A question people often ask when they’re first starting a Paleo diet is what can they drink? Paleo drinks aren’t just limited to water, and in fact, can be just as exciting as beverages that aren’t good for you.
What Drinks Are Paleo?
Obviously, water is Paleo.
First and foremost, I recommend drinking pure, filtered water to maintain hydration on the Paleo diet. A general rule of thumb for how much water to drink each day is to drink half of your body’s weight (in pounds) in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, then you would shoot for drinking 100 ounces of water per day.
Another method to gauge hydration is to look at your urine (1). It should be clear or very faintly yellow, and you should be peeing around five times a day. Of course, different people will need more or less water depending on their metabolism, activity level, where they live, and other factors.
Listen to your body, but be aware that by the time you start to feel thirsty, you may already be dehydrated! Another thing to keep in mind is that thirst is often disguised as hunger, so be sure you’re drinking enough water each day and not mistaking thirst for hunger. Drinking water between meals can help to curb cravings, however, drinking liquids during mealtimes may slow gastric emptying and impair digestion (2).
You can get a filtration system in your home, buy spring water in glass containers, or get three or five gallon reusable BPA-free containers that you can fill at many grocery stores with filtered water.
What If I Don’t Like Plain Water?
There are all sorts of different variations of water available these days, and my favorite is sparkling water. Many forms of carbonated water are allowed on the Paleo diet such as:
- Sparkling water
- Sparkling mineral water
- Club soda
- Soda water
- Any type of plain carbonated water
Be sure to read the ingredients to ensure there’s no added sugar or other non-Paleo ingredients. Tonic water tends to be loaded with sugar, so steer clear of that. Choose brands of sparkling water that contain only one or two ingredients: carbonated water and “natural flavor.” LaCroix is my favorite brand of sparkling water—I love the pamplemousse (grapefruit)! Try adding a twist of lime, lemon, or orange to your carbonated and plain water for added flavor. Bubbly water can be really helpful for folks who are trying to stop drinking soda, too.
So, contrary to popular belief, water is not the only Paleo beverage! In fact, there are several Paleo-friendly drink options available.
Drinks That Are Definitely Paleo
- Filtered or spring water
- Kombucha and other fermented, non-dairy drinks
- Sparkling water with or without natural flavors
- Club soda, soda water, seltzer, or any type of plain carbonated water
- Mineral waters
- Herbal, caffeine-free teas
Paleo Drinks to Enjoy in Moderation
- Coffee and other caffeinated drinks
- Coconut water (the carbs can add up quickly!)
- Freshly-juiced fruits and vegetables when consumed with their pulp
- Drinks containing natural sweeteners such as raw honey, stevia, coconut sap, etc.
- Drinks sweetened with stevia or sugar alcohols (erythritol, xylitol, etc.)
Drinks That Are Not Paleo
- Milk, kefir from dairy and other dairy-based drinks
- Beer and other gluten-containing drinks
- Fruit juice
- Sodas, colas, sweet teas, diet drinks, and other sweetened drinks
- Energy drinks
- Sports drinks and electrolyte beverages
- Any drinks containing artificial colorings, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives
How to Make Your Alcohol Paleo
People are often shocked to discover that alcohol is allowed on the Paleo diet. Alcohol has some reported benefits, such as lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, gallstones, and type 2 diabetes (3).
Of course, if you drink too much alcohol, it might have the opposite effect. In any case, we should all try to consume alcohol in moderation (no more than one to three drinks per day). Having said all that, let’s chat about the best booze to choose!
Alcoholic beverages can be divided into 3 categories: beers, wines, and spirits. The first two are by-products of the fermentation of starch and sugar found in fruits and plants. For example, grapes, coconuts, and rice are fermented to make wines. Wheat, barley, and other grains are fermented into beers.
Spirits are also the result of fermentation from grains, but undergo an additional process called distillation which significantly increases the alcohol content. The distillation process supposedly removes any gluten and other residual proteins brought about by fermentation (4). However, gluten can be added back into the alcohol after the distillation process in the form of colorings and even other alcohols!
I won’t ever recommend that anyone drink regular beer, since it’s full of gluten, which is health-destructive even for people who don’t have allergies (5). And I hate to disappoint, but even gluten-free beers are still made with grains which can trigger leaky gut, inflammation, weight gain, and autoimmunity.
Spirits, which can include vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum, and the like, are generally fine, as long as they are pure and come free of grain residue and sugar. Due to their significantly higher alcohol content, however, be sure to exercise restraint.
The best hard liquors are distilled from non-grain sources, or at least certified gluten-free. Choose lighter-colored (clear) spirits over darker spirits (which contain more sugar). Some of my favorites are potato vodka and 100% silver agave tequila. Tito’s brand vodka is certified gluten free and a lover amongst Paleo partiers. And speaking of tequila—you should check out our Paleo margarita recipe!
Where people usually get into trouble is with the mixers in cocktails, which are almost always loaded with significant amounts of sugar. Opt for sparkling water, club soda, soda water, seltzer, or any type of plain carbonated water instead. Add a twist of lemon or lime, and you’re good to go!
One of my favorite drinks is a vodka soda with a twist of lime, or just a straight-up martini. You can also ask the bartender to leave the simple syrup and other sweeteners out of your cocktails. The bonus of avoiding sugary mixers (besides the obvious), is that you have way less of a hangover the next day!
Wines might be the best option for individuals on the Paleo diet. Not only do wines have a lower alcohol content, but they’re also rich in antioxidants such as resveratrol. This is due to the fact that wines are essentially fermented fruits. Try to choose a wine that is sulfite-free and organic. Mead is a type of wine made by fermenting honey, and is also allowed on the Paleo diet. Hard apple cider and port wine are also Paleo-friendly options.
In general, when drinking Paleo, just pay attention to how your body reacts to various alcohols, and drink accordingly.
How to Make Your Coffee Paleo
Coffee has some reported health benefits like improving mood, memory, and alertness. It also may help to increase fat burning, improve athletic performance, and reduce the risk for dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and some forms of cancer! (6)
However, these benefits only come when we drink coffee in moderate amounts, somewhere in the ballpark of two cups per day or less, in the earlier part of the day. A lot of people use caffeine as a crutch to get through the day, and if they didn’t have it, they’d be passing out at their desks. Chronic coffee consumption can also be a sign of unstable blood sugar levels or adrenal fatigue.
It’s a good idea to clear your body of all caffeine every once in awhile, to make sure you haven’t become dependent on it. You may want to limit your intake of coffee (or avoid it altogether) if you:
- Are a slow metabolizer
- Are pregnant
- Have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease
- Have uncontrolled hypertension
- Are type 2 diabetic
- Are under significant stress
- Exhibit symptoms of adrenal fatigue
Having said all that, let’s talk about how to make your coffee Paleo!
First off, if you’re someone who uses creamer in your coffee, you’ll want to be sure that you’re using a Paleo-friendly creamer since half-and-half and other dairy creamers are not Paleo.
Use coconut milk, almond milk, or make your own half-and-half blend from both. Try making or buying other types of nut and seed milks too: hemp milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk, etc. Be sure to read the labels on any store-bought products, as many nut and seed milks contain non-Paleo ingredients.
Just like creamer can be a source of non-Paleo ingredients, so can coffee sweeteners. Even if they’re Paleo, dumping a bunch of honey or other Paleo-friendly sweeteners into your coffee isn’t going to do your blood glucose levels any favors, and can contribute substantially to your sugar intake.
The good news is that you can work on replacing the dairy and sweeteners in your coffee with healthier alternatives. Coffee can be an awesome opportunity to get some extra fats and nutrients in your diet, and below are some ideas for how to go about doing that!
Add Fat to Your Coffee
Adding fat to your coffee is a great way to increase the amount of healthy fats in your diet. Fat also stabilizes caffeine molecules to give you more bang for your buck. Fat sources work best in coffee when they are blended, or at least, stirred in very well. Try blending in:
- Coconut oil
- MCT oil
- Melted ghee or grass-fed butter
You’ve probably heard of Bulletproof Coffee, which is a term coined by Dave Asprey who sells ingredients and kits to make all sorts of variations of Bulletproof (BP) Coffee. It’s basically a blend of coffee and fat.
The original Bulletproof Coffee recipe blends together coffee, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil. Adding MCT Oil to your coffee can be a good way to boost your daily fat intake. MCTs, which stands for medium chain triglycerides, are rapidly broken down and absorbed through the intestines compared to most of the other fats we eat (7). Because MCTs are such a quick form of energy, they can be rapidly absorbed and turned into ketones. People following a ketogenic diet or who are otherwise looking to increase their body’s natural production of ketones love this stuff.
How to Make Your Own Bulletproof Coffee
You can make your own version of Bulletproof Coffee at home using just 3 ingredients:
- MCT Oil
- Grass-fed Butter
Now, technically Bulletproof coffee isn’t Paleo, because of the grass-fed butter. Many Paleo folks do just fine eating grass-fed butter, but if you’re totally dairy intolerant, worry not—you can still have your BP coffee.
It’s just as easy to make a Paleo version of Bulletproof Coffee by replacing the butter in the recipe above with coconut oil, lard, tallow, or ghee.
Blend together the following ingredients for about 30 seconds, until foamy head appears:
- 1-2 cups hot brewed coffee
- 1-2 Tbsp MCT oil
- 1-2 Tbsp unsalted grass-fed butter, melted
If it’s your first time making Bulletproof Coffee, you may want to start with smaller amounts of fats and work your way up to more.
For more information about Bulletproof Coffee and whether or not you should use it in your Paleo diet, check out this blog post.
Add Collagen to Your Coffee
Coffee is also a great way to get in your collagen for the day. Dissolved collagen powder adds a nice thickness to your coffee without adding any taste.
Add Cream to Your Coffee
I love making up a batch of coconut whipped cream and adding vanilla extract (without alcohol) and just a drop of maple syrup. It’s a great way to take your coffee to the next level in a healthier way than you’ll find at coffee shops.
Add Protein to Your Coffee
While collagen does contain some protein, you can also try blending in eggs or egg yolks for protein and micronutrients.
Add Spices to Your Coffee
Trying adding flavors and spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cacao powder to your cup of joe. These heighten the flavor and aroma of your coffee.
Why Sweet Drinks Aren’t Paleo
Here’s a frightening statistic: people who regularly drink sugary drinks (like soda or sweet tea) are 26% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to those who rarely have such drinks (8). But soda and sweetened tea aren’t the only dangerously sweet drinks to look out for. You’ll also want to beware of fruit juice, sports drinks, and dessert drinks, like milkshakes and frappuccinos.
Soda, of course, is the biggest culprit. There are a lot of problems with soda and it can be really tough to give it up when it’s part of your regular routine.
Here’s why: carbohydrates break down into glucose (sugar), but when those carbs come in the form of liquid, they hit your bloodstream quickly and the pancreas can’t secrete insulin fast enough to clear the blood of all that sugar. If you drink a lot of sweetened drinks, you likely have too much glucose hanging out in your blood on a daily basis, which is not a good thing.
In the development of type 2 diabetes, chronically elevated blood sugar eventually causes the cells of the body to become insulin resistant, which results in even more sugar lingering in the bloodstream as it’s unable to enter the body’s cells. High blood sugar levels damage blood vessels and cause glycation and oxidative damage to cells throughout the body, which can result in long-term damage.
Diet soda isn’t any better than real sugar either. Despite being marketed as sugar-free, the artificial sweeteners contained in diet soda may be even more unhealthy than regular sugar. Some studies suggest that diet soda alters our gut microbiome, triggering metabolic derangement and a predisposition for developing diabetes (9). So the moral of the story is this: quit all soda and sugary drinks for the sake of your health.
Why Isn’t Fruit Juice Paleo?
People love fruit juice and it’s no wonder—it’s basically pure sugar! Fruit juice has been touted as “healthy” for years, but the reality is that juice is sugar. Not only that, fruit juice often has extra sugars added in on top of the sugars that already naturally occur in fruit.
Even if it doesn’t have extra sugar added in, juice still lacks the fibers necessary to slow down the delivery of sugar to your blood, making it a high glycemic food. I’ve gotta say, it breaks my heart to watch parents pour fruit juices down their kids throats, knowing the long-term effects of overloading the bloodstream with glucose.
Instead of drinking juice, make a smoothie using the whole vegetables or fruits, which contain fiber to help slow the delivery of glucose to your bloodstream. Keep in mind, however, that you really shouldn’t take down more than the equivalent of one piece of fruit at any one sitting. So if you’re juicing a banana, an apple, some carrots, and a bunch of berries together, sorry, that’s really not much better than drinking fruit juice! If you insist on keeping juice in your life, I recommend diluting it one part juice to four parts water.
Sports Drinks Aren’t Paleo
Most sport drinks and electrolyte drinks aren’t Paleo thanks to the fact that they’re highly processed and excessively sugary. These drinks also contain artificial colorings, preservatives, and other nasty ingredients. Adding insult to injury, drinking all of that sugar before, during, or after your workout can negate all those calories you just worked so hard to burn off! But don’t sweat it, Paleo athletes: you can make your own Paleo sports recovery drink.
Paleo Drinks Bottom Line
Determining what you can drink on a Paleo diet is pretty basic when you break it down. Avoid sugar and artificial ingredients, and don’t overdo it with stimulants like caffeine and alcohol.