The Zone Diet

Developed by Dr. Barry Sears, the Zone Diet has retained its popularity for several decades. The major objective of the Zone Diet is to reduce diet-induced inflammation. It encourages followers to eat a certain amount of fat, carbs, and proteins in every meal. Apart from reducing inflammation, there are other health benefits of sticking to the Zone Diet.

Surprisingly, critics of this diet have already stood tall. They have targeted the health claims behind the Zone Diet. Count yourself lucky if you are reading this post. This post will cover so much information regarding this diet plan, including its advantages, disadvantages, and how to follow it.

What Is The Zone Diet?

Perhaps you have no clue what exactly the Zone Diet is all about. It is pretty simple. In this diet plan, followers are instructed to stick or adhere to a 40% carbs, 30% fat, and 30% protein diet ratio. Carbs release sugar into the bloodstream slowly, keeping you fuller for longer. It is for this reason that they have a low-glycemic index in the diet plan. Fat should be monounsaturated while protein should be lean for better health.

Dr. Barry Sears, an American Scientist, developed the Zone Diet over 30 years ago. In the year 1995, his best-selling book was published. He was motivated to develop the diet plan after he lost a family member. This unfortunate early death was as a result of heart attack. Dr. Sears felt something needed to be done. He realized that he was also at risk and needed to fight through it.

According to Dr. Sears, excess weight, sickness, and faster aging are all linked to body inflammation. This is why his diet plan focused on reducing diet-induced body inflammation.

According to the proponents of the Zone Diet, it is possible to lose fat at the highest rate possible after inflammation has greatly been reduced. This will result in slower aging, lower risk of chronic diseases, and better performance overall.

How Is The Zone Diet Followed?

Get this right at this very beginning. The Zone Diet doesn’t require you to go through specific stages or phases, it is a plan you follow for your entire life. If you decide to stick to the Zone Diet, there are two ways to the final destination:

  • Hand-eye method
  • Zone food blocks

Most individuals prefer starting with the hand-eye method and later move on to the Zone food blocks. It is a good move given that the Zone food blocks method is more advanced. However, you can decide to do a mix of both methods.

It all comes down to your personal preference. Both of them have their own unique benefits.

Hand-Eye Method

This is a much easier method when starting the Zone Diet. As the name suggests, your eye and hand are the main tools required to start the journey. However, it is recommended that you also have a wrist watch. That way, you will always keep a keen eye on what and when you eat.

If you decide to adhere to the Zone Diet with this method, be ready to engage your hand the most. It is what you use to determine the size of the food portions. In addition, your five fingers remind you to take food 5 times per day. You are not supposed to go without food for more than 5 hours.

On the other hand, your eye estimates the portions on the plate. In order to come up with a Zone Diet-friendly plate, it is divided into thirds as explained below:

  • One-third of lean proteins – This portion should contain lean proteins. This should be about the size and thickness of your palm
  • A small amount of fat – Give some room for a dash of monounsaturated fats. These include avocado, olive oil, almonds, etc.
  • Two-thirds of carbs – This portion should consist of low glycemic carbs

Overall, the hand-eye method is designed to make it easier for beginners to adhere to the Zone Diet. The best part of this plan is its high flexibility. You can eat at the restaurant provided you use your eyes and hands in aligning yourself to the Zone Diet guidelines.

Zone Food Block Method

This method is designed in a different manner. Here, you are supposed to personalize the Zone Diet to your own body. By this I mean you will have to calculate the exact amounts of carb, protein, and fat in grams that you can eat in a day.

There are determinants in regard to the number of food blocks you can have. These are:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Waist size
  • Measurement of your hips

On average, a male should eat 14 blocks while a female eats 11 zone blocks in a day. For example, a snack is equivalent to one Zone block while main meals such as breakfast, lunch, or dinner are equivalent to 3-5 Zone blocks.

Each Zone block can be split into a carb block, fat block and protein block. Let’s take a look at the breakdown of the Zone block.

  • Carb block – This block contains 9 grams
  • Protein block – This contains 7 grams
  • Fat block –This contains 1.5 grams

You can adhere to the guidelines of the Zone Diet with either the Zone Food Blocks or Hand-eye. It is upon you to decide.

What You Should Eat When Following The Zone Diet

The Mediterranean Diet food choices are similar to the favorite Zone Diet food options. Needless to say, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the healthiest diet on the entire globe.

Actually, Dr. Sears has released a new book “Mediterranean Zone” in which he clearly outlines the similarities and benefits of the two popular diets.

Protein

According to the Zone Diet, the following foods are the recommended sources of lean proteins.

  • Skinless chicken and turkey breast
  • Egg whites
  • Low-fat cheeses
  • Lean beef, lamb, veal, pork, and game
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Low-fat milk and yogurt
  • Vegetable protein, tofu, and soy products

Fat

According to the Zone Diet, monounsaturated fat is encouraged. Good sources of this include:

  • Peanut butter
  • Avocados
  • Nuts such as peanuts, cashews, almonds, pistachios, or macadamia
  • Tahini
  • Oils such as peanut oils, olive oil, sesame oil, and canola oil

Carbs

Followers of the Zone Diet should intake vegetables that have a low glycemic index, along with a little fruit. Sources include:

  • Vegetables such as peppers, cucumbers, spinach, mushrooms, yellow squash, chickpeas, tomatoes and more
  • Fruits such as apples, oranges, plums, berries and more
  • Grains such as barley and oatmeal

What You Should Not Eat When Following The Zone Diet

It would be more appropriate if we said that there is nothing banned in the Zone Diet. However, some foods are just not good for you when following this diet plan.

These excluded foods are considered unfavorable because they are linked to body inflammation. They include:

  • Refined and processed carbs such a bagels, noodles, pasta, bread, and other white-flour products
  • Foods with added sugars such as cakes, cookies, candy
  • Soft drinks such as sugar-sweetened or sugar-free beverages
  • High-sugar fruits such as raisins, bananas, grapes, mangoes, and dried fruits
  • Coffee and tea. The best beverage on earth is water and water alone.
  • High-sugar or starchy vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, corn, and peas
  • Processed foods such as muffins and breakfast cereals

There is no food that is totally banned. However, refined & processed foods and those rich in sugar and starch are discouraged.

Men’s Sample Food Block Plan

As earlier mentioned, men should usually take roughly 14 food blocks per day. Here is a sample meal plan:

Breakfast – 4 Food Blocks

A good breakfast according to the Zone Diet could consist of scrambled eggs with some turkey bacon, fruits, and vegetables. Let’s take a look at the individual proponents and their exact amounts.

  • 3 strips turkey bacon
  • 1 ounce of low-fat cheese
  • 2 eggs scrambled
  • 3 ½ cups of spinach, cooked
  • 1 cup of boiled mushrooms (156 grams)
  • 1 1/3 teaspoons of olive oil (6.6 ml)
  • 1 apple
  • ¼ cup of boiled onions (53 grams)

Lunch – 4 Food Blocks

Grilled chicken, egg salads, and fruits could make up a good lunch. Here are is the breakdown of the recommended amounts:

  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 3 ounce grilled skinless chicken (84 grams)
  • 1 cup of raw mushrooms
  • 1 cup of raw sliced cucumber
  • 2 plums
  • 2 tablespoons avocado
  • 1 red sliced bell pepper
  • ½ teaspoon walnuts
  • Up to 2 heads of iceberg lettuce
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar dressing (5ml)

Mid-Afternoon Snack – 1 Food Block

Take nuts, boiled egg, and fruit. Here is the breakdown:

  • 3 almonds
  • ½ apple
  • 1 hard-boiled egg

Dinner – 4 Food Blocks

Take lettuce, grilled salmon, and sweet potatoes. Here is the breakdown of the portions:

  • 1 cup of baked sweet potatoes (200 grams)
  • 1 cup of sliced raw cucumber (104 grams)
  • 6 ounces of grilled salmon (170 grams)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado
  • ¼ cup of raw tomato (37 grams)
  • 2/3 teaspoon of olive oil (3.3ml)
  • Up to 1 head of iceberg lettuce

Pre-Bedtime Snack – 1 Food Block

Take nuts, cottage cheese, and fruit. Have a look at the breakdown:

  • ½ oranges
  • 6 peanuts
  • ¼ cup of cottage cheese (56 grams)

As shown above, the Zone Diet plan breaks the foods into blocks which outline the breakdown of the macronutrients proportions in a day.

Women’s Food Block Plan

On average, a woman should take 11 food blocks as mentioned above. Below is a sample block plan:

Breakfast – 3 Food Blocks

This consists of scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and fruits. Here is the breakdown:

  • 3 strips of turkey bacon
  • 2 scrambled eggs
  • 1 cup of boiled mushrooms (156 grams)
  • ½ apple
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil (5 ml)
  • 3 ½ cup of cooked spinach (630 grams)

Lunch – 3 Food Blocks

Should consist of egg salad, grilled chicken, and fruit. Here is the breakdown of individual portions:

  • 1 hard-boiled egg
  • 2 ounces of skinless grilled chicken (57 grams
  • 1 cup of raw mushrooms (70 grams)
  • 1 cup of raw sliced cucumber (104 grams)
  • Up to 2 heads of iceberg lettuce
  • 1 plum
  • 1 teaspoons of vinegar dressing (5 ml)
  • 1 sliced red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons avocado

Mid-Afternoon Snack – 1 Food Block

Females can take nuts, boiled egg, and fruits. Check the recommended quantities:

  • ½ apple
  • 3 almonds
  • 1 hard-boiled egg

Dinner – 3 Food Blocks

Zone Diet recommends lettuce, grilled salmon and sweet potatoes for women during dinner. Check the breakdown to know the suggested quantities:

  • 2/3 cup of baked sweet potatoes (67 grams)
  • ¼ cup of raw tomatoes (37 grams)
  • 1 cup of sliced raw cucumber (104 grams)
  • 4oz of grilled salmon (113 grams)
  • 1/3 teaspoon of olive oil (3.3 ml)
  • Up to 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons of avocado

Pre-Bedtime Snack; 1 Food Block

Consists of nuts, cottage cheese, and fruit. Take a look at the breakdown:

  • ½ orange
  • 6 peanuts
  • ¼ cup of cottage cheese (56 grams)

The only difference that exists between the male meal plan block and that of the women is the number of food blocks. Men have 14 blocks while women have 11 blocks. Remember that this is a rough estimate and your own values will differ depending on your weight, height, and measurements.

How Does The Zone Diet Work?

The Zone Diet optimizes the hormones so that the body can enter into a state known as “THE ZONE”. Once the body enters into this state, it is able to control inflammation. For this to happen, you must be following the Zone Diet plan.

The following are some of the purported health benefits of being in the “The Zone” state:

  • Slower rate of aging
  • Better performance
  • Faster thinking
  • Maintaining wellness even at old age
  • Losing extra fat at the highest possible rate

The founder of the Zone Diet recommends that followers of his diet plan should take the following tests to determine whether they are in the “The Zone” State.

TG/HDL Ratio

TG/HDL is a ratio that compares the amount of bad fat known as triglycerides to good cholesterol in the bloodstream. If the doctor establishes that you have a lower value, it simply means you have more good cholesterol. A higher value means you have more of the bad fats while a lower value implies you are healthier.

According to the Zone Diet, it is recommended to have less than 1 for your TG/HDL ratio. If the value is higher than 1, you are at a higher risk of suffering from heart attack. Kindly note that you should only be tested by a professional such as a doctor.

AA/EPA Ratio

This test determines the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. You are healthier if the value is lower. This would imply you have more omega-3 fat (which is anti-inflammatory) in your body.

According to the Zone Diet, any value between 1.5 and 3.0 is considered low. If you get a high value for this ratio (3 and up), you are at a higher risk of suffering from:

For best results when testing for the AA/EPA ratio, it is recommended you purchase a test kit at the website of the Zone Diet or ask to be tested by your doctor.

Hba1c (Known As The Glycated Hemoglobin)

This test determines the amount of sugar that is bound to the red blood cells in a three months period. It is healthier to get a lower value because it indicates a lower sugar level in your body.

According to the Zone Diet, a value of less than 5 percent is recommended. A higher value implies you are at risk of contracting diabetes. You should only allow a healthcare professional such as a doctor to carry out HbA1c testing.

Recommended Supplements

The Zone Diet recommends a number of supplements that are linked to health benefits. They include:

Omega-3 Supplements

A good example of an omega-3 supplement is fish oil. These supplements optimize health benefits by cutting down on the level of bad LDL cholesterol. This, in turn, reduces the risk of chronic diseases.

Polyphenol Supplements

These are plant molecules that are known for their antioxidant properties.

There are controversies surrounding the evidence that polyphenols actually benefit the body. This is because even though they are linked to lower risks of heart attack, they decrease the rate of iron absorption into the blood stream.

It is needless to say, this is unhealthy.

Who Can Benefit Most From The Zone Diet?

The Zone Diet has a number of health benefits. Even more amazing is the fact that it does not ban any food choices. However, for the sake of good health, it only discourages certain unfavorable food choices. For example, it discourages people from eating processed foods and those with added sugar.

When following a specific diet, many people do find food restrictions to be a thorn in the flesh. The Zone Diet is friendlier to those who struggle with these restrictions.

There are significant similarities in food choices outlined in both the Mediterranean Diet and the Zone Diet. Based on past evidence, the Mediterranean Diet is considered as one of the best, especially in the long-term.

The Zone Diet is not left behind either. It gives room for dietary flexibility, it is a better choice when you intend to lose weight, and it allows followers to control their calorie intake. Therefore, they can control their weight loss.

Disadvantages Of The Zone Diet

Despite being linked to a number of health benefits, the Zone diet has its own downfalls, too. For instance, there are many strong health claims linked to this dietary plan. However, there is little evidence to back up the claims.

For example, the Zone Diet claims to boost performance but studies involving athletes have proved otherwise. Even though these sportsmen did lose weight, they lost endurance and got tired faster compared to those that didn’t follow the plan.

The Zone Diet also claims that once you follow the plan, it reaches a point when your body enters the “Zone” state. This happens once the blood values meet their set targets. Even though following their plan leads to improved blood values, more scientific backing is needed to finally consider the plan as being capable of anti-inflammatory properties.

Additionally, there is little evidence that supports the Zone Diet recommended carb, protein, and fat ratio as being optimal in regard to both fat loss and other benefits.

Actually, there is another study that compared the overall health effects of the 40% carb, 30% protein and 30% fat ratio to another 60% carbs, 15% protein and 25% fat ratio. According to the findings of the study, followers of the Zone Diet lost more weight, which could have been caused by the high intake of protein. In addition, the study found that there were no significant differences in the level of blood sugar values, cholesterol, and fat in the two categories.

According to the Zone Diet, the above claims are wrong. The improved blood values recorded in other studies could have been caused by polyphenols and omega-3 supplements and not the diet plan being followed. The Zone Diet makes several health claims and followers of the diet will back these claims, but there is inadequate scientific backing to consider them facts.

Should You Try Out The Zone Diet?

Well, at the end of it all, it is best if you choose a dietary plan that suits your lifestyle. If you are looking for a diet plan whose food choices are similar to those of the Mediterranean Diet, then look no further.

The Zone Diet is an ideal choice. You will also enjoy easy-to-follow instructions. Remember to take any over the top claims or promises with a grain of salt when following the guideline of any new dietary plan.

According to the theory of the Zone Diet, there are several health benefits, even though there is not enough scientific evidence to support the claims. The Zone Diet claims to:

  • Slow down aging
  • Reduce the risk of chronic diseases
  • Improve performance

If you intend to build healthy eating habits, the Zone Diet may be just what you need. It will be of great help, especially in regard to controlling the portions. To get the best results, remember that your diet should be based around unprocessed and whole foods.

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