Choose Your Booze: A Guide to Healthy Drinking
Mark’s Daily Apple
by Mark Sisson: I
Am Tired of This Hamster Wheel
It’s the question
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?
are some legitimate scientific reasons to enjoy alcohol in moderation.
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.)
can likely obtain the same vascular benefits from fish
oil and a low carb, high antioxidant diet (and through
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Spirits (particularly Whiskey, Brandy, Scotch and Cognac)
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.
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
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.)
Sure, red wines
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.
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.
the rest of the article
to Lew's recent podcast with Mark Sisson
October 3, 2012
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