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We don't advocate anyone's drinking to excess or causing danger to others. But if you are on a low-carb diet like a paleo plan, and you are going to drink, here are the best choices.

Paleo and primal diets are based on the principle that we are all better off eating only those foods that were consumed by our ancient, paleolithic ancestors. There isn't any evidence that ancient humans drank alcohol on a regular basis, although alcohol does occur in nature, and there certainly isn't any evidence that they passed it up either.

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Alcohol is a reality of life for many of us, including paleo, primal, and low-carb dieters. But certain ways of drinking and certain kinds of alcohol are more supportive of diet goals that others.

 Here are ten simple rules for drinking as healthily as possible.

1. Don't feel that you are sabotaging your diet by drinking.

There can be many good reasons not to drink ever or at all, but pursuing optimum health is not one of them. One group of researchers followed a group of 1800 men and women, all of them 55 years old or older at the beginning of the study, for the next 20 years. They found that two kinds of drinkers were the most likely to have died by the end of the study.

Heavy drinkers, people who downed more than 2 drinks a day, were 45% more likely to have died relatively early than moderate drinkers, people who drank 1 or 2 drinks several times a week. But teetotalers, people who didn't drink at all, were 51% more likely to have died by the end of the study than moderate drinkers, too. 

Drinking too much and not drinking at all were about equally likely to be linked to death before old age.

The study also found that abstainers from alcohol were more likely to be unemployed. They were less likely to have stable family relationships. They were less likely to have close friends and less likely to be involved in social or civic organizations, and more likely to be divorced or widowed than moderate drinkers.

2. If you are going to drink with meals, drink red wine.

Red wine contains more antioxidant polyphenols than other alcohol beverages, and Cabernets contain the greatest antioxidant content among red wines. Red wine in general have about 2/3 greater antioxidant potency than whites. The resveratrol in red wine is of dubious value--only one, recent study has found an actual benefit--but other compounds in red wine, formed by the interaction of the wine with the oak in the cask in which it is aged, help regulate blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and actually do fight aging.

There isn't, by the way, any wine that goes with fish. The omega-3 essential fatty acids in cold-water fish are oxidized into potentially harmful forms by acetaldehyde, which the liver makes when it detoxifies alcohol. When you eat fish, skip the alcohol

When you eat meat, however, alcohol in moderation is OK.

3. If you want to go for the hard stuff, drink spirits aged in wooden casks (brandy, cognac, scotch, and whiskey).

Hard liquor doesn't contain any carbohydrate, but it does contain a real kick of antioxidants, due to the interaction of the liquor with the wood in the barrels in which it is aged. Tequila is also aged in wooden barrels, but its antioxidant content has not been measured, although one study found that drinking tequila every day helps diabetics control blood sugars.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Holahan CJ and collaborators. Wine consumption and 20-year mortality among late-life moderate drinkers. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 73(1). January 2012. 80-8.
  • Sluik D and collaborators. Alcohol consumption and mortality in individuals with diabetes mellitus. British Journal of Nutrition. 108(7). October 2012. 1307-15.
  • Photo courtesy of James Palinsad by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/99329675@N02/11064873956/
  • Photo courtesy of Michael Fajardo by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/mfajardo/379027524/

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