Merry Christmas and welcome back, my Partisans! In Part 4 of the AP Nutritional Empowerment Program, we get into the important subject of HEALTHY carbohydrate choices to maximize fat loss and overall health, while providing additional options to provide nutrient energy. Let’s dive in!

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Macronutrients Part III: Quality Sources of Slow-Burning, Complex Carbohydrates

Fat-Loss and Health 101: Beware of Foods with Fast-Burning Carbohydrates (a.k.a. fast-burning sugars)!!

When it comes to sugars, especially for those trying to lose weight or control chronic illness, it is best to completely stay away from the following fast-burning sugars (basically, the foods we love):

  • Grains of all forms: oats; barley; wheat; rice; etc.
  • Pasta; bread; grain derivatives of all types – cereal; crackers; etc.; this includes oatmeal too
  • Corn and derivatives: cereal; chips; tortillas; etc.
  • Potatoes (note: sweet potatoes should probably be limited or avoided altogether if you are serious about weight loss)
  • Fruit juices – packed with fast-burning sugars and very little nutrition, no matter what the package claims say

What’s wrong with fast-burning carbohydrates (“carbs”)? Quick recap:

The short of it is that fast-burning carbs lead to issues with blood sugar. The higher the blood sugar content, the more insulin the body releases into the blood. Insulin is a powerful storage and growth hormone used by the body to remove highly-combustive sugar from the blood, among many other important functions. With blood sugar, insulin’s role is to shuttle excess amounts of sugar in the blood to fat cells for storage, so the more insulin and sugar there is regularly floating around in the blood, the higher your tendency is to store sugar as body fat. Chronically high levels of insulin can cause many health problems, of which diabetes is but one!

Now, when most people think of “sugar”, they think of its obvious forms like table sugar, sweets, etc. (this should also include fruit juices). However, grain-based foods (even whole-grain foods), while considered “healthy” by many, are problematic foods for a few reasons: grains can be allergenic (well-known gluten is just one of several difficult-to-digest, allergenic proteins in grains); more importantly, in the end, grains break down during digestion into simple, fast-burning sugars that have a similar effect to eating sweets or table sugar – they merely take a bit more work by the body to get to the simple sugar state. 

The chemistry of sugar metabolism is the very essence of why calorie restriction/portion control is likely to fail over time. A calorie of fast-burning sugar can cause far more damage to your fat-loss goals and your metabolic health than a calorie of fat, even though they both supposedly provide the same amount of energy. Again, fast-burning sugars will disrupt your body’s fat-burning machinery and create an internal metabolic environment that tends towards fat storage (and eventually, disease). Not good!

Grains, then, are best avoided completely – yes, even whole-grain foods. And needless to say, you should also stay completely away from simple sugars like table sugar or sugars found in sweets, etc. Also, please note: how much or how little grain you eat is entirely up to you, and you may be just fine for eating them! When I suggest to Partisans to avoid grains (and sugar), I am merely saying that, the less grains and overall sugar a person consumes, the healthier and leaner they’ll typically be. Now, I do eat grains myself in order to power through heavy barbell lifts, as well as to increase my caloric intake in order to support the particularities of my own lifestyle. However, I also accept the effects of grains in my diet, as just described – everything is a compromise; the Partisan has to decide what their overall goals are, which should then determine to a great degree how much grains he/she will consume as part of their lifestyle. I’ve gone years at a time consuming no grains or sugar with no issues (it worked for my lifestyle and needs at the time), and it definitely can be done as a lifestyle. In the final analysis, the fatter and sicker a person is, the less grains and sugars they want to be consuming – end of story. 

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Slow-Burning, Complex Carbohydrates I: General Overview

So, are there any healthy options out there as far as carbohydrates for energy and health benefits? Yes there are.

Ideally, any carbohydrates a Partisan consumes should be of the “slow-burning”, non-processed type. This means that the bulk of your carbohydrates should come from non-starchy vegetables.

Nothing exemplifies slow-burning, healthy carbohydrates like green leafy vegetables. This category of vegetables contains a wide array of nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are present in their pigment. You’d be hard pressed to find this offering of nutrition per gram of weight anywhere else or in any other food! 

Generally, your vegetable intake should consist mostly of green leafy vegetables, with a good amount of other vegetables types throw in: peppers; squash; cucumbers; celery; etc. The more colors possessed by your consumed vegetables, the better! And, for those that can eat them, legumes (i.e., beans of all types; lentils; peas) are also a great source of slow-burning carbohydrates, but beware: legumes can be allergenic for many people due to hard-to-digest proteins they contain, and may not be a good food option in such cases (tip: people with allergies or digestive issues related to legumes might try digestive enzymes like “Beano” to reduce or eliminate the digestive triggers of legumes). 

Slow-burning plant carbohydrates are also an unbeatable source of fiber, which the body benefits from to complete the digestive process in the waste-removal phase (i.e., your bowel movements). The fiber contained within slow-burning vegetable carbs also helps to slow down the release of the sugar content contained in these as well as other consumed foods, which is another great benefit of eating vegetables. It is because of the heavy nutrient density together with the fiber portion of vegetables that they digest and burn SLOWLY, as opposed to the high-energy, low-nutrient density of fast-burning carbs. Pretty important distinction, and a powerful one as well for the savvy Partisan to take into account.

 

Slow-Burning, Complex Carbohydrates II: List of Specific Recommendations for Slow-Burning Carbs

When it comes to slow-burning carbohydrates, try to get slow-burning carbohydrates from vegetables to the tune of 1/2 to 1 lb. of veggies / 50 lbs. of bodyweight, mostly from fibrous (ex., celery; broccoli; asparagus) and green leafy vegetables, using the following simple guidelines:

    • 1/2 to 1 lb. of veggies / 50 lbs. of bodyweight means around 2 – 3 big salads per day, or whatever number of servings you decide to have – veggies don’t intensively activate blood sugar metabolism like fast-burning sugars, so you’re good there!
    • Your intake of slow-burning carbs can also include fresh, steamed vegetables (listed below)
    • There is no real limitation; you can eat more slow-burning carbs if you’d like – go crazy with the fresh vegetables and salads, as long as you are not experiencing any digestive discomfort from eating so much or eating particular trigger foods (like beans)

List of Recommended Fibrous and Green Leafy Vegetables

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Collard greens
  • Winter squash
  • Spinach
  • Bok Choi
  • Lettuce (deep green types, no iceberg!)
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumbers
  • Kale
  • Any green vegetable: celery, etc.
  • Legumes/beans (for those that can)

Note: Again, fibrous vegetables can be eaten in unlimited amounts and can be consumed raw, or they can be steamed, lightly roasted, or lightly sautéed. Light heating actually helps to release some of the nutrients in the vegetables, which makes the nutrients more available for absorption. Also, organic works best where affordable/available.

Other vegetables you can have for taste in moderation (note: these are the more sugary-type vegetables that need particular consideration):

  • Carrots (in moderation; carrots are nutritious but contain some fast-burning sugars, so keep that in mind before chowing down) – Portion Size: Around 10 baby carrots, maximum
  • Onions (ditto – these contain fast-burning sugars) – Portion Size: Around 5 layers around 2” sq. in area
  • Beets (ditto) – Portion Size: Around ½ a beet of 2” – 3” diameter
  • Tomatoes (tomatoes are really a fruit; tomatoes contain inflammatory agents that may be problematic for some) – Portion Size: 1 whole small (plum) tomato OR ½ regular tomato

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Special Section on Carbohydrates: Fruits

Importantly, fruits should be eaten very sparingly! Fruits contain fruit sugar (called “fructose”), and while fructose is a type of simple sugar that doesn’t have the same effects on blood sugar chemistry as the fast-burning sugars described above and previously… the goal of the Partisan should be to optimize the fat-burning internal chemistry of the body by removing all sugar as a primary source of energy so that he becomes a fat-burner. Therefore, avoiding any sugar as an energy source is the way to go.

If you are trying to lose weight or get relief from chronic illness, you should eat a maximum of ONE piece of fruit per day, if at all. Berries are probably your best option if you are going to eat any fruits – berries are nutrient-dense, flavorful, and low in sugar relative to their weight. You will get plenty of vitamins from other sources (particularly if you supplement, which is recommended), so don’t worry about reducing or cutting fruits out entirely if you decide to skip fruits, despite what you might hear from “experts” – they are not a must, by any means.

List of Acceptable Fruits (including Portion Sizes)

  • Apple; Pear – Portion Size: 1 medium apple or 1 pear
  • Orange; Grapefruit – Portion Size: 1 medium orange OR ½ grapefruit
  • Plum; nectarine; peach; apricot – Portion Size: 1 small- to medium-sized piece of the above stone-family fruits
  • Berries – high in antioxidants and nutrition for their weight; these go well with plain yogurt – Portion Size: ½ cup (note: mixing and matching is fine)
    • Raspberries
    • Blueberries
    • Blackberries
    • Strawberries
    • Goji berries

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Macronutrients Part IV: Other Foods to Augment Your Enjoyment, Nutrition, and Overall Health

Other Foods I: Probiotic-Rich Foods

Probiotics are beneficial gut bacteria that aid in digestion, nutrient absorption, vitamin synthesis, and lowering inflammation. Chances are that, due to day-to-day living, poor eating choices, and poor lifestyle habits, the bacteria that should naturally be present in your digestive tract have been partially depleted and/or destroyed, likely leaving you at a significant digestive deficit. 

Depletion/destruction of beneficial gut flora (i.e., bacteria) is very bad because it reduces the efficiency of the digestive process and your ability to obtain nutrients from food. Digestive symptoms such as gas, bloating, burping, diarrhea, cramping, reflux, etc. are a sign that something is not right with digestion! Regard these as “friends” in that these symptoms inform you that you are eating the wrong stuff; adjust accordingly or ignore these signs at your peril! Most people eating modern diets go an entire lifetime with gut bacteria in a depleted state, so it comes as no surprise that we have such high rates of chronic illness in the USA, particularly of digestive illness. A lack of healthy gut bacteria leaves the body’s health maintenance systems at a severe deficit, and we pay for that. 

Therefore, taking probiotics in some form greatly supports your digestive processes and go a very long way in helping your digestive system quietly purr along as it was meant to, symptom-free. Quiet digestion means everything is happening as it should as listed above: nutrient absorption, vitamin synthesis, and fundamental digestive processes. Probiotics maximize nutrient absorption by the body and work to reduce degenerative health conditions that can and certainly will develop over time due to poor digestion. Probiotics can be obtained either by eating fermented foods (listed just below) or by taking supplements, or ideally, both.

Use the probiotic-rich foods listed below to beef up your stock of good gut bacteria, essential for good health, better digestion, and much more:

  • PLAIN Yogurt (No hyper-sugary fruit flavored yogurts, and not low-fat or no-fat either! We don’t need that poison) – these days, Greek yogurt is all the rage, and for good reason
  • Pickles – homemade, not bottled or canned
  • Sauerkraut – homemade, not bottled or canned
  • Kombucha tea
  • Kefir – a type of very sour yogurt
  • Any fermented food – e.g., fermented soy or pickled eggs
  • High-count probiotic supplement pills – this will be the subject of a future post, but when it comes to probiotics supplements, be sure to choose options with a large variety of bacterial types, as well as high unit counts (in the billions of particles). 

 

Other Foods II: Quality Condiments and Miscellaneous Elements to Go With Your Meals

All-natural condiments can be used to flavor your food. Make sure to stay away from condiments loaded with preservatives, artificial colors, and artificial flavors – unfortunately, that’s most of them. But your body deserves better, and there are healthier alternatives/versions of condiments out there, nevertheless. 

Note: There are no limits on the condiments listed below. Use them to desired taste; your body’s satiety mechanisms for these condiments will self-regulate how much you eat.

  • Salt (preferably Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt)
    • Table salt is mineral-poor and has preservatives in it – an inferior salt option
    • Best to use Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt for their richness in beneficial electrolytic and other minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and zinc)
    • Celtic sea salt and Himalayan salt are also excellent for providing a healthy way to bust salt cravings (which are often caused by mineral deficiencies) without resorting to crappy snack foods that make you fat and sick
  • Vinegar: White/Balsamic/Apple Cider, etc.
    • Vinegar is a tasty and mineral-rich addition to any food or salad
  • Nutritious Oils (please see the previous post on Quality Fats for more details)
    • Drizzle this to taste on all your foods and steamed/roasted/raw veggies to get both flavor and nutrition
  • Ground Pepper: black or chili pepper (very good for digestion too)
  • Hot sauce (select a hot sauce that has no preservatives or salt, just straight pepper)
    • Tabasco – a very high-quality, all-natural product because it is low in salt and has no preservatives; a personal favorite of mine (I dig the habanero “hot” Tabasco!)
    • Other hot sauces – be careful, since many hot sauces (like Frank’s Red Hot) are usually very high in salt and likely filled with preservatives; read the ingredient deck and decide for yourself
  • Mustard (any variety): the fewer preservatives, the better!
  • Assorted Spices: any type – these are generally healthy and have no calories, so have at them

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Hopefully, that will answer a lot of readers’ questions about what kinds of carbs can be eaten to support a healthy lifestyle. There are options out there, and therefore, a way forward out of the slavery of carb addiction. Now, you know!

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for installments 5 and 6 of this series, coming up next week – just in time to make good on resolutions.

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The American Partisan Nutritional Empowerment Guide Series

The American Partisan Nutritional Empowerment Program Guide, Part 1 of 6 – Introduction

The American Partisan Nutritional Empowerment Program Guide, Part 2 of 6 – Protein

The American Partisan Nutritional Empowerment Program Guide, Part 3 of 6 – Healthy Fats

The American Partisan Nutritional Empowerment Program Guide, Part 5 of 6 – Essential Supplementation for a Healthy Lifestyle

The American Partisan Nutritional Empowerment Program Guide, Part 6 of 6 – Final Nutritional Empowerment Program Details