We’ve previously discussed wine, the near-perfect alcoholic beverage for the Wheat Belly wheat- and grain-free lifestyle. Let’s now discuss another great choice, vodka.
First of all, the process of distillation (heating, evaporating, condensing the liquid) purportedly reduces the protein content of the end-product to very low levels. This is why vodka is so crystal clear, no murkiness from proteins. Even when vodkas are sourced from wheat, rye, or barley, the gluten content is reportedly very low, even low enough to qualify as “gluten-free,” meaning no more than 20 parts per million and low enough presumably for even someone with extreme gluten-sensitivity or celiac disease to tolerate. However, in real life, I find this not to be true. I personally have reacted to several of the grain-based vodkas, as have many others. Because there are terrific non-grain vodkas choices, I think the best policy here is to avoid grain-based vodkas like SKYY, Stolichnaya, Grey Goose, Ketel One, and Absolut. The exposure is small but, as you are likely gathering, the longer you are on this wheat- and grain-free lifestyle, the more sensitive you become to any re-exposure.
From a carbohydrate/sugar view, vodka is perfect: essentially zero carbs, even lower than dry white or red wines.
Among our choices in non-grain vodkas that are distributed nationally:
Ciroc–A bit pricey, but worth it for its exceptional smoothness. Because Ciroc is produced from grapes, it is as confidently grain-free as wine.
Trader Joes’ Versatile Spirit–The Trader Joes chain recently released this grape-sourced vodka. While not anywhere as smooth as Ciroc, at about 25% of the cost of Ciroc, it’s a bargain, especially if the mix you are drinking doesn’t demand such a costly vodka (e.g., making eggnog).
Chopin–In North America, the Chopin vodka sold is sourced from potatoes and is therefore safe. It’s also my second choice for smoothness and flavor after Ciroc. In Europe, however, be careful: Chopin outside North America can be sourced from potatoes, wheat, or rye, so you may have to specify Chopin from potatoes only. (I learned this when I was in Warsaw, Poland, the home of Chopin vodka, to speak at a gluten-free exposition and was entertained by some wonderful Polish natives over dinner. In Poland, pianist Frederic Chopin is a hero and they revere their Chopin vodka.)
Tito’s–Tito’s is a bit of a special situation. It is sourced from corn and thereby poses potential exposure to the zein protein of corn, a relative of the gliadin protein of wheat, rye, and barley. However, this brand is distilled 6-times, reducing protein content to negligible levels. Many of us, myself included, have had Tito’s without ill-effect. (However, in my tastings, I would rate Tito’s as 3rd after Ciroc and Chopin.) Tito’s is also more widely distributed in bars and restaurants than Ciroc and Chopin and can therefore be a safe choice when the other two are not available.
And look for only vodka only, not the mixers that invariably contain high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, fruit juices, not to mention artificial colorings and flavorings.
Not listed are the local or regional artisinal vodkas that may be distributed in small areas, but not available nationally or in most bars and restaurants. So keep your eyes and ears open for such locally produced vodkas as you may stumble on some pleasant surprises.
Of course, you still have the alcohol issues to contend with if you exceed more than the safe 2 servings. But, stay below this cutoff, and you can enjoy your vodka or vodka cocktails without the added risk of a wheat/grain mishap if you stick to this list. Those of you in the midst of your Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox and/or anyone wishing to lose a lot of weight, bear in mind that any amount of alcohol will slow or turn off your ability to lose weight, not matter how low-carb, an effect due to the alcohol. You may therefore want to abstain or at least never exceed one drink when weight loss is among your goals.