I’ll admit it. For the most part, beverages don’t get a lot of attention around here. I tend to take a pretty dismissive stance on them, perhaps as a reaction to the ridiculous mainstream obsession with water intake (64 ounces per day? C’mon!). Also, besides the occasional hankering for a cold beer, I don’t really crave beverages. Coffee in the mornings, water when thirsty, and the occasional glass of wine with dinner is my typical lineup. Most of the fluids my body needs comes from the food I eat so I tend to view beverages as largely inessential. They’re nice and refreshing, but rarely needed.
But I also realize that giving up certain types of drinks can be a huge stumbling block for some PBers: athletes who grew up chugging Gatorade during competition might pine for the sugary liquid, and ex-soda addicts may still be tempted to keep a stash of diet cola on hand for those difficult moments. Or there are the health nuts who bought into the Vitamin Water hype, went Primal, and now need something to sate their cravings. Or there’s even the parent who, while successful at weaning them off sugary cereal, Lunchables, and mac-n-cheese, has yet to find a suitable replacement for the kids’ juice boxes and Capri-Suns.
Water is, of course, the primary beverage of choice in the Primal lifestyle, but that can get boring. I know when I want a beer but know I shouldn’t, I go for sparkling water. Perrier, San Pelegrino, or any of the store brands are delicious and represent a viable alternative to boring water. Add a squeeze of lime or lemon for added kick.
Juice is a tough one. We’ve spent most of our lives hearing that fruit juices are the healthiest beverages around, but we now know they’re just concentrated sugar. If we’re talking straight juice, you’re better off just eating the fruit. You could also make a spritzer – mix two parts sparkling water with one part juice – if you absolutely can’t give up the juice. The sugar content is drastically reduced and you can drink relatively guilt free.
Tea, coffee, and wine are all sensible liquid vices, and I partake in all three. For obvious reasons, though, you probably don’t want to make their ingestion a regular habit (no more than once or twice daily). I have coffee and wine most days, but I keep it within reason. Tea has far less caffeine content, and making a jug of home-brewed iced tea to have around is cheaper than buying pre-made stuff in the stores. As a general rule, black tea has the most caffeine, followed by green and then white. And if you want to avoid it altogether, drink herbal teas.
One of my favorite herbal teas is a Thai delicacy: iced lemongrass tea. Get a few stalks of lemongrass, trim and peel them, then cut and smash the stalks with the flat of knife blade to release the “juices.” Bring them to a boil in a pot of water and cover. Cut the flames and let it steep for twenty minutes. At this point, I’ll even add a touch of real sugar for some sweetness, but you can leave it out. I prefer this stuff chilled, but you can drink it hot. Optional: add fresh mint leaves.
Another tea I like to make is iced ginger root tea with lime. Depending on your tolerance for ginger, peel and grate a sizeable amount of ginger root. Boil it in a pot of water, then reduce the heat, cover it, and allow the concoction to simmer for twenty minutes. Add the juice from five limes and let it cool before drinking. Pour it over ice when it gets hot. Some claim ginger tea promotes digestion and fights cold symptoms; I just like it because it tastes great.
Kava root tea is another interesting one. Traditionally consumed throughout Polynesia, Vanuatu, and Melanesia, kava is a mild sedative that relaxes without disrupting your mental alacrity. You can find it at health food stores, and it actually tastes pretty foul, but it’s an incredibly relaxing way to spend an evening. Just be sure you strain out the actual root (you don’t want to gag; cheesecloth works best here, especially if you have kava powder) and you avoid steeping it over 140 degrees (which is the temperature at which the active ingredients are destroyed). It won’t win any taste tests, that’s for sure. There’s also some evidence that excessive amounts are hard on the liver, so be cautious, but a single glass won’t hurt you every once in awhile.
What about the athletes who miss their sports drinks? How about a Primal electrolyte-enhanced beverage? After all, the key components to any sports drink – the stuff that really matters – are the electrolytes: sodium, chloride, and potassium. When you sweat, those are the minerals that you excrete. Making a proper sports drink entails adding enough electrolyte-containing ingredients. Sodium and chloride are easy enough; basic table salt has what you need in a teaspoon or two. The most potassium-rich foods are yogurt, pork chops, broccoli, avocados, bananas, and spinach, respectively, but I doubt a pork chop smoothie’ll go down smooth when you’re working up a sweat. Luckily, an average-sized lemon contains 48.3 g of potassium, more than your typical bottle of Gatorade contains. Squeeze the lemon and add a few pinches of table salt to your water for a Primal alternative to sugary sports drinks.
Simply adding various flavorings to plain water may even be enough. Cucumber slices, mint and lemon wedges in ice cold water are great on a blazing summer day, and while apple cider vinegar is an acquired taste, a few tablespoons of that stuff in a glass of ice water can be strangely delicious (it’s also supposed to help bolster immunity, so it might be worthwhile to try it during the onset of a cold).
Whatever you try, don’t beat yourself up over drinks. I may come across as overly critical of the beverage industry, but the very fact that we eat most of our calories (as opposed to sucking them through straws and from bottles, like a huge part of the country) gives us Primal Blueprinters an enormous health advantage. A cup of coffee here or an herbal ginger tea there won’t be a problem. Homemade drinks are truly Primal.
What about you? I’d love to hear about your go-to Primal beverages. Share your thoughts in the comment board!
About the Author
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.