Tag Archives: wine

Modern Caveman? How Paleo is Beer and Mead? | The Paleo Diet

Is there room for a pint of beer on the Paleo diet now and again? Are there any occasions where a brew can make a surprise appearance? And, how about mead?

Let’s start with some definitions. The Beer Academy defines beer as having barley, hops, water and yeast.1 With two out of four failing to stay true to strict Paleo guidelines, the resulting beverage can’t be suitable either. Even gluten free beers are grain-based; all grains, rich in anti-nutrients and quite helpful in promoting leaky gut syndrome, are one of the key things to be avoided on a Paleo diet.

And mead, an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops2 isn’t exactly the most Paleo of beverages, either.

So, the answer as to whether they’re Paleo compliant is pretty straightforward: No.

But what’s the big deal if you’re a die-hard beer lover and the idea of never having another cold one again is just sending chills down your spine? Rest assured, there are other options to think about.

First and foremost, there are other libations worth considering when we’re out on the town or at a business meeting at which drinks are flowing liberally. And while it’s not exactly suggested that we indulge in spirits regularly, the way we might with water or green tea, one of my goals in working with clients is to create a plan that can be maintained for the long run, and that includes situations where there are drinks to be had.

So, what can we drink then, aside from water on the rocks?


With many known health benefits including high levels of heart healthy resveratrol, our hunter-gatherer ancestors drank wine and, when paired with a balanced meal, can be consumed without major consequence, in terms of disturbing blood sugar levels or disrupting sleep. “Red wine is clearly the drink of choice if you are doing light to moderate drinking for your health, and daily consumption just before or with the evening meal may be the most protective pattern,” said Dr. James O’Keefe, MD, Chief of Preventive Cardiology at Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City.3 The key is to look for wines that are sulfite free,4 and to keep it to a glass or two, rather than binging on boxed wine or drinking too close to bedtime. Remember, there’s a big difference between falling asleep and passing out! Also, note that if you were following an anti-candida Paleo protocol, you’d be better off avoiding anything containing, or made from yeast.


Potato or grape vodka, gin made from juniper berries, and tequila, served neat or on the rocks, also make viable options as a drink of choice.


Yes, it may sound boring, but if you alternate a couple of sparkling waters with a twist of lime for each drink you’re having, you’ll keep hydrated and also be able to better pace yourself. Plus, if your company includes the few who seem to have made it their goal to make sure everyone drinks themselves into oblivion, you’ll be set with a little white fib that your Pellegrino has something more adult mixed in!

Alcohol is still alcohol whether it comes from a shot of Ciroq or a Chopin on the rocks and it’s something that ideally isn’t consumed as part of your Paleo diet daily regime. Whatever it is you’re going to be drinking, the key is balance.

Make sure that earlier in the day you stay even more on top of your hydration than usual, load up on the veggies, good fat and protein and cut down on any fruit you may have eaten; you’ll be getting enough simple carbohydrates from the alcohol later in the evening. Also, don’t make the mistake of arriving at the event hungry. This can lead you down the path of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, when you’re at the McDonald’s drive thru at 2 A.M. eating a Big Mac because it sounded like a good idea after five drinks.

Finally, make a plan and stick to it.  If you’re dining at your favorite Italian Restaurant with a killer wine list, that also happens to have the fresh focaccia you used to inhale, and homemade fettuccini that was always your go-to, and a tiramisu that is simply off the chain, don’t have all of them. Stick with your one glass or two of Super Tuscan and enjoy the heck out of it, rather than Hoovering it all. When you’re emotionally prepared for the one thing you enjoy, it will serve to keep you from feeling guilty and subsequently eating everything and anything in sight. And, enjoying your glass of wine with dinner a few hours before bed will leave you with restful sleep, an energetic awakening in the morning, and a far greater chance of staying on your true Paleo path.



[1] The Beer Academy | Beer Academy | Beer Info | What Is Beer? N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2015.

[2] Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 27 May 2015.

[3] Time. Time, n.d. Web. 27 May 2015.

[4] The Paleo Diet. N.p., 18 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 May 2015.


Sulfites in Wine, Beer, and Food | The Paleo Diet

Alcohol Consumption during the Paleolithic Era

In all of my popular Paleo Diet books including The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, The Paleo Diet Cookbook and The Paleo Answer, I have always suggested that moderate alcohol consumption is consistent with the health goals of the Paleo Diet, despite our research1 showing that virtually all humans living as hunter gatherers during the Paleolithic era likely did not consume alcohol (ethanol). Our foraging ancestors simply did not have the technological means to manufacture this compound and consume it on a regular basis.

As our species made the transition from the Paleolithic era (2.5 million years ago to 10,000 years ago) to the Neolithic era (10,000 to 5,000 years ago), there is no doubt that the knowledge to produce fermented beverages containing low concentrations of ethanol became common place. An extensive ethnographic literature demonstrates non-westernized, indigenous people worldwide produced alcoholic beverages with only minimal technology.2 – 5 However, the alcohol concentration in their beverages was and is typically low. Distilled spirits did not exist.4 Accordingly, the risk of alcohol abuse and diseases of alcoholism was likely low to non-existent.

Natural fermentation can spontaneously occur in fruit juices, fruit mashes or fruit purees when airborne or other environmental yeasts contaminate the fruit products and subsequently metabolize the sugars in the fruit into alcohol. If the fermentation process (spoilage) is allowed to continue, the waste products of yeast metabolism of fruit sugars produce carbon dioxide and ethanol, which of course is the element (ethanol) desired in alcoholic beverages. Fruits high in sugar allow the yeast to produce beverages with higher alcoholic (ethanol) concentrations, but eventually increasing ethanol concentrations kill the very yeasts that produce it.

Because wild grapes, which contain moderate to high sugar concentrations, would have been found throughout much of the Paleolithic world inhabited by hunter gatherers,6 it seems likely that one of the first alcoholic beverages (wine) was accidentally produced when grapes, whose skins are frequently contaminated with yeasts, were collected and mashed into a puree or juice and unintentionally left to ferment. Voila, we now have wine, but almost certainly of lower alcohol content than contemporary wines, and almost surely not of the same taste.

The first archaeological evidence for deliberate wine making occurred approximately 7,000 to 7,500 years ago,6 but likely was in place a millennium earlier, or even before, as people made the transition from hunter gatherers to farmers in Europe and Asia and domesticated grapes.7 As wine making progressed from the Neolithic times to the present, numerous production and manufacturing procedures were implemented to improve the taste, quality and storage life of this beverage. However, health-wise, one of the questionable recent additions to the formulation of almost all modern wines are chemicals called sulfites. Note that added sulfites are not essential to wine making.


I don’t know about you, but decades ago, between 1970s – 1990s, when I bought wines for dinner and family occasions I noticed labels on some of my favorite wines indicated “Contains Sulfites.” Like many consumers I simply disregarded or forgot this notice and put it somewhere in my brain registry of nutritional facts that I should eventually reconsider.

If you read your wine bottle labels carefully, almost all list this statement “Contains Sulfites.” Unfortunately, virtually no winery that I know of states the exact concentrations of sulfites in their wines or even lets on to us that any adverse health effects may arise from ingestion of these chemicals. Notable exceptions to this dogma include a few wineries in the U.S. and abroad which produce wines that are advertised as “Without Added Sulfites,” including the following:

Before, I get into a discussion of the sulfite content of wines, beer and other foods and the influence of sulfites upon health and wellbeing, it should be noted that even wines produced without added sulfites actually maintain tiny amounts of these compounds which result from the fermentation process itself. Do these tiny, residual quantities of sulfite matter to your health? Probably not, as I will shortly demonstrate.

OK, so what are sulfites? And why do wine, beverage and food manufacturers infuse their once natural and generally unadulterated products with these chemicals? Here’s a laundry list of the most common sulfites:

  1. Sodium sulphite
  2. Sodium bisulphite
  3. Sodium metabisulphite
  4. Potassium sulphite
  5. Potassium bisulfite
  6. Potassium metabisulphite
  7. Calcium sulphite
  8. Calcium bisulfate
  9. Sulfur dioxide (which is not a sulfite, but rather a closely related oxide.)

In foods and beverages sulfites may ultimately produce sulfur dioxide (SO2), and other compounds (HSO3-), (SO32-), (S2O52-) which may be bound to elements in the food/beverage or which may form free sulfites.8 Added sulfites can prevent growth and oxidation of undesired species of bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms in wine and foods. Besides their antimicrobial action, sulfites are widely used in the food processing industry – predominantly as anti-browning agents, antioxidants, color stabilizers, and preservatives.9, 10 The following table11, 12 shows the concentration of total sulfites (bound and free) found in common beverages and foods.

Sulfites Table 1 | The Paleo Diet

Note that this list is certainly not comprehensive nor representative of all brands and products of foods found in each category. Accordingly the sulfite content of virtually all processed foods and beverages (including wine) is never reported on labels, simply because governmental agencies worldwide (including the U.S.) don’t require this information from manufacturers to be supplied to consumers. In the U.S. we are now burdened by four lame and obsolete laws regarding dietary sulfites which were enacted by the FDA some 26-28 years ago.13 – 16 In the first edict,13, 15 the FDA simply required manufacturers to make the statement “Contains Sulfites” on food or beverage products that contained 10ppm or greater of total sulfites. In the second statute,14, 16 the FDA mandated that fresh fruits and vegetables could not be laced with sulfites.

Let’s take a look at what these two pieces of legislative fog actually mean to the typical consumer. The first portion13, 15 states that whether a food contains 10ppm of sulfites or values approaching acceptable maximal daily limits for these chemicals (>0.7 mg per kg body weight),8 the labeling for the manufacturer for their product remains exactly the same – they must only state”Contains Sulfites.”

The second statute14, 16 stipulates that fresh fruits and vegetables, such as in fresh supermarket produce or salad bars cannot contain any added sulfites. The rationale here by the governmental edict is that purveyors of these products would keep their fruits and veggies on the shelf indefinitely by simply spraying or soaking these items with sulfites. In turn, consumers purchasing what they thought was fresh produce would actually be ingesting large amounts of sulfites in dated fruits and veggies. Hence the USDA legislation actually had the consumer in mind by preventing excessive consumption of sulfites which even at the time (1986-88) were known to produce serious health concerns.

In theory, the FDA at this early juncture can’’t necessarily be faulted, because they were taking steps to limit sulfite intake in the U.S. population.13 – 16 Unfortunately, no teeth were put into these governmental edicts to really make a difference. We are now saddled with weak laws that allow manufacturers of foods and beverages to sidestep the intent of this original legislation (lowering sulfite intake), and increase their company profitability by extending the shelf life of their products with added sulfites.

Health Issues with Added Sulfites

A number of recent reviews by internationally recognized experts who have studied the adverse health effects of added sulfites have concluded with the following statements:

“the clinical importance of sensitivities to these additives remains underestimated.”17

“Whilst the apparent safety of the sulphite additives lead to their widespread use, reports began to emerge during the 1970’s that sulphite exposure was associated with adverse reactions.” These included the triggering of anaphylactic reactions, as well as the elicitation of a wide range of symptoms, including dermatitis, urticaria, flushing, hypotension, abdominal pain and diarrhea… and the triggering of bronchoconstriction in asthmatic patients”18

“Currently, sulfiting agents are not considered GRAS for use in meats, foods recognized as a major source of vitamin B-1 (sulfites have been found to destroy thiamin), or fruits or vegetables intended to be served raw to consumers or to be presented to consumers as fresh.”19

“The analysis of specific consumption data confirmed the existence of a risk of exceeding the ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) related to sulphite residue levels in wine.”20

If you have ever tipped more than three glasses of wine at a dinner, a celebration or for whatever reason, you most likely have experienced a “hangover” and most likely attributed these symptoms to “too much alcohol.” You are probably right—regardless of its source, acute, excessive ethanol consumption does damage to our physiology which on the short term causes a number of symptoms which we collectively refer to as a “hangover.” Many people experience hangover like symptoms, particularly after imbibing too much wine.

As I have outlined above, wine is a potent source of dietary sulfites – so much so, that a number of studies have concluded that the two major dietary sources of sulfites for adults are wine and dried, processed fruit.8, 20, 21 How much dietary sulfite is too much? Symptoms of sulfite toxicity with wine may occur when wines exceeding 150ppm (see the table above) are consumed,12 particularly when you drink more than 450ml.8 A standard wine bottle contains 750ml, so if you drink 2-3 moderate glasses of wine, you can easily exceed 450ml.

Symptoms of sulfite toxicity are quite similar to being drunk or experiencing a hangover and include: flushing, fast heartbeart, stomach upset, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Further, excessive sulfite ingestion may cause hives (urticaria), wheezing, dizziness, difficulty in swallowing, tingling in limbs and low blood pressure.17, 18 The greatest threat to health from sulfites is their aggravating effect upon pulmonary function in asthmatics (be they children or adults). It is estimated that 3-10% of all asthmatic patients are sensitive to sulfites and children with asthma appear to be at even a higher risk.18

Some Practical Advice

It completely amazes me how virtually every hand we humans play in modifying our natural food supply seems to result in adverse health effects. Who would think that a simple chemical like sulfites, which have been used for at least 200 years to preserve food and wine could have such far reaching effects upon our health and well being. Granted, most people don’t present with overt sulfite toxicity, but the effects certainly must be subtle for all of us and affect each and every one of us in a different manner.

Lorrie and I met old friends in a Reno casino buffet this summer for lunch. We both lavished upon the unlimited, rich steamed shrimp bowls and the cornucopia of colorful salads, vegetables and fruits. I was amazed at how the enormous quantities of these dishes could be offered and displayed at all hours of the day – seemingly fresh and straight from the garden. None of these dishes ever showed signs of spoilage, browning or anything beyond freshness. That night neither one of us slept well; our dreams were disturbed and we both experienced digestive upset. Was it added sulfites to make all of these casino buffet dishes appear pristine that caused our indigestion? I don’t know. But this pattern has repeated itself over the decades as we have returned to Reno and its casino buffets.

My advice is always to focus upon non-processed foods: fresh fruits, veggies, meat, fish, poultry, eggs and nuts while avoiding anything you buy in a can, box, bottle or plastic container. They likely contain sulfites and other non healthful additives. Wine is a delicious compliment for special meals – if you would like to treat yourself to this non-Paleo item, checkout the sulfite free wines which are available at your local dealers, and see if these wines make a difference for you.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


1. Cordain L, Eaton SB, Sebastian A, Mann N, Lindeberg S, Watkins BA, O’Keefe JH, Brand-Miller J. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Feb;81(2):341-54

2. Teramoto Y, Tktsuya Hano T, Ueda S. Production and characteristics of traditional alcoholic beverage made with sweet potato as the saccharifying agent. J Inst Brew, November-December 1998;104: 339-341

3. Henkel TW. Parakari, an indigenous fermented beverage using amylolytic Rhizopus in Guyana. Mycologia 2005;97:1-11.

4. Steinkraus KH. Nutritionally significant indigenous foods involving an alcoholic fermentation. In: Gastineau CF, Darby WJ, Turner TB (eds.) Fermented food beverages in nutrition. New York, Academic Press, 1979, pp 35-59.

5. Steinkraus KH. Handbook of Indigenous Fermented Foods (2nd ed.). New York, Marcel Dekker, 1996.

6. McGovern PE, Glusker DL, Exner LJ. Neolithic resinated wine. Nature 1996; 381:480-481.

7. Arroyo-García R, Ruiz-García L, Bolling L et al. Multiple origins of cultivated grapevine (Vitis vinifera L. ssp. sativa) based on chloroplast DNA polymorphisms. Molecular Ecology 2006;15: 3707-14.

8. Machado RD, McToledo, E Vincente.Sulfite content in some Brazilian wines: analytical determination and estimate of dietary exposure. European Food Research and Technology
July 2009, Volume 229, Issue 3, pp 383-389.

9. Roberts A, McWeeny D. The use of sulfur dioxide in the food industry. A review. J Fd Technol 1972;7:221-38.

10. Taylor Sl, Higley NA, Bush RK. Sulfites in foods: uses, analytical methods, residues, fate, exposure assessment, metabolism, toxicity, and hypersensitivity. Adv Food Res 1986;30:1-76.

11. Kim HJ, Park GY, Kim YK. Analysis of sulfites in foods by ion exclusion chromatography with electrochemical detection. Food Technol 1987;41:85-91.

12. Vally H, Carr A, El-Saleh J, Thompson P. Wine-induced asthma: a placebo-controlled assessment of its pathogenesis. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1999 Jan;103(1 Pt 1):41-6.

13. FDA. 1986. Food labeling, Declaration of sulfiting agents. Food and Drug Admin, Fed. Reg 51:25012.

14. FDA. 1986. Sulfiting agents; Revocation of GRAS status for use on fruits and vegetables intended to be served or sold raw to consumers. Food and Drug Admin, Fed Reg. 51:25021 and 25198.

15. FDA. 1988. Sulfiting agents in standardized foods: Labeling requirements. Food and Drug Admin, Fed Reg. 53:51062-51084.

16. FDA. 1988. Sulfiting agents: Afirmation of GRAS status. Food and Drug Admin, Fed Reg. 53: 51065-51084.

17. Vally H, Misso NL, Madan V. Clinical effects of sulphite additives. Clin Exp Allergy. 2009 Nov;39(11):1643-51

18. Vally H, Misso NL. Adverse reactions to the sulphite additives. Gastroenterol Hepatol Bed Bench. 2012 Winter;5(1):16-23.

19. Grotheer P, Marshall M, Simonne A. Sulfites: separating fact from fiction. University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, 2005, //edis.ifas.ufl.edu

20. Leclercq C1, Molinaro MG, Piccinelli R, Baldini M, Arcella D, Stacchini P. Dietary intake exposure to sulphites in Italy–analytical determination of sulphite-containing foods and their combination into standard meals for adults and children. Food Addit Contam. 2000 Dec;17(12):979-89.

21. Urtiaga C1, Amiano P, Azpiri M, Alonso A, Dorronsoro M. Estimate of dietary exposure to sulphites in child and adult populations in the Basque Country. Food Addit Contam Part A Chem Anal Control Expo Risk Assess. 2013;30(12):2035-42.

Wine | The Paleo Diet

There are numerous geographic locations worldwide with growing numbers of of centenarians.

Environmental factors including diet, exercise, fresh air, sunshine, occupation, psychological factors including positive outlook, meaningful life roles, close family ties, spiritual perspective and hereditary factors all work synergistically to promote a long, healthy lifespan. It would be difficult or impossible to quantify the precise role each of these elements may play in maximizing human longevity.

Nevertheless, consumption of compounds called polyphenols found in many plants, particularly a compound called resveratrol has been shown to extend the lifespan of certain short lived experimental animals. Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in grape skins (among many other plants and plant parts) and functions to protect the plant or grape from environmental damage like insect predation, fungi, and UV radiation from sunlight.

The Cannonau grape from Sardinia is the local name for a grape known worldwide as the Grenache grape. Cannonau grape skins are known to produce high concentrations of resveratrol, perhaps because of the high UV exposure they experience in Sardinia.The grapes also contain flavanols and procyanidins, which together with polyphenols – powerful antioxidants with cardiovascular benefits, according to an article, as written, by the prominent heart surgeon and Professor at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Wine from Cannonau grapes in Sardinia is made in the traditional sense where the grape skins remain for 8-10 days with the juice to produce a higher resveratrol content. Resveratrol stimulates compounds in cells called sirtuins which are known to extend lifespan in experimental animals under caloric restriction.

In conducting research for his book, Blue Zones, Dan Buettner in conjunction with National Geographic, determined that Cannonau wine does in fact play a role in the longevity of the Sardinian population, with an unusually high percentage of centenarians. Dr. Oz credited this to a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, meat and cheese from grass – fed animals, physically active jobs and red wines, made from the little – known, indigenous grape called Cannonau.

It is possible that a high resveratrol intake from red wine made with Cannonau grapes may in part contribute to increased longevity, however, no controlled human or primate experiments have ever been conducted to substantiate this hypothesis. In all of my books, I have always permitted people to drink a glass of wine with dinner every so often, as it is part of the 85:15 rule which permits occasional “cheating”. The key here is moderation.

I’m often asked what my position is on commercial wines, like  Holland Marsala Cooking Wine. Marsala contains a substantial amount of salt. Two tablespoons (30 ml) of this cooking wine contains 190 mg of sodium which translates to 483 mg of salt. The typical western diet contains about 10 grams of salt, whereas hunter-gatherer diets may contain less than 1.0 gram of salt. As you might have already guessed, Marsala Cooking Wine is very “un-Paleo” because of it’s high salt content.

Moreover, it contains two preservatives, potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite. Sulfites are sulfur based compounds that may occur naturally or are added to a food as a preservative. Sulfites can cause allergies. The FDA estimates that of 100 people one is sensitive to sulfites and their use on fresh fruits and vegetables was banned in 1986. Sulfite containing ingredients in processed foods include: sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, sodium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, sodium sulfite.

Most commercial wines contain added sulfites to extend their shelf life, just read the label. The exception to this rule are organic wines which are made without sulfites. There are many other organic wineries that produce sulfite-free wines like Frey Vineyards from Mendocino, CA who produce a variety of sulfite-free wines that are both Paleo and are reasonably priced.

When you take the guesswork out, you can put your mind to rest. Read the labels and keep it in moderation.


Loren Cordain, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus


1. Sanna G, Ledda S, Manca G, Franco MA. Characterization of the content of antioxidant substances in the wines of Sardinia. J Commodity Sci Technol Quality 2008;47 (I-IV), 5-25.

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