The Zone Diet has been popular for several decades.It encourages followers to eat a certain amount of protein, carbs and fat at every meal in order to reduce inflammation in the body, among other health benefits.
This article provides a detailed overview of the Zone Diet, including how to follow it, its benefits and disadvantages.
What Is the Zone Diet?
The Zone Diet instructs its followers to stick to eating a specific ratio of 40% carbs, 30% protein and 30% fat.
As part of the diet, carbs should have a low glycemic index, which means they provide a slow release of sugar into the blood to keep you fuller for longer. Protein should be lean and fat should be mostly monounsaturated.
The Zone Diet was developed more than 30 years ago by Dr. Barry Sears, an American biochemist. His best-selling book The Zone was published in 1995.
Dr. Sears developed this diet after losing family members to early deaths from heart attacks, and felt that he was at risk unless he found a way to fight it.
The Zone Diet claims to reduce the inflammation in your body. Dr. Sears proposed inflammation was the reason people gain weight, become sick and age faster.
Proponents of the diet claim that once you reduce inflammation, you will lose fat at the fastest rate possible, slow down aging, reduce your risk of chronic disease and improve your performance.
How Do You Follow the Zone Diet?
The Zone Diet has no specific phases and is designed to be followed for a lifetime.
There are two ways to follow the Zone Diet: the hand-eye method, or using Zone food blocks.
Most people start with the hand-eye method and progress to using Zone food blocks later, since it is more advanced. You can switch between both methods whenever you feel like, since they each have their own benefits.
The Hand-Eye Method
The hand-eye method is the easiest way to start the Zone Diet.
As the name suggests, your hand and eye are the only tools you need to get started, although wearing a watch is also recommended to keep an eye on when to eat.
In this method, your hand takes on several uses. You use it to determine your portion sizes. Your five fingers remind you to eat five times a day and never go without food for five hours.
Meanwhile, you use your eye to estimate portions on your plate. To design a Zone-friendly plate, you need to first divide your plate into thirds.
- One-third lean protein: One-third of your plate should have a source of lean protein, roughly the size and thickness of your palm.
- Two-thirds carbs: Two-thirds of your plate should be filled with carbs with a low glycemic index.
- A little fat: Add a dash of monounsaturated fat to your plate, such as olive oil, avocado or almonds.
The hand-eye method is designed to be a simple way for a beginner to follow the Zone Diet.
It is also flexible and allows you to eat out at restaurants while on the Zone Diet, by using your hand and eyes as tools to choose options that fit Zone recommendations.
You can learn more about eating out on this diet here.
The Zone Food Block Method
Zone food blocks are designed to personalize the Zone Diet to your body by calculating how many grams of protein, carbs and fat you can have per day.
The number of Zone blocks you should eat per day depends on your weight, height, waist and hip measurements. You can calculate your number here.
The average male eats 14 Zone blocks per day, while the average female eats 11 Zone blocks per day.
A main meal such as breakfast, lunch or dinner contains three to five Zone blocks, while a snack always contains one Zone block.
Each Zone block is made of a protein block, a fat block and a carb block.
- Protein block: Contains 7 grams of protein.
- Carb block: Contains 9 grams of carbs.
- Fat block: Contains 1.5 grams of fat.
What Foods Can You Eat on the Zone Diet?
A lot of the favorable Zone Diet food choices are similar to those of theMediterranean Diet, which is one of the healthiest diets on the planet.
In fact, the creator of the Zone Diet has recently released a new book called The Mediterranean Zone, in which he covers the similarities and benefits of the two diets.
Protein options in the Zone Diet should be lean. Good options include:
- Lean beef, pork, lamb, veal and game
- Skinless chicken and turkey breast
- Fish and shellfish
- Vegetarian protein, tofu, other soy products
- Egg whites
- Low-fat cheeses
- Low-fat milk and yogurt
The Zone Diet encourages choosing a type of monounsaturated fat. Good options include:
- Nuts, such as macadamia, peanuts, cashews, almonds or pistachios
- Peanut butter
- Oils such as canola oil, sesame oil, peanut oil and olive oil
The Zone Diet encourages its followers to choose vegetables with a low glycemic index and a little fruit.
Good options include:
- Fruit such as berries, apples, oranges, plums and more
- Vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, yellow squash, chickpeas and more
- Grains, such as oatmeal and barley
What Can’t You Eat on the Zone Diet?
Nothing is strictly banned on the Zone Diet. However, certain food choices are considered unfavorable because they promote inflammation.
- High-sugar fruits: Such as bananas, grapes, raisins, dried fruits and mangoes.
- High-sugar or starchy vegetables: Like peas, corn, carrots and potatoes.
- Refined and processed carbs: Bread, bagels, pasta, noodles and other white-flour products.
- Other processed foods: Including breakfast cereals and muffins.
- Foods with added sugar: Such as candy, cakes and cookies.
- Soft drinks: Neither sugar-sweetened nor sugar-free drinks are recommended.
- Coffee and tea: Keep these to a minimum, since water is the beverage of choice.