The Zone Diet

The Zone Diet is about balancing your hormones within a specific range to control hunger on fewer calories while still getting the proper nutrients your body needs for long-term health. The Zone Diet can best be described as a moderate-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, moderate fat diet that has approximately one gram of fat for every two grams of protein and three grams of carbohydrates. These ratios represent the newest dietary recommendations from the Joslin Diabetes Research Center at Harvard Medical School for the treatment of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

With the right balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats, you can control three major hormones generated by what you eat – insulin, glucagon and eicosanoids.

Insulin – A storage hormone. Excess insulin makes you fat and keeps you fat. It also accelerates silent inflammation.

Glucagon – A mobilization hormone that tells the body to release stored carbohydrates at a steady rate, leading to stabilized blood sugar levels. This is key for optimal mental and physical performance.

Eicosanoids – These are the hormones that ultimately control silent inflammation. They are also master hormones that indirectly orchestrate a vast array of other hormonal systems in your body.

The diet centers on a “40:30:30” ratio of calories obtained daily from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, respectively. Studies over the past several years (including a non-scientific study by the PBS documentary show Scientific American Frontiers) have shown that this ratio can produce weight loss at reasonable rates. The Scientific American Frontiers study compared the effectiveness of several popular ‘diet’ regimes including the Zone; somewhat to the surprise of the show’s staff, the participants on the Zone experienced the greatest fat loss while simultaneously gaining muscle mass. Participants also reported the Zone as the easiest regime to adjust to, i.e. having the fewest adverse affects such as fatigue or hunger. Most people who report fatigue find that the fatigue diminishes by day 2 or 3.

Sample Daily Menu

Breakfast: buckwheat blintz with ricotta and apples

Lunch: grilled chicken BLT club sandwich, side salad of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette

Dinner: grilled pork loin with barley pilaf and sautéed green beans with garlic and sliced almonds in white wine sauce

Snack: banana mini muffin, crab cake or low-carb pretzels

The Zone Diet was developed by Dr. Barry Sears, author of the bestseller Enter the Zone, and is based on more than 15 years of his research in the field of bionutrition. The Zone is sometimes called a high-protein diet, but it’s less extreme than Atkins.

The Zone offers a specific meal plan based on each person’s gender, activity level and amount of body fat. One of the goals of the Zone is to avoid peaks and valleys in blood sugar levels. It encourages people to eat more fruits and vegetables, and reduce bread, pasta and white grains. The Zone also encourages drinking plenty of water and to eat 5 times a day – 3 meals and 2 snacks. It recommends that you never allow more than five hours to pass without eating to keep you from getting overly hungry and keep your blood sugar levels stable.

Another key feature of the Zone diet, introduced in his later books, is an intake of a particular ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Dr. Sears is believed to have popularized the taking of pharmaceutical grade Omega 3 fish oils.

One drawback of the Zone diet is that it doesn’t differentiate between various types of carbohydrates, and recommends avoiding all high-carbohydrate foods. Also, the Zone doesn’t make any distinctions between sources of protein – vegetable or animal. Too much animal protein in your diet can lead to disease.