- The Zone diet: All you need to know
- What can I eat?
- Four pillars of the Zone diet
- The Zone Diet is a simple, easy to follow plan that gets your body in the zone. It is a solution to all of the problems other diets tend to have.
- What is the zone?
- The Zone Diet is…
- The Zone Diet isn’t…
- Who is the Zone Diet good for?
- Why Should I try the Zone Diet?
- How do I get started on the Zone Diet?
- Resources for the Zone Diet
- WHAT IS THE ZONE DIET®?
- Dr. Sears’ Newest Book, The Resolution Zone Is Now Available!
- WHAT IS THE ZONE?
- WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BEING IN THE ZONE?
- HOW THE ZONE DIET WORKS
- ZONE FOOD PYRAMID
- ZONE DIET ANTI-INFLAMMATORY SUPPLEMENTS
- PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
- BE EVEN MORE PRECISE
- The Zone Diet
- What Is the Zone Diet and Is It Healthy?
- I tried the diet that celebrities like Jennifer Aniston swore by — and it totally lived up to the hype
- Day one was a success.
- Day two showed me that I wouldn’t go hungry on this diet.
- Day three also went off without a hitch.
- Day four was full of more of the same.
- Day five saw me skipping dinner entirely.
- On day six, I tried to mix up my breakfast and failed.
- Day seven would be the day I went hard on my diet.
- Ultimately, this diet was a little restrictive, but I always felt full and never bloated.
- What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:
- The Zone Diet Review: How It Works, Benefits, Pros and Cons
The Zone diet: All you need to know
The Zone diet prescribes a number of recipes.
Orzo is a type of pasta that is in the shape of barley grains.
A typical meal plan for a day could be:
Breakfast: Breakfast hash made with bacon and vegetables, or cocoa berry butter smoothie for vegetarians
Lunch: Zone PastaRX Orzo (a low-carb orzo) with chicken and green beans or curried spinach with tofu for a vegetarian option
Dinner: Almond chicken with vegetables or barbecue tempeh and vegetables for those who follow a vegetarian or plant-based diet
Snack: Blackberry shrimp salad or asparagus artichoke salad for a vegan option
For some of these recipes, people will need to purchase special ingredients, such as Zone PastaRx Orzo.
A diabetes meal plan aims to help a person manage blood sugar levels. Click here for a 7-day plan.
What can I eat?
Guidelines include eating three meals and two snacks every day. Each meal must have some protein, about the size of a small chicken breast, and each snack should also contain some protein.
People should balance their carbohydrate, fat, and protein intake in the following proportions:
- One-third protein
- Two-thirds carbohydrate
- A dash of unsaturated fat
Sources of protein include:
- low-fat dairy
- pulses, such as beans and lentils
- nuts and seeds
Why do we need protein, and what are some good sources? Find out here.
Sources of fat include:
- nuts and nut butters, including peanut butter
- olive oil
Learn more here about healthful and unhealthful fats.
Source of carbs include:
- legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils
These provide starches, natural sugars, and fiber.
Learn more here about carbohydrates.
Recommended carb sources
The diet recommends including the following foods:
- fruits and berries
- non-starchy vegetables, such as spinach, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, and green beans
- pulses, for example, lentils and beans
It recommends avoiding:
- soft drinks
- baked goods
- white or wheat bread
- starchy vegetables, including potatoes, corn, squash, and peas
Another option to reduce inflammation is the anti-inflammatory diet. Find out more about what to eat and what to avoid on this diet.
Recipe books and other resources are available for purchase online.
People who follow the diet will need to decide how many blocks of food they need each day. The blocks help a person obtain the right balance of nutrients for the diet.
One block is:
- 7 grams (g) of protein
- 9 g of carbohydrate, minus the fiber
- 1.5 g of fat if a meal includes meat, or 3 g of fat if it is plant-based
The number of blocks a person needs will depend on various factors, such as their sex, activity levels, and whether they need to lose weight. An average female will need around 11 blocks and an average male around 14.
The diet website provides a body fat calculator to help people find out how many blocks they need.
Four pillars of the Zone diet
The Zone diet also has four pillars. Bringing these together can make the Zone part of a person’s way of life.
A person should:
Restrict calories without hunger or fatigue: If a person consumes more calories than they need, the body will convert this extra energy to fat, and excess fat can cause problems in the body. One way to do this is to avoid high-calorie, processed foods.
Manage inflammation levels in the body: Short-term inflammation is a natural reaction that is part of the body’s immune response. However, chronic inflammation can adversely impact health in many ways. Supporters of the diet say “you need some inflammation, but not too much.” Followers of the Zone diet may take supplements to help achieve suitable levels. However, the diet does not appear to specify precise levels of inflammation, and a person can only know how much is present by taking a blood test.
Use dietary polyphenols to activate genes to enhance wellbeing: This involves eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and possibly taking supplements.
Control inflammation that comes from gut microbes: Do this by consuming polyphenols, omega-3, and fermentable fiber.
Balancing these aspects should help a person achieve and maintain a healthy body and mind. A person should aim for a lifelong strategy rather than a short-term diet.
The Zone Diet is a simple, easy to follow plan that gets your body in the zone. It is a solution to all of the problems other diets tend to have.
What is the zone?
In the words of its founder, the zone “is a real physiological state in your body that can be measured in clinical tests.” The state occurs when the body’s hormones are balanced and hormone production is dictated by food, among other things.
To understand the role hormones play in the process of consuming food, just picture the following scenarios.
- You’re at work and it’s 2:00 but you haven’t eaten lunch yet. How many coworkers start to annoy you at this point?
- It’s Christmas time and you indulged in a few too many cookies. After a burst of social enthusiasm how tired are you on the way home?
- You walked in the gym full of energy and crushed your workout. You had a bunch of exercise fueled endorphins but now you’re exhausted and where are you spending the rest of your day?
- Breakfast was an afterthought as you rushed out the door this morning. What does it take to keep your eyes open and your mind focused by 11:00?
Each scenario provides an unpleasant reminder that unbalanced hormones wreak havoc on the body and mind. When your body is out of the zone it is battered by dramatic spikes and dips in insulin, cortisol and serotonin. In contrast, the zone is characterized by an even keeled state. This state is called homeostasis and it occurs when you fuel your body with a steady stream of balanced, lean healthy meals. Rather than spiking up and down, your hormones are more stable. To put it visually. Without homeostasis the body’s response to food looks like a chart of mountains with high highs and low lows. With homeostasis it looks more like a children’s roller coaster with gradual raises and gradual drops, but nothing too fast or intense. The way to get in the zone is through intelligent eating and the Zone Diet is one way to easily achieve this. So, what does eating for your hormones look like?
The Zone Diet is…
The Zone Diet is a balanced approach to eating. The keep the body’s response to food even, food needs to be eaten in even amounts. This is achieved through balancing the macronutrients. Each person eats the following ratio:
- 40% Carbohydrates: Grains, starchy tubers, vegetables, natural sweeteners and fruits are all types of carbohydrates.
- 30% Protein: Meat, fish, legumes, and dairy are all sources of protein.
- 30% Fat: Avocados, oils, nuts and seeds are sources of healthy fats.
These food groups are put into blocks for easy calculation. A block of carbohydrates is 9 grams. One block of protein is 7 grams and 1.5 grams of fat, outside of what is naturally found in protein sources, equals a block of fats. Then, based on your weight and body type you are prescribed a fixed amount of blocks to eat per meal. For example, the Crossfit Journal provides a sample 4 block meal for a small male that looks like this: 4 oz. chicken breast 1 artichoke 1 cup of steamed vegetables w/ 24 crushed peanuts 1 sliced apple An ounce of chicken breast is 7 grams, or one block of protein. So, since this is a 4 block meal, the man would need to eat 4 ounces, or 4 blocks of protein.
The Zone Diet isn’t…
Although the Zone Diet depends upon meal measurement and calculation, it isn’t a macro counting plan. When counting macros for your diet, you use a scale and measuring cups to prep, log and plan everything you consume. The Zone Diet offers a less strict approach. It is about sustainability and ease of use. After a few weeks measuring you will be able to identify blocks and balance using your eyes.
Here are some handy comparisons for measuring your blocks without the stress of weighing:
- 3 blocks of protein = the size of your palm
- 9 blocks of fat = a small handful of nuts
- 10 blocks of fat = thumb sized scoop of peanut butter or mayo
- 5 blocks of carbohydrates = the size of your fist for fruits, pasta and veggies
Another important key factor is to understand what types of foods are included in the Zone Diet. Although it isn’t as restrictive as paleo, it also isn’t as open ended as other measuring plans such as “if it fits your macros.” To maintain homeostasis and stay in the zone, the body not only needs balanced meals, it also needs healthy, clean foods. Inflammatory foods such as processed grains, chemically infused prepared foods and those high in sugar will set other hormones awry. Serotonin and cortisol respond negatively to these types of foods even if they fall within the measured guidelines and balanced proportions.
To think of it another way, the Zone Diet pyramid helps followers visualize what types of foods are best:
- Vegetables at the bottom to make up a majority of carbohydrate intake.
- Followed by fruits, a carb source to be consumed in moderation.
- Next are low-fat proteins including lean meats.
- Near the top is monounsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds and avocados.
- Finally, grains and starches are at the top, compromising what should be consumed in the least amount.
In this way the Zone Diet is similar to the Paleo diet because they both encourage the consumption of clean, lean food. It is different in the specific recommendations. While paleo doesn’t allow grains of any sort, the Zone Diet does.
Who is the Zone Diet good for?
The simple answer to the question who is the zone diet good for is everyone. All people at any stage in their journey toward health or age in life can benefit from getting their body in the zone. It optimizes health for both the mind and the body. Whether or not the Zone Diet is the best way for you to do this depends on your preferences, lifestyle, willingness to create change, current habits, and attitude toward the process.
To help you decide whether or not the Zone Diet is right for you, reflect on the following questions.
- Do I want to get healthy?
- Do I need guidance in what types of foods to eat?
- Do I struggle to get the right amount of foods despite eating the right kinds of foods?
- Do I feel tired, lethargic or moody on a regular basis?
- Is it impossible for me to give up grains?
- Am I uninterested in logging every morsel that I consume?
- Am I determined to make a change, but have no idea where to start?
If you’re answers to some or all these questions are yes, then the Zone Diet is a great choice for you!
Why Should I try the Zone Diet?
The Zone Diet has myriad benefits. It provides clear, easy to follow guidelines for anyone looking to get healthy. It doesn’t leave anything to subjective opinion or guess work. While at the same time, the diet doesn’t feel restrictive or time consuming. Specifically, you should try the Zone Diet to maximize your quality of life. Eating lean healthy meals made of balanced, anti inflammatory foods has been proven to:
- Reduce pain
- Increase happiness and positive moods
- Decrease inflammation
- Balanced microbiome
- Help preserve the elasticity of skin
- Decrease your susceptibility to heart disease, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, anxiety, depression, irritable bowel syndrome, food sensitivities and obesity
With that list of benefits it is time to resolve to get started!
How do I get started on the Zone Diet?
The truth is you’ve already started on the Zone Diet. Step one is educating yourself and if you’re this far into the beginner’s guide you’ve got a pretty good foundation! If you’re looking for more specific information, we’ve included some resources at the end where you can find charts to determine your number of blocks, meal plans, and even services that deliver prepared healthy meals. The next step to getting started on the Zone Diet is to put a plan into action. Use the information as inspiration while you transition from your current eating habits to the healthy Zone Diet lifestyle.
Prepare your environment by removing any temptations. Get rid of inflammatory foods such as processed snacks, pre-packaged boxed and canned meals, and anything with added sugars. Make sure you have a way to weigh and measure your servings in the beginning (but remember, that is only temporary until you get the hang of it!). Next it is time to go shopping. You will have a good idea of what you need after going through your cupboard and fridge removing temptations. You’ll also have the block guidelines to determine exactly how many servings you need so you know how much to buy. The Zone Diet pyramid will help you figure out what to buy. Another general guideline to keep your food choices within the zone is to shop the perimeter of the store. Most of the whole, clean foods are located around the edges, while the processed stuff is found on the shelves in the aisles. This is the point in the process that most beginner’s get frustrated with. It can be overwhelming, especially if you’re overhauling your entire way of eating. In this case, or when time is an issue, it’s a great idea to get help from the experts. Find a service that offers prepared healthy meals and they can create a bridge from where you are now, to eating the way you’d like to be. At Project Lean Nation we offer a variety of meal plans that work in line with the Zone Diet. They can be used as a guide to get you used to the proper proportions, or they can supplement your meals on the days you don’t have time to make them yourself. Contact us and one of our nutrition coaches can help guide you in the right direction.
The next difficult part for beginners is coming up with recipes. When you make a drastic change in your eating habits it is tempting to stick to the familiar. This can be a good strategy as long as swapping current recipe ingredients for healthier versions doesn’t trigger you to backslide into old habits. On the other hand a complete change can have negative effects also. Although extremely bland foods are easier to measure in the beginning, they can make the change miserable. If you’re uninterested in your food, then you’ll be less likely to stick with diet. The trick is to find what is within the diet guideliens and works for your tastes and preferences at the same time. Here are some sources with recipes that fit within the Zone Diet Guidelines.
- Classic Zone Recipes
- Zone Diet Recipes
- Best 25+ Zone Diet recipe ideas on Pinterest
Resources for the Zone Diet
For additional information, check out these resources on the Zone Diet. The Crossfit Journal – Meal plans, menus and charts The Zone Diet – Food block guide Project Lean Nation – prepared healthy meals in line with the Zone Diet In health, Team PLN
The Zone Can Help You Reach Your Weight Loss Goals
Dr. Sears has spent more than 40 years researching how the foods we eat impact our hormones and the expression of our genes. See how the Zone can help you finally get that scale to budge!
WHAT IS THE ZONE DIET®?
The Zone Diet® was developed by Dr. Barry Sears more than 30 years ago to reduce diet-induced inflammation, The Zone Diet® will help you shed excess pounds and improve your mental and physical performance while living a more fulfilling life. The Zone Diet® is a life-long dietary program based on strong science to reduce diet-induced inflammation.
Dr. Sears’ Newest Book, The Resolution Zone Is Now Available!
WHAT IS THE ZONE?
The Zone™ is a real physiological state in your body that can be measured in clinical tests. If you are in the Zone, you have optimized your ability to control diet-induced inflammation. This inflammation is the reason you gain weight, become sick, and age faster.
There are three clinical markers that define if you are in the Zone. If all three clinical markers are within their ideal values, you are in the Zone. Otherwise, you are not.
|Clinical Marker||Ideal Value||What It Indicates||How to Test Yourself|
From your diet.
|< 1||Level of insulin resistance in the liver.||Typically included with normal blood work within your cholesterol panel. Ask your doctor.|
From your diet & fish oil.
|1.5-3||Level of diet-induced Inflammation in the body.||Take the Zone Labs Cellular Inflammation Test.|
From your diet & polyphenols.
|5%||Level of Advanced Glycoslated Endproducts (AGE) tied to your blood glucose.||To measure your level of blood sugar over a three-month period, ask your doctor.|
Based on these values, less than 1% of Americans are able to manage diet-induced inflammation and fall within the parameters of the Zone. In the Zone, you will live a longer and better life because you are controlling diet-induced inflammation. That is the secret to maintaining wellness.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF BEING IN THE ZONE?
Benefits of being in the Zone include:
- Losing excess body fat at the fastest possible rate
- Maintaining wellness for a longer period of time
- Performing better
- Thinking faster
Controlling diet-induced inflammation is a life-long effort. It is inflammation that disrupts the hormonal communication in our cells that prevents us from reaching peak performance. Making the dietary changes to reach the Zone and stay there may initially appear difficult, but are well worth the effort.
At Zone Labs, we provide the dietary products, continuing education, and personal consultation to make getting into the Zone easier.
HOW THE ZONE DIET WORKS
The Zone Diet requires that you simply balance your plate at every meal and snack with these nutrients:
- Protein – 1/3rd of your plate, add some lean protein, about the size and thickness of your palm. This could include egg whites, fish, poultry, lean beef or low-fat dairy.
- Carbohydrates – 2/3rds of your plate, add a lot colorful vegetables and a little fruit. Fruits and vegetables to avoid are those that are high in sugar (e.g., bananas, raisins) or starchy (e.g., potatoes, corn).
- Fat – Add a little bit of monounsaturated fat. This could include olive oil, avocado, or almonds.
Learn the science behind the Zone Dietary Balance, or visit the Zone Food Block Guide.
ZONE FOOD PYRAMID
By restricting grains and starches and maximizing fruits and vegetables, those on the Zone diet will observe dramatic hormonal and anti-inflammatory benefits. If you balance your plate according to the Zone Diet blueprint, you end up with a Zone Food Pyramid that looks like the following:
The Zone Food Pyramid helps assure an optimal protein-to-glycemic load balance for improved hormonal control. Furthermore, it assures you have ample polyphenol levels in your diet. Polyphenol intake is important in controlling the bacteria composition of our digestive system, as well as activating anti-inflammatory and anti-aging genes.
Learn the science about the Zone Food Pyramid Biochemical Impact.
ZONE DIET ANTI-INFLAMMATORY SUPPLEMENTS
As powerful as the Zone Diet® is, it is just one of three parts of the complete Zone Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Program required to manage diet-induced inflammation for a lifetime.
Zone Diet® benefits can be enhanced with anti-inflammatory supplements. The two most powerful are ultra-refined omega-3 fatty acids, such as OmegaRx®2 Fish Oil, and purified polyphenol supplements, such as MaquiRx®. Collectively, these three distinct dietary components provide what is required to stay in the Zone.
- The Zone Diet® – Controls hormonal balance to reduce the generation of diet-induced inflammation. Consider replacing your daily pasta with Zone PastaRx Fusilli or Orzo, as it provides superior hunger control with 15 grams of protein per serving.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Increase the resolution of diet-induced inflammation with OmegaRx Fish Oil. Check your AA/EPA ratio with the Zone Blood Kit.
AA/EPA Ratio Cellular Inflammation Future Wellness 1.5 to 3.0 Low Excellent 3.1 to 6.0 Moderate Good 6.1 to 15 Elevated Moderate Greater than 15 High Poor
- Polyphenols – Control gut biology and slow the aging process with MaquiRx or other Zone polyphenol supplements.
Each of the three components of the Zone program is powerful in its own right, but working together, they provide a powerful dietary roadmap to get you to the Zone where diet-induced inflammation can be controlled throughout your life.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Combining the Zone Diet® with anti-inflammatory supplements provides the basis for the Zone Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition Program, which takes you back to the beginning of modern medicine when Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”
We finally have the breakthroughs in molecular biology to understand the power of those words and the importance of being in the Zone. The Zone Diet® makes it possible with the least effort on your part.
Losing excess body fat, maintaining wellness, improving athletic performance, or slowing the rate of aging are dependent on your ability to reduce diet-induced inflammation. We understand that changing your diet can be difficult. At Zone Labs, we provide you the products, continuing dietary education, and personal support that makes dietary change possible for you.
BE EVEN MORE PRECISE
Want to have an even stronger connection to the Zone?
- Make your own meals – When cooking, consult the Zone Food Block Guide, or access hundreds of Zone Recipes.
- Determine how much protein you need to maintain your muscle mass – use our Body Fat Calculator. Then spread the recommended amount of protein you need throughout the day, balancing it with the correct amount of colorful carbohydrates.
- Use our Insulin Resistance Quiz to determine your extent of insulin resistance, and receive clinically-based dietary recommendations that may help reduce your levels of insulin resistance.
Always start with the Zone Diet® as your dietary foundation. Then use our recommended food and supplement products to get even better results to optimize your health and nutrition.
The Zone Diet
The Zone diet was developed by Barry Sears, PhD, and The Zone became a best-selling diet book. The idea behind the Zone diet is that those who follow it will reset their metabolism, warding off heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions.
“This diet is higher in fat and protein than traditional low-fat dietary recommendations,” says Nancy L. Cohen, PhD, RD, professor and head of the department of nutrition at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. The Zone diet “includes protein such as meat and poultry at every meal, plus whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. It limits milk and many dairy products, fruit juices, and many grain foods such as pasta and rice,” adds Dr. Cohen.
The Zone Diet: How Does It Work?
The Zone diet restricts calories while encouraging you to change the balance of the foods you eat in order to lose weight. On the Zone diet, you will get 30 percent of your calories from protein, 30 percent from fat, and 40 percent from carbohydrates. The carbohydrates favored by the Zone diet include beans, most fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. In contrast, many diets heavily emphasize carbohydrates and cut back on fat.
Each meal or snack on the Zone diet is carefully balanced so that you eat a small amount of protein along with your carbohydrates. This balance is thought to control insulin levels, which ultimately leads to a thinner you, according to Sears’ argument.
The Zone Diet: Sample Diet
Here is a sample dinner that you might eat on the Zone diet:
- 4.5 ounces lean hamburger meat
- 1 slice low-fat cheese
- 1 slice each of tomato, lettuce, and onion
- 1 piece whole-grain bread
- Small fruit serving
The Zone Diet: Pros
There are several benefits to the Zone diet:
- Variety. The Zone diet offers more variety in comparison to other high-protein diets. “It is not as restrictive as some high-protein diets and offers foods from most food groups,” says Cohen.
- Ease of use. As designed diets go, it is relatively easy to follow once you are aware of which foods to limit.
- Frequent meals. The Zone diet recommends eating small meals five or six times a day.
- Healthy fats. Although the Zone is not a low-fat diet, it “promotes healthy fats and discourages saturated and trans fats,” notes nutritionist Judy Penta, BS, CHHC, a certified holistic health counselor and certified personal trainer with Patients Medical in New York City.
- Sugar control. By limiting refined sugars and emphasizing whole grains, proteins, fruits, and vegetables, the Zone diet can “help stabilize blood sugar and limit cravings,” says Penta.
- Achievable weight loss. Most people who follow this diet can lose weight, says Penta.
The Zone Diet: Cons
There are some concerns for people on the Zone diet, including:
- Calcium intake. The Zone diet does not favor dairy products. “It will be difficult to get enough calcium on this diet if milk products are limited,” notes Cohen. Many non-dairy foods contain calcium, but you will have to watch your calcium intake on this diet.
- Missing nutrients. “Food restrictions can result in a lack of fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and several minerals,” says Penta.
- Inflexible dietary balance.The 30-30-40 breakdown is recommended for all people, but some dieters may require a different nutritional balance to be healthy and lose weight, says Penta.
- Kidney risk. A high-protein diet can put stress on the kidneys, which may be risky for some people.
- Expense. Some people may find it costly to meet the requirements of the Zone diet.
- Moderate to high fat. Although the fats favored by the Zone diet are healthy fats, the American Heart Association warns that the diet may be too high in fat for those who need to monitor their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Caloric restriction. People who strictly follow the Zone diet will be eating less than 1,200 calories per day, which may result in hunger and difficulty sticking to the diet.
- Long-term commitment challenge. Cohen worries that this diet may be hard to stick to. “It may be difficult to follow for a lifetime, as it restricts many common foods such as rice and pasta,” she says.
The Zone Diet: Short- and Long-Term Effects
Weight loss is often the goal for people on the Zone diet and, in the short term, weight loss is achievable. Long-term claims that the diet can reduce heart disease and diabetes risks have not yet been supported by research.
In a study that compared the nutritional elements of the Zone diet with 15 other popular weight-loss diets, the Zone ranked as one of the top five, tied with the diet based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid.
The Zone diet is a popular, high-protein diet that can yield weight-loss results, although you may have to pay attention to overall nutritional requirements while following it.
Learn more in Everyday Health’s Diet and Nutrition Center.
What Is the Zone Diet and Is It Healthy?
For the past 25 years, millions of people (including Jennifer Aniston, Sandra Bullock, and many, many more) have signed on to follow the Zone Diet, created by Barry Sears, Ph.D. It promises decreased inflammation, little to no hunger, and optimal wellness…but does following the Zone diet really deliver results on the scale and promote overall health and longevity?
What Is the Zone Diet?
“The Zone Diet is designed to control diet-induced inflammation, which Sears believes is the reason we gain weight, grow sick, and age faster,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., R.D.N., founder of NutritionStarringYOU.com and author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. (Check out 15 anti-inflammatory foods you should be eating regularly.)
Once you’re “in the Zone,” you have limited that hormone-triggered inflammation that Sears swears is the cause of weight gain and premature aging. A combo of high insulin (which has been linked to weight gain and certain cancers) and high omega-6 fatty acids in the body are two culprits that can lead to inflammation, and later, obesity, according to Sears. While you do need some omega-6s, excess levels may lead to higher heart disease risk.
Supposed Benefits of the Zone Diet
There are three physiological markers Sears says you can look to determine if you’ve reached “the Zone.”
Your triglyceride to HDL cholesterol ratio is less than 1.
Your AA to EPA (arachidonic acid / eicosapentaenoic acid) ratio, a marker of cellular inflammation that relates to omega-3 fatty acids in the body is 1.5 to 3.
Your Hemoglobin A1c level (aka blood sugar) is around 5 percent.
The Zone Diet promises that when you’re in the Zone, you think quicker, perform better physically, avoid illnesses, and shed pounds at “the fastest possible rate,” according to their website. The theory Sears put out is that inflammation throws off hormonal communication within cells, hampering efficiency, and therefore performance.
What You Can Eat On the Zone Diet and How Much
Carbs, protein, and fat are all allowed on the zone diet, but in very specific ratios.
“You eat 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat at each meal and snack,” explains Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., a San Francisco-based registered dietitian and co-founder of the nutrition news company Appetite for Health. “It requires you to track what you’re eating and aim for balance at each meal.” (Related: Your Complete Guide to the ‘IIFYM’ Or Macro Diet)
Sears points to a few medical studies that demonstrate a general trend toward weight loss, fat loss, and less cellular inflammation with this 40/30/30 ratio.
Each macro is translated into Zone Diet “blocks”, which are meant to make tracking simpler but can take some time to get used to, says Harris-Pincus. Your total allowance of Zone Diet blocks will vary based on your results with the Zone Diet Body Fat Calculator, which helps estimate how much energy your body requires based on size and activity. You can download a Zone Food Block Guide online, which breaks down the blocks per food even more. They roughly translate to:
1 Zone Diet block of protein = 7 grams of protein
1 Zone Diet block of fat = 1.5 grams of fat
1 Zone Diet block of carbs = 9 grams of carbs
No foods are completely off-limits, but many common ingredients are given a general ranking of “best” (Brussels sprouts, egg whites/substitute, salmon), “fair” (cheese, whole eggs, potatoes), and “poor” (bacon, rice, ice cream). Zone Diet followers are supposed to limit carbohydrates that are high on the glycemic index, which is an indicator of how quickly carbs are digested and therefore how quickly blood sugar can spike and fall, as well as sources of saturated fat. (Related: Is Butter Healthy? The Truth About Saturated Fat)
Lastly, Sears suggests eating at least every five hours on the Zone Diet to balance fuel throughout the day and avoid highs and lows in your energy.
Problems with the Zone Diet
Any diet that has a list of “unfavorable” foods is a hard pass for me, says Jenna A. Werner, R.D., creator of Happy Slim Healthy. “I don’t believe in assigning foods with labels such as good and bad—that gives food control over us. The idea of telling someone ‘no’ creates a sense of restriction, and study after study shows us that restriction leads to binging. Instead, I believe in educating people on how to eat, how to include foods that are important to them into their lives, while educating them on how to prioritize whole and nutritious foods.” (Related: We Seriously Need to Stop Thinking of Foods As ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’)
Harris-Pincus agrees, saying “any diet that discourages several kinds of fruit gives me pause. Prunes—which are excellent for bone health—plus bananas, cantaloupe, watermelon, mangoes, pineapple, figs, honeydew, limes, and cranberries all rate as ‘poor’ on the Zone Diet.”
The portion size of some Zone Diet blocks (see the Zone Diet Grocery Guide for some examples) seems unrealistic to Harris-Pincus too.
“Three cashews?” she asks. “One and on-third teaspoons of olive oil? How does one measure that exactly? I also question any diet that sells supplements to accompany the plan, especially when they are pricey. The Zone Diet offers omega-3 and polyphenol supplements. There are also protein powders and snack bars, which are highly processed and contain more sugar than some other competitor products.” (For example, a 220-calorie ZoneRx Chocolate Crispy Nutrition Bar has 15 grams of sugar—just shy of 4 teaspoons.)
The branded foods don’t come cheap either: A one-pound box of that Zone “PastaRx” Fusilli pasta, made with durum wheat, wheat protein, dried egg whites, and more, will cost you $16. (Compare that to $1.49 for a same-sized box of Whole Foods Market’s 365 Everyday Value Organic Fusilli on amazon.com.)
While Werner appreciates the focus on whole foods, fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats, she’s not quite so sure about the caloric breakdown of the Zone Diet.
“Women are allowed roughly 1,200 calories per day,” she says. “This is inadequate to support most peoples’ needs and creates a caloric deficit that is simply way too large to be sustainable or healthy.” (Related: How Many Calories are You *Really* Eating?)
So, Is the Zone Diet Healthy?
“I think it’s nutritionally sound for the most part compared to other trendy diets,” says Harris-Pincus. Plus, decreasing inflammation and aiming to fill your plate with lean protein, veggies, and healthy fats are both solid health concepts.
“There are certain principles of this program that you can certainly carry with you for your entire life,” adds Werner. But “ask yourself before starting this program, ‘can I do this forever? Does this make me happy? Can I do this on vacation? Can I do this on Thanksgiving? Any holiday? Every holiday? Every day?’,” she asks.
If you find that a strict diet makes you skip dinners out with friends or feel rigid when a dinner party doesn’t perfectly fit the Zone Diet breakdown exactly, seek out other options that are easier to stick to and require less tracking (such as the low-stress, heart-healthy Mediterranean Diet plan). Or “work with a dietitian to design a custom nutrition program that will teach you how to feed yourself in every scenario—and enjoy it too,” says Werner.
- By Karla Walsh
Zone Diet: The Zone diet is a weight loss plan based upon the idea that the right ratio of carbohydrates to proteins and fats can control levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Too much of the hormone, according to the diet’s developer Barry Sears, PhD, can increase fat storage and inflammation in the body.
In his book The Zone, Sears writes that metabolism can be best regulated with a diet of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat. This idea is now widely known as the 40-30-30 plan. The diet does not prohibit any foods, but severely restricts those high in fat and carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are the preferred source of carbohydrates in the Zone diet. Protein is limited to low-fat portions that are no bigger and no thicker than the palm of the hand. Monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil, almonds, macadamia nuts, and avocados are recommended.
The American Heart Association (AHA) classifies the Zone as a high-protein diet and has issued an official recommendation warning against such programs. The AHA statement says high-protein diets have not been proven effective for long-term weight loss and could actually be hazardous to health because they restrict intake of essential vitamins and minerals . On the other hand, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) rates The Zone more moderately and suggests that it is closer to dieticians’ recommendations than some other high-protein diets.
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I tried the diet that celebrities like Jennifer Aniston swore by — and it totally lived up to the hype
- The Zone Diet reduces diet-induced inflammation and improves mental and physical performance.
- Your plate should consist of one-third lean protein, two-thirds low glycemic carbs and vegetables, and a dash of healthy fats.
- Celebs like Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock have tried it.
There is a strong possibility that your favorite celeb has tried the Zone Diet. Stars like Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, Sandra Bullock, and Sarah Jessica Parker have tried the popular eating method to maintain their lean physiques.
Biochemist Dr. Barry Sears developed the diet to reduce inflammation caused by refined and processed foods. It also purports to help people lose weight, improve mental and physical performance, and lessen the risk of chronic disease.
So how exactly do you get into the zone? The Zone Diet is based on balanced portions of proteins, carbohydrates, and fat. One-third of your plate should be filled with lean proteins like skinless chicken, turkey, and fish. Two-thirds of the plate should consist of low-glycemic carbs and veggies. The final component is a dash of healthy fats like olive oil or avocado.
This can be a bit tricky, so the hand-eye method has been touted as the simplest way to navigate measurements. Your protein should resemble the size and thickness of your palm. That would approximate one-third. The other two-thirds of carbs would essentially be two palmfuls. The five fingers on your hand also serve as a reminder to eat five meals a day.
The diet can be further broken down by the Zone block method, which personalizes the diet according to your body’s needs. A single Zone block contains 7 grams of protein, 9 grams of carbs, and 1.5 grams of healthy fats. Your number of blocks are dependent on weight, height, hip, and waist measurements. For example, the average woman needs 11 Zone blocks per day and the average male 14.
Foods to avoid include potato, pasta, bread, grapes, mangoes, carrots, peas, corn, processed foods, sweets, tea, and coffee.
I am well-known among my family and friends as a potato enthusiast and as a West Indian, bread is life. But as an Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) sufferer, I am always looking for ways to reduce inflammation so I was willing to give this a shot.
Here’s what happened when I gave the Zone Diet a shot for a week.
Day one was a success.
Oatmeal with fresh berries became a breakfast staple throughout the week. Nasha Smith/INSIDER
I love attempting wellness challenges so I was very enthusiastic to start my Monday with this new goal to strive for. For my first meal, I made my usual breakfast of oatmeal. Normally I would have paired this with a banana but that was not Zone-Diet-friendly. Instead, I added a bunch of blueberries, strawberries, and a sprinkle of coconut. I firmly believe in having a good breakfast to fuel me throughout the day and this was ideal as it was very filling.
I’m not a big snacker, but I managed to have some plain yogurt and a stick of sharp cheddar cheese around midday. At this point, I was so stuffed it would be well past 2 p.m. before I even considered lunch. I kept it simple with grilled chicken breast, a bit of brown rice, and a large green salad with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. So far, so good.
Two hours later it was time for another snack so I munched on some almonds and a tangerine. Dinner was more or less the same as lunch and my day of eating was finally done. I kept myself hydrated with water since tea was supposed to be kept to a minimum. Day one was a satisfying success.
Day two showed me that I wouldn’t go hungry on this diet.
Lunch consisted of salmon paired with brown rice. Nasha Smith/INSIDER
Breakfast was a repeat of the previous day’s oatmeal and berries. I added a bit of natural peanut butter to fulfill the healthy fat/protein requirement I had omitted yesterday. This time I completely missed out on the mid-morning snack because I was much too full and decided to listen to my body.
Lunch consisted of a salmon meal paired with brown rice since this was one of the only acceptable carbs. It was from a West Indian restaurant so it came accompanied by some beans and ripe plantains which in hindsight I realized might not be appropriate because it’s in the banana family. Oh well.
After missing the earlier snack I made an effort to have some cheese, peanuts, and a tangerine to make up. For dinner I just had some roasted vegetables and leftover chicken because my poor stomach protested anything heavier. I can’t believe I thought I might be hungry on this diet. I was kind of bummed I didn’t follow my plan to the letter, but it was still a pretty good day.
Day three also went off without a hitch.
Apple slices and peanut butter are a Zone-friendly snack. Nasha Smith/INSIDER
Yes, I had another bowl of oatmeal with berries. To be honest, I don’t get bored with food. I could eat the same meal for days quite happily. But on this day, I was a little salty because I couldn’t have any of the fresh brioche my aunt offered me. I also wouldn’t mind a cup of tea but I was doing fine with my water.
I decided to switch up my snack today with an old favorite. I paired some apple slices with peanut butter. At lunch my coworker laughed as I walked by with my faithful container of brown rice, chicken, and veggies. I wasn’t remotely hungry when mid-afternoon snack time rolled around but I still scarfed down a few almonds. I repeated my lunchtime routine for dinner and thought of the heaping bowl of mashed potatoes I would have at the end of the week.
Day four was full of more of the same.
Oven-roasted veggies were easy to pair with dinner. Nasha Smith/INSIDER
Another day, another bowl of oatmeal. This really has been my go-to breakfast for years now. I would occasionally alternate with other porridges like Cream of Wheat or cornmeal but I’m not sure if those would fit in the zone. And toast was out of the question. I opted for a coconut yogurt and strawberries for today’s snack. I realized I was lacking a healthy fat, but I figured I would just have extra avocado at lunch.
I managed to find another carb for lunch — come through sweet potato. As I ate this with my salad and chicken, I read a bit more to see if there was anything new I could incorporate into my meals. My vegetable intake was still not as high as it needed to be so I vowed to do something about that for dinner.
Later that afternoon, I coated some broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, and squash in a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and garlic before oven-roasting. The broccoli and brussel sprouts were for the rest of my family because these vegetables usually trigger my IBS but the squash was delicious paired with some stewed beef and the rest of my newly discovered sweet potato.
Day five saw me skipping dinner entirely.
Lunch consisted of leftover beef stew with quinoa, brown rice, and plantains. Nasha Smith/INSIDER
Still no shame in my oatmeal game. I contemplated having a mango to spice things up a bit that’s apparently too naturally sweet and not Zone-compliant. So more blueberries it is and a dollop of peanut butter. I wasn’t really in the mood for any more nuts or yogurt today so I just had half an avocado as my obligatory snack.
Lunch was another helping of rice but with a twist. I discovered Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice with garlic and it was truly life-changing. I am not sure how long this has been a thing but I am in love. Together with my leftover stewed beef and beloved fried plantains it was one of my best meals. I still wasn’t sure I could have plantain on the Zone Diet but I fried it in some olive oil, which is technically a healthy fat.
It was early evening by the time I got around to having my mid-afternoon snack. I caved and had some peanuts and a smoothie. I used almond milk, strawberries, and blueberries. I was so full that I decided to skip dinner altogether. I hated deviating from the plan but I reassured myself that at least I wasn’t eating badly.
On day six, I tried to mix up my breakfast and failed.
You’re supposed to avoid mango on the Zone Diet, but you can’t always avoid cravings. Nasha Smith/INSIDER
The night before I decided to take a break from my trusty oatmeal and make eggs for breakfast. Unfortunately, I woke up late so oatmeal it is. At least I tried. I enjoyed my smoothie from the previous day so I had it as a snack. This time I added a spoon of peanut butter.
I was full for the next three hours so I had a late lunch of leftover chicken, sweet potato, and sliced cucumber. I also decided to live dangerously and indulge in a bowl of mango chunks. That was it for the day. I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t want to force the issue.
Day seven would be the day I went hard on my diet.
I celebrated the end of my week with a glass of white wine. Nasha Smith/INSIDER
I woke up with renewed determination. This was it and I was prepared to go hard. I finally managed to make myself some scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Why didn’t I do that sooner? This was hands down the best meal I had the whole week. Some toast would have come in clutch but I could survive another few hours.
I skipped my mid-morning snack again and went straight into another package of quinoa and brown rice, grilled chicken, and salad. I followed that up with some plain yogurt topped with berry chunks. As I had grown accustomed to doing, I repeated lunch for dinner.
I celebrated the end of my week with a glass of white wine. There were conflicting reports on whether this was Zone-approved but I figured one glass wouldn’t kill me.
Ultimately, this diet was a little restrictive, but I always felt full and never bloated.
My biggest concern going into this was not feeling satisfied at the end of the day. This was never an issue at any point in the week. In fact, I felt like I was eating too much. But I knew that I was eating clean and not just consuming empty calories. Another plus was the effect on my stomach. I was less bloated and my stomach remained settled. Thanks to the steady diet of water, my skin had a healthy glow.
I felt a bit restricted so I wouldn’t be able to stick to this for the long haul. I have no interest in having processed foods, but I did miss having some of my favorite fruits like grapes and mangoes. It’s hard enough having to avoid cruciferous veggies because of IBS, so eliminating my other options like carrots and peas made it really tough. I also didn’t like having to throw random snacks together to ensure I met the protein, healthy fats, and carbs ratio.
This is the kind of diet that would work with extensive meal prep. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It helps save money and lessens the chances of reaching for unhealthy foods. But I like having options when eating. I also really love potato, pasta, and bread so I will continue to subscribe to everything in moderation.
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What Dr. Melinda Ratini Says:
Does It Work?
There is no specific research to prove that eating a certain ratio of protein, carbs, and fats is going to rev up your metabolism and increase weight loss. But it is a proven fact that eating a calorie-restricted diet, such as The Zone Diet, can help you lose weight. The claim that the weight loss will be all fat and not muscle or water, however, may not be as true.
The Zone Diet sets a realistic and healthy weight loss goal of 1 to 1.5 pounds a week. Most health experts also recommend this proven strategy for a sure and steady weight loss. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in their guidelines recommend that a good weight loss program should aim for a loss of 1 to 2 pounds each week.
There is also a lot of proof that adding in behavioral techniques, such as The Zone Diet’s tools and journals, is likely to help you lose weight and keep it off.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
If you have high blood pressure or heart disease and were told to watch your salt, The Zone Diet’s emphasis on fresh ingredients and the shunning of prepared foods will likely fit well into your diet.
The Zone Diet also has fitness recommendations that closely follow those of the American Heart Association. Just let your doctor know before increasing your activity level, especially if you are out of shape or have medical problems.
Weight loss and exercise are key players in helping to prevent diabetes. If you already have diabetes, check with your doctor to be sure you don’t need to tweak your diabetes treatment plan before cutting out the calories and ramping up the exercise.
Though the ratios of protein, fat, and carbs in The Zone Diet are within the ranges recommended by the Institute of Medicine, the diet may be too high in protein if you have kidney disease or certain other health problems. You may also have to check cholesterol and fat levels closely if you have high cholesterol.
The Final Word
The Zone Diet promises that by balancing your nutrients, you will be able to lose weight and avoid hunger. However, the plan’s calorie restrictions and healthy food choices, rather than any intricate food balancing, may be at the heart of any weight loss.
You are likely to do best in The Zone if you love to pick out and prepare fresh vegetables and lean protein. But it will be a struggle if you love your white flour carbs and sweets. And though you can get tips for restaurant dining, it may be tough to stay in The Zone if you prefer to eat out a lot.
You can keep costs to a minimum by cooking your own meals, but there is the option of buying prepared meals from The Zone’s web site if you prefer.
Spread the love
Zone diet has been popular over the years for those who want to lose weight and burn fat without feeling hungry. The main aim of the zone diet is to ensure you feel full and satiated. This reducing overeating.
It helps reduce the amount of calories intake and make it easier to stay on the diet. The diet consists of one-third of proteins, two-thirds of carb and some healthy fats or unsaturated fats.
1. Weight loss: Zone diet provides you with a long-term weight loss journey and helps you to avoid gaining the weight back (Jojo effect). The diet helps you maintain healthy eating habits.
2. Feel full: The 5 food portions a day ensures you don’t feel hungry and overheat. This helps you to successfully maintain this healthy diet plan.
3. Build muscle: Zone diet focuses on building your muscle tissue and also help in burning the excess fat in the body.
4. Satiated: Maintaining portions of 30% protein, 30% of unsaturated fats and the remaining 40% on carbohydrates makes you feel satiated and great.
5. Reduce inflammation: Taking the right portions of proteins, carbs, and fats help you reduce inflammation caused by certain foods. Foods that create inflammation may lead to aging, sickness, and weight gain.
6. Control insulin: Zone diet helps in controlling the insulin levels in your body making it easy to control or prevent the risk of diabetes.
7. Reduce digestion issues: Maintaining a healthy zone diet will help reduce various problems like gallstones, heartburn, acid reflux, and other digestion issues.
8. Protect against cardiovascular diseases: Taking health fats or mono-saturated fat helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The diet helps you improve on the bad cholesterol scores.
9. Control hormones: The diet helps in controlling the body hormones. Following this diet will help to naturally control your hormones.
10. Increases potassium: Zone diet increases the amount of Potassium in the body by taking more fruits and vegetables.
1. Endurance to the diet: If you have been having an active life, following the diet for a week leads to reduced stamina and you feel exhausted too quickly before the body adjusts to the diet.
2. Reduced fiber intake: Taking fewer carbohydrates leads to reduced healthy fiber intake. The low carb diet limits the intake of foods high in fiber. Foods rich in fiber helps boost the digestive system and gut health.
3. Difficult to follow: If you crave for more carb foods, then this diet plan will be very difficult for you to follow. If the instructions not properly followed, it leads to more destruction of the body instead of helping.
4. Calcium deficiency: Zone diet doesn’t favor the consumption of dairy products, it leads to a deficiency of calcium in the body.
5. Not well-balanced: The low portions of food products may lead to the deficiency of some nutrients and vitamins like vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber.
6. In-depth planning: It may be difficult to plan for the diet especially if you’re starting on Zone diet. You need in-depth meal planning by measuring and counting all the calories to get it right.
7. Expensive: Following Zone diet and eating the recommended portions require you to spend more by buying all the products needed for the diet like cereals, foods rich in omega 3, and foods rich in unsaturated fats among other products.
8. Low in calories: Zone diet leads to consumption of a low number of calories which is extremely lower than the recommended calories intake by the American Medical Association.
9. Zone diet, not Kidney-friendly: This diet is not recommended to those who have kidney problems since the increased proteins in the diet may lead to overworking of the kidney during digestion.
10. Time-consuming: It takes a lot of time and effort to get the right portions. There is also a lot of inconsistency.
The Zone Diet was created by Dr. Barry Sears, with the intention of proper hormone balance through nutrition. With the balancing of macronutrients, the right combination of carbohydrate (40%), protein (30%), fat (30%), at every meal and snack, proper hormone balance can be achieved.
The key is regulating insulin and glucagon levels. If insulin(blood sugar levels) are high in the body, this makes and keeps you fat. However, by controlling insulin ( blood sugar levels) and keeping them in the Zone, your body burns fat more efficiently and you lose weight.
Eating too many carbohydrates produces too much insulin, a hormone that tells the body to stock up nutrients. When the body has insulin ‘overload’, the body converts those carbohydrates into fat.
The opposite happens when we consume protein , increasing Glucagon, a hormone that sends a message to the body to release carbohydrates in the liver, this then tells the body via the brain that it’s energy supplies are are sufficient and therefore you will stop eating . Limiting carbohydrate intake and including 100 grams(3/4oz) of protein with each meal will maintain the balance of Glucagon and Insulin, controlling your appetite and hence the total number of daily calories.
This balance enables people following the Zone Diet to get more energy from carbohydrates rather than Protein or fats, staying within 500 calories for a meal and 100 calories for a snack.
The Zone Diet helps you lose weight and change your eating habits. It makes you aware of balanced , balanced, healthy eating. The key is through proportionality, with the benefit and convenience of not having to do calorie counting.
The Zone Diet has many other benefits other than weight loss, such as enhanced health, improved energy, mental alertness/ focus. It also helps those with Type 11 diabetes , being high in protein, low carbohydrate diet program it reduces both hunger and compulsive eating tendencies.
YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT AND BODY FAT.
The Zone Diet can be complicated and time consuming to adhere to. It also eliminates some nutritious foods, which are high in fibre, vitamins and minerals. The diet can be high in meat products, which is a source of high saturated fat.
Those on a vegetarian regimen will unlikely be able to keep to the program, or those who drink any beverage with caffeine.
-Nicholas If you are in the Los Angeles area and you would like a complimentary one-on-one assessment with Personal Trainer in L.A. Nicholas Barrett, please don’t hesitate to get in touch! Personal trainer Los Angeles. Los Angeles personal trainer. Personal trainer marina del rey.
The Zone Diet Review: How It Works, Benefits, Pros and Cons
By Lydia Noyes HighYa Staff Published on: Aug 21, 2019
What Is the Zone Diet?
Developed by Dr. Barry Sears, the Zone Diet is a lifestyle eating strategy designed to help you reduce inflammation caused by your diet.
This plan claims to help you shed excess weight and sharpen your mental abilities by regulating the amount of protein, fat, and carbs you consume at every meal.
According to the diet’s official website, Dr. Sears has spent more than 40 years researching the ways that food impacts hormone functioning. To date, he has published more than 50 papers concerning the interactions between your diet, hormonal responses, and cardiovascular disease.
This research has culminated with the Zone Diet, an eating strategy equipped with anti-inflammatory supplements for better long-term health and to stave off heart disease.
Dr. Sears published The Zone, his original book about the plan, in 1995.
Is this eating strategy still relevant today? We’ll consider the facts so you can discern if it’s the right choice for you.
Benefits of the Zone Diet
The premise of the Zone Diet is that chronic inflammation is the primary reason why you feel sick and weigh too much. Healthline explains that while inflammation is a natural process your body uses to both heal and defend itself, chronic inflammation is damaging and associated with health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
As such, following a low-inflammation diet will lead to better health, lasting weight loss, and even slow down the signs of aging. Followers are instructed to follow a specific ratio of macronutrients at every meal—40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat—and to eat every few hours to stave off blood sugar crashes.
” Recommended Reading: Anti-Inflammatory Diet: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide
This diet isn’t considered a quick fix, as it works best as a long-term lifestyle change to stop inflammation so that you spend more time in the “Zone.”
As Dr. Sears defines it, the Zone is a physiological state where you have optimized your control over inflammation caused by food. Three clinical markers shown in the table below indicate whether you are in the Zone. You must meet all three to be successful:
Clinical Marker Level for Zone What It Means How to Measure TG/HDL ratio Less than 1 This is the level of insulin resistance in the liver. It’s the ratio of “bad” fats to “good” cholesterol in your blood. Lower values indicate you have more good cholesterol. This marker is usually included in standard blood work results AA/EPA ratio 1.5-3 This is the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats. Lower values mean you have more omega-3s. The Zone Labs online store sells a Cellular Inflammation Kit for $75. HBA1c (Glycated Hemoglobin) Less than 5% This is a marker of your average blood sugar levels over three months. Higher levels are linked to greater risks of diabetes. Your doctor can help you measure your blood sugar over three months
The Zone Diet website states that less than 1% of Americans fall within each of these perimeters, meaning that 99% of us are living with diet-induced inflammation. By following its dietary guidelines, the diet claims, you can better control your results.
What Can You Eat on the Zone Diet?
The Zone Diet requirements are straightforward; you need to balance out your ratios of macronutrients every time you eat with protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Unlike other diet plans with designated stages, you are meant to follow the same eating strategy for life.
Protein: One-third of your plate must be lean protein, which should total the approximate size of your palm. Egg whites, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy, beans, tofu, and lean beef are options.
Carbohydrates: Colorful vegetables like cucumbers, spinach, mushrooms, squash, and greens should cover two-thirds of your plate. Non-starchy fruit like apples, berries, and oranges is also permitted, so long as you limit options that are high in sugar, including bananas and dried fruit. You can also consume small servings of whole grains like oatmeal and barley.
Fat: A small amount of monounsaturated fat like olive oil, almonds, peanut butter, and avocados will round out the plate.
While nothing is banned on the Zone Diet, you should limit your consumption of the following items as much as possible because they are known to trigger inflammation:
- High-sugar fruits like bananas and dried fruit
- Starchy vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and corn
- Refined carbohydrates like bread and pasta
- Most processed foods/ food with added sugar
- Soda, fruit juice, coffee and tea (water is the preferred beverage)
What you eat makes up just one aspect of the Zone Diet. Another component is taking supplements to reduce your instance of dietary-induced inflammation. Specifically, the plan suggests taking omega-3 (OmegaRX) and polyphenol (MaquiRX) supplements, both of which are available in the plan’s online store.
Likewise, when you eat is equally important as what in the Zone Diet. The goal is to avoid taking enough time between meals that your blood sugar levels drop, and you feel hunger pangs. For this reason, it’s best to eat within the first hour of waking and then at least every five hours after.
How Do You Follow the Zone Diet?
Estimating your meal ratios isn’t easy for beginners, so the Zone Diet recommends two strategies for better success: the hand-eye method and Zone food blocks.
The hand-eye method lets you rely on your hands and eyes to determine portion sizes. Your five fingers represent that you need to eat five times a day and shouldn’t go more than five hours without eating (except at night).
You will also visualize each plate of food as split into thirds, with one third designated to lean protein, two-thirds to complex carbohydrates, and a sprinkling of fat over the rest. This rough estimate is designed to be flexible enough for you to calculate your macros even when eating out.
The Zone food-block method is more technical, as it requires you to calculate your personal nutrient needs based on your weight, height, and waist and hip measurements.
Use this guide to calculate your number. The test results show you how many food blocks you are allocated each day. Men average 14 and women 11, so your number should make sense in that context.
Each meal will consist of three to five Zone blocks, and snacks equal one. How big is each block? Below are the grams of each nutrient that compromise each one.
- Protein: 7 grams
- Carbohydrates: 9 grams
- Fat: 1.5 grams.
Knowing these amounts and your daily intake requirements lets you make quick calculations to ensure your diet will keep you in the Zone.
How Much Does the Zone Diet Cost?
Unlike many other diet plans, it doesn’t have to cost any money to commit to the Zone Diet.
All the information about the program is available online for free, and you can also borrow Dr. Sear’s books from your library to cut costs further. Furthermore, you don’t need to buy branded food to follow the diet, so your grocery bill should remain relatively unchanged.
Where you’re most likely to spend money is on the plan’s supplements. Though not essential for the diet, they are highly recommended, especially in the beginning weeks when you are adjusting yo a new way of eating and might be dealing with deficiencies. The two most recommended include the following:
OmegaRX (120 capsules, $55.95): Consists of purified oil from wild anchovies and sardines to promote brain and heart health through a high concentration of omega-3s.
MaquiRx (30 capsules, $49.95): Contains polyphenols found within the maqui berry to activate AMPK to regulate your energy levels and metabolism. This compound is also linked with appetite control, blood sugar support, and inflammation reduction.
Other supplement options include products for joint support, bone health, micronutrient intake, weight loss support, and blood sugar regulation. They cost between $14.95 and $44.95 per container.
All of these supplements are also available on a subscription basis for discounts of up to 20%. You can request a delivery frequency ranging from every 30-90 days.
It’s also possible to purchase pre-made food from the Diet’s online store. While not necessary for success, the company states that the nutrient ratios within each time have been formulated to optimize your ability to get in the Zone. Some of these food items included pasta, energy bars, nutrition shakes, breakfast cereals, olive oil, and protein powder.
All purchases under 10 pounds qualify for $6.95 standard shipping (others will be charged by weight).
Regarding returns, the company terms and conditions show that you can request a full refund (minus shipping) if you return the product within 30 days.
If you have further questions about the plan or your orders, you can message the company directly at (800)404-8171 or at [email protected]
Pros and Cons of the Zone Diet?
Now that we’ve fleshed out the details of this dietary approach, do we think it makes sense for achieving better health? This plan has withstood decades of innovation in the health industry and is still considered a smart way to lose weight.
What we appreciate about this plan is the focus on real food and making long-term changes. You won’t need to eat premade meals during the beginning weeks exclusively, and no food item is technically considered off-limits.
Also, following the Zone Diet correctly ensures you’re taking in large quantities of produce, which is something most of us can benefit from.
“Compared with other ‘miracle’ diets, the Zone diet is probably one of the easier to follow,” says Eddie Johnson, a certified fitness instructor and CEO of Anabolic Bodies. “This is because, unlike the Atkin’s diet, carbs still make up a significant portion of each meal. The difficulty is in choosing the right carbs with a low glycemic index.”
However, the plan does have drawbacks. First off, it makes bold health claims about the impact of diet-induced inflammation on your health, and Healthline states that there’s not necessarily strong evidence to support them.
Likewise, determining whether you are in the Zone requires long-term monitoring of nutrient levels in your bloodstream and even a $75 test sold by the Zone Diet. We also think splitting every meal into the correct ratios of carbs, protein, and fat may get cumbersome and lead people to give up.
Overall, though, this eating plan has a lot going for it for your health. The food it recommends is similar to the Mediterranean Diet, which we believe is one of the best overall diets to follow. We suggest following this plan’s eating advice and talking with your doctor about whether supplementing with polyphenols and omega-3s is smart for your health.
” See Also: Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet: A Comprehensive Beginner’s Guide