinkers, Chilled green tea is an excellent mixer and Whisk=Tea is very popular in Asia

  64. Birds love getting bombed on fermented fruit and berries, and other animals enjoy intoxicants, too (e.g., cats with catnip, burros with loco weed), so I wouldn’t buy for a minute that Grok wouldn’t relish a good high-octane fruit, and probably figured out how to make more real quick!

    I also once read of modern stone-age people making a fermented brew out of chewed-up manioc (fermented spit! eww!), and I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out how to let other sweet foods (wild-harvested honey, for example) get fizzy and fun.

    The point is, it wouldn’t have been an everyday indulgence.

    I’ve been interested in this way of eating for awhile now, and look forward to reading more!

  65. Hmmm… I’ve really come to enjoy alcohol in the past few years, but have seriously limited my intake since January. However, it’s nice to hear that I can occasionally enjoy my store of Bourbon, Tequila and Red wine without feeling too anxious about the effects. But… what about bitters? I know bitters come in all kinds of concoctions and I’ve already determined that the major brands… the ones with sugar and red dye don’t cut it so much, but Fee Brothers for example, makes a lovely Grapefruit bitters that goes nicely with Cazadores Tequila. I’m guessing that a well made bitters concoction can’t hurt too much?

  66. Here is an awesome quote from Wikipedia, on “The History of Alcoholic Beverages”:

    A variety of alcoholic beverages was used in China since Paleolithic times…This early drink was produced by fermenting rice, honey, and fruit.

    Wow, alcohol that’s been around since Paleolithic times?! Looks like in China, Grok really did get his drink on.

    1. The fact that they had rice kinda negates the possibility of the people being paleolithic. There might have been paleolithic cultures elsewhere hunting and gathering, but the existence of a grain such as rice is what defines that culture as non-paleolithic. So while the ancient (10,000-12,000 years ago) chinese humans may have been cultivating while most of the human population were hunting and gathering, the fact that they were cultivating rice makes them at least mesolithic or epipaleolithic (in transition from hunter gatherer to agriculture) if not neolithic (having agriculture).

      It’s not really important when humans started to outsmart nature (produce food that works against our own metabolism), the purpose of eating this way isn’t to emulate any particular ancient group of humans or mindlessly follow a “what would grok eat” cult, it’s to eliminate the mistakes made by previous generations in cultivating these unnatural foods, like grains and legumes, but only because of the composition of these foods. There are certainly vegetables around today that didn’t exist back then which are perfectly acceptable in this lifestyle because they are not full of carbs or antinutrients.

      So paleolithic humans never made anything from grains, because they didn’t have any, if they did then they weren’t paleolithic by definition.

  67. As long as you aren’t looking to lose weight, a modest drink here or there shouldn’t make much of a difference. If you’re looking to lose weight, however, we’d suggest avoiding alcohol all together.

    I have a question about the above quote from the article. When you say “lose weight” do you mean precisely that? Or are you talking about losing fat and building lean muscle mass? In other words, is it okay to have the occasional drink if you’re trying to lose fat and build lean muscle mass (but don’t really care whether your actual weight increases or decreases)?

  68. I remember reading on a dicussion group for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet someone saying nearly all wines were sweetened at some point during their production. There were exceptions, but I can’t remember them.

    I’m a full-blown coeliac and I was never told to avoid grain-based spirits. I have read to be careful with whisky, for example, where some brands mix the mash back in after distilling. If you search online and find a known and trusted brand you should be all right.

    1. Regarding the post above, and many similar ones:
      Full-blown Coeliac patients aren’t told to avoid many things–which are continuing to hurt their system–because of the limited knowledge of physicians about gluten actions in general, and because of their focus only on gliadin as being prblematic.

      Coeliac patients (and others) who employ a rigorous Elimination diet often find that re-introduction of grain based alcohols creates immediate negative effects in the body–just like grain-fed animal products do.

      These symptoms are hard to recognize when you’re regularly ingesting low-level toxins that you’re not suspicious of, but elimination and reintroduction allows the body to get a break and then be ADAMANT about singnaling the presence of a problem.

      Celiacs should be told to avoid gluten based alcohols for a reason: 1 mg introduced into a human system causes an autoimmune, inflammatory reaction.

      But more importantly for us all: the implications mean that the toxic effects of grain are pervasive and often underestimated. It means it can inflame your system, too.

  69. Mark didn’t mention my drink of choice, sake. Any idea where it falls on the Primal Scale?

  70. I understand that white wine doesn’t have as much in the way of antioxidants, but doesn’t it cause less of a hangover headache and therefore potentially equal red wine in the choice of healthiest alcohol?

  71. Hey Mark,

    What is the view on dark rum? Such as Captain Morgan’s Spiced Original? It is my favorite liquor and would want to know how it fares among the other alcohols.

  72. Hey Mark, how do you feel about the high hop levels found in certain microbrews? Hops are a known anti-carcinogen.

  73. I strongly disagree with the hierarchy on this page.

    Craft Beer and particularly Stouts and dark ales should be the top of the list as far as healthy choices:

    ” 1. Drinking beer is good for your liver! Drinkers of beer can get rid of poisonous heavy metals like lead and copper up to five times more effectively than tee-totalers. Alcohol causes the small blood vessels in the liver to expand which speeds up metabolism. (Beer Net Publication, April 2001 Biological Institute, University of Charkov, Prof. Anatolij Bohkov)

    2. It lowers your risk of heart attacks. Those drinking beer on a daily basis, averaging 4-9 litres of beer per week, have the lowest rate of heart attacks. Their risk is approximately 50% lower when compared to non-drinkers. (Bobak et al 2000; Hoffmeister et al 1999; Kitamura et al 1998).

    3. It prevents cholesterol from oxidizing. Hop compounds xanthohumol and quercetin, both strong antioxidants are very effective in their ability to prevent LDL (the bad form of cholesterol) from oxidation. When LDL is oxidised it will be laid down on the artery wall causing them to narrow, thus increasing the chances of blockage and heart attacks (Miranda et al 2000). Antioxidants are thought to be able to quench and inactivate the free radicals, which may cause the types of cellular damage that can lead to both cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer.

    4. It boosts your antioxidant levels. Recent studies have turned its attention to the anti-oxidative role of plant polyphenols in general, their beneficial influence on various aspects of health and in particular, their role in dealing with dangerous free radicals within the body. Analysis can show how much of these good compounds are in beer- but can it be absorbed (called bioavailability) by humans and hence have a positive effect on health? Yes! The malt-derived antioxidant ferulic acid is 100% absorbed by humans (compared to 11-25% absorption of ferulic acid from a tomato). The total level of antioxidants in the blood increased significantly after just a single glass of ale, again proving that antioxidants in beer are well absorbed (Ghiselli et al 2000) Not that any person in his right mind would settle for just a single glass!

    5. It boosts vitamin B6; B12; folate and mineral levels. If compared to wine and spirits, beer is the only beverage that contains significant levels of vitamins. High homocysteine (Hcy) levels in the blood are associated with increased risk of CVD. Vitamins like B6; B12 and especially folate (all naturally occurring in beer) are now recommended as part of doctors orders to be taken daily to control elevated levels of Hcy (Walker, BRI, 2001). The minerals in beer come from both the malt and the brewing liquor. The beneficial ratio of potassium to sodium is particularly important in relation to cardiovascular disease.

    6. Keeps homocysteine (Hcy) levels low. Van der Gaag and his colleagues found that drinking wine and spirits increased serum Hcy levels, where as, counteracted by folates and vitamin B6, beer consumption had no influence. A clear case of beer should be first for thirst!

    7. Drinking beer boosts your soluble fibre intake and lowers cholesterol. One of the most effective forms of soluble fibre for lowering cholesterol is betaglucan, which is the predominant form of fibre in beer. Beers with high malt content like craft beers may provide up to 30% of the recommended daily fibre intake (Gromes et al 2000).

    8. Drinking beer help in combating cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and other immune system attacking diseases. Hops contain compounds that are unique and rare in nature –like prenyl flavonoids (8PN) which are phytoestrogens that are natural plant based compounds, which mimics the natural oestrogens in the body (Bingham et al 1998). The highest 8PN levels in beers have been found in dark and bitter ales and stouts and from craft breweries where whole hopping is practised.

    9. Beer ensures healthy bones. Beer has a nutritional benefit that promotes healthy bones and connective tissue (Dr Jonathan Powell, Kings College, London). Because of the brewing process, silicon is leached from barley grain in a form that is readily accessible to the body.

    10. Beer protects against gallstones. Prof. Oliver James, from the school of clinical medical studies at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, says that beer protect against gallstones, kidney stones and the bacterium Heliobacter pylori, which is directly linked to stomach ulcers and cancer.

    11. Hoppy beer protects against cataracts. Certain hop flavonoids, in particular xanthohumol and its isomerised form isoxanthohumol, can show positive effects against heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, cataracts and certain forms of cancer.

    12. Beer promotes sleep. A famous vitaminologist Professor Steep from Germany prescribes beer (not drugs) for insomnia. Two vitamins, lactoflavin and nicotinic acid that are present in beer are the secret weapons that promote sleep. The same two vitamins also speed up bone degeneration after a fracture and prevent low blood counts. Hops in beer itself is a natural sedative that also promotes sleep.

    13. Beer reduces risk of thrombosis The flavonoids that are present in roasted malt, also to a lesser extent in hops and barley, prevent blood platelets from clamping together –making the blood less sticky – therefore decreasing your risk of blood clotting that can cause heart attacks or thrombosis. “

    1. WOW I don’t know if you’re actually profiting through beer sales, but you convinced me!!

      I came in here to ask Mark what he suggests I should drink: I’m small and I get easily buzzed, especially now that I’ve gone primal and also I’ve abstained from alcohol for a year..

      Red wine leaves a bad taste and also gets me a headache..Whiskeys taste disgusting (unless mixed with amaretto or something sweet therefore no chance I guess)..And my ever favorite cocktails like pina coladas and mojitos got too much sugar..

      SO, Mark, would you agree that beer is as good as this guy says? Considering the low alcohol content, it does sound like the best choice (I was avoiding it because of gluten)

    2. Almost ALL of the benefits you propose we’re beer drinkers vs. non-drinkers. How do the benefits stack up if compared to wine drinkers, spirit drinkers, ect.?

      Then it becomes more complicated.

  74. I’m with you guys. I’m really strict with my diet 6 days a week but once a week I go out with my girlfriends and we get some drinks with dinner. I did some research and found that vodka with a club soda tends to be the lowest calorie mix out there. I specifically use Voli because it’s the lowest in calories and also has some electrolytes. If I’m going to have a drink that what I get.

  75. So true. I’ve used voli before too, lemon flavaored is my fav…for some good cocktail mixes.

  76. I used to be a big fan of cocktails until i found out that the sugar content in most of the drinks i was sipping had over 30g+ Recently i got into vodka that mixes into a cocktail drink with low calories. Sugar content is low as well. Check it out. Voli Vodka,

  77. Hi Mark,

    LOVE the Daily Apple!

    How about alcohol-free beer, how would it rank on your list?



  78. This is amusing and fun, but beer is not gluten-free, even though many people like to pretend it is.

    I like your recommendation for wine and the hard stuff and tequila. If I suggest people do Paleo for a month in On-Ramp and give up their liquid bread (beer), they are far more likely to try it if they can drink other stuff. A couple of weeks of truly gluten-free living makes a big impression on a fair proportion of our athletes. Trying to suggest people stop drinking altogether would make people give up before they even start!

  79. living in Belgium at the moment where amazing dark craft beer is plenty and French wine is cheap is no easy task. Now that it’s -2 out there I have 2 glasses of red with lunch and go biking round town. But I sure miss my 2x week St Bernardus…

  80. Hi,

    I’ve been on a low carb diet for a Month now and it’s been a month since my last drink since I’m trying to lose weight. The thing is, I’m Irish and love Guinness. I am deeply saddened to find out that it’s high in carbs, though the exact amount is unconclusive from my research. It really depends on where it’s brewed, as well as whether it’s bottled, canned, or extra stout or draft (I actually found this site on the day of my last Guinness searching if it was ok to drink Guinness). I’ve only lost around 1.5 kilos in the month so I don’t think the diet is as effective for me as most people. Still though, it’s working.
    The thing is, it’s now the season of the Xmas parties and it’ll be very difficult to abstain, especially when all the friends are home for Xmas. The month off had been difficult and I’ve stayed in the house as going out watching everyone else party isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
    On a good night out it would be typical to consume 12-14 pints of Guinness and I’m very worried that this will seriously set me back. If I continue to eat high fat will these carbs make me store it all? Even if I limit it to one night a week (or maybe 2 every 2nd weekend)? Would I be better to go back to my normal diet consuming minimal fat during this period to avoid storing it? I’ve been really looking forward to few a ‘Vitamine G’ all month!

    Any advice that would allow this would be a dream.

    Seasons greetings,

    Irish Jack

    1. Ummmm…12-14 pints in a night? I know this is a huge stereotype for Irish men to drink themselves to death but I didn’t think it was THIS real.

      I don’t care what country you’re from. Drinking 14 pints of beer on a regular basis, even once a week, is called alcoholism. You need help. My advice is for you to drink zero alcohol until you don’t have the cravings to binge drink anymore at all.

      1. While it may be hard to believe, many of us simply have a high tolerance for alcohol. I’m very careful not to drink myself into oblivion but I have caught myself consuming 3/4 of a bottle of rum in an evening, and yes i was intoxicated but i felt mostly tired (no stumbling or spinning). Generally I have a drink or two a night, but skip nights, weeks, or even months just because i dont feel like it. If my Irish brother above is consuming 14 pints in one night and doesnt continue to drink all week long then he is NOT an alcoholic. It certainly not good for weight loss, but doesnt equal alcoholism.

        My father was an alcoholic and eventually drank himself to death at 56. A typical day for him consisted of a case (24 cans) of beer and anywhere from 2 to 4 5ths of southern comfort, and it started the moment he woke up. I dont think you’ve witnessed alcoholism before.

  81. This is totally value packed. I was so misguided. I love hennessy(cognac) but had this idea that it was heavy in carbs for some reason. Also underestimated the carbs in beer. Will definitely pay attention to what I order next time I’m out drinking.

  82. Hey guys. If you want a list and info about REAL beer and how it fits into a paleo lifestyle check out

    It’s a record (still in progress…day 77) of a year of 365 Crossfit wods and 365 quality craft beers while eating within Paleo restrictions (minus the beer obviously).

    It’s not so black and white.

  83. What about eating before you drink? I just started the Primal Blueprint, and I feel great. It’s a shock to my system, and after day 4, I stopped craving all the bad things I used to eat. However, I am Irish, and I do drink once or twice a week. Before going Primal, I’d load up on breads and rice, things like that, to keep my stomach calm.. but now, I don’t know what to do! I understand I should just collect my losses and go on with life. But, are there any Primals out there that drink like an Irish man? What do you eat before you drink?

  84. Well, I hope a few light beers won’t do too much damage because after the say I have had I am quite certain that all 5 of the miller lites In my fridge will be gone tonight 🙂

  85. Stout, Porter, and Wiskey. If it doesn’t fall in to one of those categories I’d rather have water. I can do Rum and Tequila at least, Vodka and Gin do not sit well with me, not only do I feel like crap later but I get wasted off barely any.

  86. Isn’t most beer made from grains which we’re not supposed to eat anyway? In that context I would say drink the cider over the beer no?

  87. Red wine is oh, so fine. Beer is the enemy! (I let him win for a little bit when it’s hot out…HA!)

  88. I want to try mead.
    Got Mead says “The Norse sagas are littered with mead references, as are many of the old Celtic tales.”
    I’m of Swedish, Scottish, and English heritage and I love honey. Convinced this a good enough basis to try mead beyond curiosity.

  89. Hi Mark.
    I do agree that alcohol has some benefits for the human body but overall, it seems that so many studies indicate that the net effect is more detrimental.

    Your comments are appreciated.

  90. White Russians are not good for us?! Grok is a real reactionary, man. That mastodon fur really tied the cave together…

  91. I have just finished Lesson 7, and efore going fully primal,I need to knwo how it would affect my standardised lunch of homemade lunchs more so than my night out. I eat like a Provincial Queen at lunch, Chicken Chasseur or Cacciatore, Beef Bourguignon/ &Guiness and was concerned I might have to sacrifice this amazing tasting food But this post has shown me I can stil eat like a Queen at lunch without too much sacrificed.. Beef and Guiness maybe once a month

  92. According to Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Diet Solution, the only “Paleo Friendly” buzz is the infamous “Nor-Cal Margarita”. It is as follows….
    2 shots of gold tequila
    Juice of one lime (the whole damn thing!)
    Splash of soda water

    Drink one or two of these on an empty stomach early in your evening.Wrap up the night with some protein and fat, and you are set. You socialized, got your head changed, and didn’t do too much damage to yourself. There is also some chemistry behind the recommendations. The lime juice blunts the insulin release and the carbon dioxide in the soda act as what’s called a “nonpolar solvent”. This extracts the alcohol from the drink and delivers it to your system much faster. Better living through good chemistry! Alcohol is not paleo. This is your best choice if you choose to drink. Most beer is loaded with gluten. The dry red wines have less sugar.

  93. Um most beer contains gluten so i really don’t think it makes for a healthy choice at all. Mark isn’t gluten an addictive anti-nutrient? I have noticed regular beer drinkers always look like their skin is sooo dry & red whilst regular wine drinkers, particularily red wine drinkers look like they have a healthier skin colour compared to beer drinkers, also wine drinkers have skin that looks just as moist as those who don’t drink. I suppose this helps to show that beer does inhibit nutrient absorbtion? whilst red wine doesn’t? Since our skin is our bigest organ. For those that hate wine let me say there are many different tasting red wine so i would suggest people sample a few before declaring they hate red wine. Same goes for the second best choice which is white wine. If people try a huge variety of red/white wines and are still replused THEN go to gluten free beer.Regular beer is made from barley. A GLUTENOUS GRAIN! & we all know what damage thise do.

  94. Hi Mark,
    I heard that on a Primal Diet, Hard Cider was better than beer because it’s gluten free. Is this true?

  95. Alcohol has been part of human culture for longer than was officially believed, apparently.

    9,000 years ago isn’t quite Paleo (though it misses Late Paleo by an eyelash) but the archeological evidence of mead brewing from that era, already refined to an active cultural art and science, means that 9000 years ago was not the very dawn of alcohol discovery and use by humans. So quite likely, it was going on, before that, as well, and could reasonably be assumed to be part of Late Paleolithic cultures; at least some of them. We are limited to what archeological evidence has been found.

    It seems pointless to me to argue about whether a Paleolithic person might possibly have enjoyed alcohol (and therefore, draw conclusions about whether alcohol is “primal” enough to be healthy) when we have solid enough science showing that for some individuals, moderate alcohol intake is indeed healthy, (with measurable benefits to blood pressure, blood viscosity, cognitive health, and so forth), and for some individuals, the harm seems to outweigh any benefits.

    I don’t think we are all alike. Epigenetics allows for more rapid differentiation of subgroups than previous understandings of human evolution allowed for. We know that descendants of certain tribes of First Peoples in North America, whose ancestors lived healthfully on beans, squash, and maize primarily, with far less meat than their herd-following contemporaries enjoyed, aren’t healthy at all on a diet that strays too far from what their ancestors were healthy on, and their health is optimized, apparently, when they return to their ancestral diet, which was a far cry from the diet of the herd-followers.

    In other words, there is no one universal human “best” for everyone, even genetically. Food and medicines that help a descendant of one group, can be harmful to a descendant of another group. One person’s genetic blueprint may reflect very different reactions to the same inputs, from another’s.

    So I totally respect each person seeking out their own “Grok” to attempt to follow, for better health. Not as easy when most of us are such amalgams of so many different groups, but that’s when you get down to seeing for yourself, what makes you feel healthier, and making decisions on your own, instead of making decisions based on what someone else says. And then stepping back and allowing for the possibility that someone else’s “healthiest” may not be yours, and that doesn’t necessarily make one of you wrong.

  96. How about vodkas that aren’t grain based? Such as coconut vodkas or grape vodkas? Haven’t tried them but would like to … Any opinions?

  97. Please do not include herbal distilled products with vodka. Most herbal distilled products like absinthe and gin were originally medicinal due to their high herb bill. Alcohol was purely the preservative. Fortified wine products like vermouth are also in this category. I may need to trot over to the lab to test out products for antioxidant properties. And realize today’s conventional gins may not have much but more traditionally prepared liquor s are a basket from the garden in a drink. See Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist.

  98. I’m surprised to see grain-based alcohols recommended. My autoimmune issues require me to stick to non-grain-based alternatives.

  99. No, forget organic anything, it’s all greenwashing bunk. Check out Scientific American’s article “Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming > Conventional Agriculture” It’s a real eye opener. No, when it comes to wine, you want biodynamic.

  100. Square Mile Hard Cider has 6 grams of Carbs and 6 grams of sugar. The lowest Cider I have found to date.

  101. The Legend of Zelda, Earthbound, Pokemon, and Resident Evil
    are a just some of the many franchises Zeboyd parodies in Breath of Death VII.
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  102. How about this one. 3 parts whiskey to 1 part raw honey and 1 part fresh squeezed lemon juice shaken and served neat!

  103. My husband loves hard cider. His argument is that some lower carb ciders have fewer carbs than red wine. Given that they have lots of antioxidants, if the sugar content is low, will 1-2 of these ciders a few nights a week hinder primal progress, or should he stick to tbe red wine?

  104. I thought all alcohol has Estrogen in it.. so how can it be ok for burning belly fat ? Chris from Paleo states having a Vodka and soda can help burn belly fat?? Please explain