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The Zone Diet: A Complete Overview

Zone Diet
Zone Diet

Is it possible to burn fat without limiting your food portion by balancing your protein, carbs, and fat intake?

According to Barry Sears, an American biochemist, it is possible with the zone diet. It does not promise an immediate weight loss. The expected goal for the first week is 1 to 1.5 pounds. What zone diet does pledge is to lose only fat, not water or muscle weight.

The zone diet aims to encourage insulin levels to a healthy point and reduce inflammation. It also aids in developing a balance in a person’s carbohydrate and protein intake.

Furthermore, the zone diet also promotes the consumption of antioxidants and healthy fats, including polyphenol antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids in the form of supplements.

It limits a person’s calorie intake without restricting it to a certain amount.

According to its supporters, this diet slows aging, enhances a person’s physical and mental health, and helps lose weight.

The Zone Diet

Dr. Barry Sears introduced the concept of the Zone diet. Its target was to reduce inflammation induced by diet. It enables people to improve their physical and mental performance and shed excess weight while living a more fulfilling life.

Inflammation is often one of the causes of many diseases and conditions. These conditions can have ranging severity such as mild digestive or gastrointestinal problems, type 2 diabetes, cancer, etc.

Basic Rules of Zone Diet

There are some basic rules involved in zone diet:

  • In the morning, have a snack or a meal when you wake up.
  • Each snack or meal should start with low-fat protein, followed by foods with healthy carbohydrates and fats.
  • Small frequent meals should be eaten throughout the day. The interval between two meals should be 4 to 6 hours, and between two snacks should be 2 to 2.5 hours.
  • The diet should contain a lot of polyphenols and omega-3 fatty acids, as they both reduce inflammation.

According to Dr. Barry Sears, by choosing some specific foods and avoiding others, a person can maintain balanced levels of diet-induced inflammation in the blood. To him, the defining factor of the Zone is not the diet philosophy but the blood chemistry. A person should use diet to get control of their hormones to reach the Zone.

How to Implement the Zone Diet?

This diet is a plan for a lifetime and has no specific phases. It can be implemented in two ways:

  • Hand-eye method
  • Zone food blocks

The zone food blocks method is comparatively more advanced than the hand-eye method. People often choose the hand-eye method initially and then progress towards the zone food blocks. A person can switch between the two ways anytime since both of them are beneficial.

The Hand-Eye Method

This method is the easiest for beginners. Understandably, your hands and eyes are the primary tools needed to implement this method from its name. Wearing a timepiece is also preferred to have the meals at the proper time.

In this method, the functions of your hands are:

  • Determine the portion sizes
  • Remind you to have five meals a day, including the snacks
  • Eat food every five hours

Meanwhile, your eyes make the estimations of the food portions on the plate. It is best to divide the plate into thirds to make it Zone-friendly.

  • A one-third portion of lean protein:
    • This portion of your plate is for lean protein, which almost equals the thickness and size of your palm.
  • A two-third portion of carbohydrates:
    • This portion of your plate is for carbohydrates which have a low glycemic index.
  • A small number of fats:
    • You need to add only a dash of healthy monosaturated fats to your meal. They can be almonds, avocado, or olive oil.

This method is flexible and makes it possible for you to dine out while following the Zone diet. You have to choose the suitable food options, using your hands and eyes, which fit your diet plan.

The Food Block Method

This method allows you to customize and personalize your diet plan to suit your body by estimating the number of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates you can eat a day.

Your height, weight, hip, and waist measurements determine the number of food blocks you should add to your diet.

For an average male, it is suitable to have 14 Zone blocks a day, whereas, for an average female, 11 zone blocks are suitable.

There are three to five Zone blocks in each main meal, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner, while in each snack, there is only one Zone block.

A zone block contains three portions:

  • Carbohydrates: 9 grams
  • Proteins: 7 grams
  • Fats: 1.5 grams

What to Eat?

According to the guidelines, a person should take two snacks and three meals every day. Both the snack and meal should have a protein portion. 

The intake of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates should be balanced in the following way:

  • 1/3 portion of protein
  • 2/3 portion of carbohydrates
  • A small portion of unsaturated fats

Protein Sources

The protein sources are:

  • Eggs
  • Tofu
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Pulses
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Poultry

Fat Sources

The fat sources are:

  • Avocado
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts
  • Nut butter

Carbohydrate Sources

The carbohydrate sources are:

  • Barley
  • Oatmeal
  • Legumes
  • Pulses, such as beans and lentils
  • Non-starchy vegetables, including green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, and spinach
  • Fruits
  • Berries

What Not to Eat?

The zone diet does not strictly ban any particular food. However, foods that promote inflammation are considered unfavorable. 

  • Processed and refined carbohydrates 
    • Noodles
    • Pasta
    • Bagels
    • Bread
    • White-flour products
  • Starchy or high-sugar vegetables 
    • Potatoes
    • Carrots
    • Corns
    • Peas
  • High-sugar fruits
    • Mangoes
    • Raisins
    • Grapes
    • Bananas
    • Dried fruits
  • Foods with added sugars
    • Cookies
    • Cakes
    • Candies
  • Processed foods
    • Muffins
    • Breakfast cereals
  • Soft drinks
  • Tea and coffee

Samples of Food Block Meal Plan

Here are examples of block meal plans:

For Men

Breakfast

  • Turkey bacon: 3 strips
  • Eggs: 2 scrambled
  • Low-fat cheese: 1 ounce
  • Apple: 1
  • Spinach: 3 ½ cups cooked
  • Mushrooms: 1 cup boiled
  • Onions: ¼ cup boiled
  • Olive oil: 1 1/3 tsp

Lunch

  • Grilled chicken: 3 ounces skinless
  • Egg: 1 hard-boiled
  • Iceberg lettuce: Almost two heads
  • Mushrooms: 1 cup raw
  • Cucumbers: 1 cup raw
  • Red bell pepper: 1 sliced
  • Walnuts: ½ tsp
  • Plums: 2
  • Vinegar dressing: 1 tsp

Mid Afternoon Snack

  • Egg: 1 hard-boiled
  • Almonds: 3
  • Apple: ½

Dinner

  • Salmon: 6 ounces grilled
  • Sweet potatoes: 1 cup baked
  • Iceberg lettuce: Almost one head
  • Tomato: ¼ cup raw
  • Cucumber: 1 cup raw sliced
  • Avocado: 2 tbsp
  • Olive oil: 2/3 tsp

Pre-bedtime Snack 

  • Cottage cheese: ¼ cup
  • Peanuts: 6
  • Orange: ½

For Women

Breakfast

  • Turkey bacon: 3 strips
  • Eggs: 2 scrambled
  • Apple: ½
  • Mushrooms: 1 cup boiled
  • Spinach: 3 ½ cups cooked
  • Olive oil: 1 tsp

Lunch

  • Grilled chicken: 2 ounces skinless
  • Egg: 1 hard-boiled
  • Iceberg lettuce: Almost two heads
  • Mushrooms: 1 cup raw
  • Cucumber: 1 cup raw sliced
  • Red pepper: 1 sliced
  • Avocado: 2 tbsp
  • Plum: 1
  • Vinegar dressing: 1 tsp

Mid-afternoon Snack

  • Egg: 1 hard-boiled
  • Almonds: 3 
  • Apple: ½

Dinner

  • Salmon: 4 ounces grilled
  • Sweet potatoes: 2/3 cup baked
  • Iceberg lettuce: Almost one head
  • Tomato: ¼ cup raw
  • Cucumber: 1 cup raw sliced
  • Avocado: 2 tbsp
  • Olive oil: 1/3 tsp

Pre-bedtime Snack

  • Cottage cheese: ¼ cup
  • Peanuts: 6
  • Orange: ½

The Benefits of Zone Diet

Being in the Zone comes with various benefits. Here are a few of them:

  • Instead of restricting, it simply advises against some foods, including added and processed sugars. So, it does not make a person feel deprived.
  • A person does not stay hungry since the food portions are satisfying.
  • It is a flexible diet with two implementation methods.
  • It is similar to the Mediterranean diet, which proved to be is one of the most preferred diets for good health.
  • Lastly, it helps lose fat by controlling calorie intake. 

Disadvantages of Zone Diet

Along with multiple benefits, the zone diet also has a few disadvantages. Such as:

  • There is no strong research or study that supports the claimed benefits of the diet.
  • It is very structural and can be confusing. This can make it hard to implement.
  • According to a study, following the zone diet made people fatigue rather quickly and made them lose their exercise endurance.
  • Not enough evidence can support the significant claim of the zone diet that is to reduce inflammation.
  • A valid study or evidence does not back the recommended ratio for fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
  • In a study, the blood values of a group of people following the zone diet were compared with another group consuming 60 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent fats, and 15 percent proteins. From the comparison, no apparent difference was found in the blood values of sugar, cholesterol, and fats.

Is the Zone Diet Worth Trying?

When choosing a diet to follow, the essential aspect to consider is whether it suits your lifestyle or not.

The Zone diet can be considered ideal for people who want a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet but with more precise guidelines.

However, it should be noted that the health claims made by the Zone diet are not backed with enough evidence.

Even though the background theory of the diet links it with improved health outcomes, one cannot find promising evidence which proves that the diet slows aging, reduces the chances of developing a chronic disease, or improves mental and physical performance.

Moreover, if your goal is to develop healthy eating habits, this diet can get you on the right track and help you control the portion size.

At the end of the day, the thing that matters in the long-term is to base your dietary habits around whole, natural, and unprocessed foods, no matter the diet’s name.

The Bottom Line

The Zone diet claims to avoid hunger and help lose weight by balancing the nutrients and the calorie intake. However, it offers healthy food choices and calorie restriction instead of an intricate way of food balancing. Both of them are the core of any weight loss scheme.

The Zone diet is the best for you if you have fun picking out and preparing lean protein and fresh vegetables. But if white-flour carbohydrates and sweets are your love, you will have to struggle. And although there are tips available for restaurant dining, it will still be a hardship to stay in the Zone if you have a habit of eating out.

Written by HealthRadar360

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