There are so many diets on the market right now, choosing one that is healthy and effective can be difficult. So, we want to take a deeper dive into a slightly lesser known diet: the Zone diet.
The Zone diet is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate, fat-controlled eating plan. It is not as restrictive as other high protein diets and it allows for a broad range of foods to be consumed. A small amount of fat is needed for the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. The daily protein intake on the Zone diet should be in the form of lean meat, poultry, fish, or tofu; with each meal containing at least 30% of calories from protein. There are no specific restrictions regarding carbohydrates or fats, but they should be kept to a minimum. The Zone diet promotes eating three meals per day with snacks in between. Meals are based on blocks which provide an exact ratio of nutrients – 40% carbohydrates, 30% fats and 30% proteins. One block contains 7 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein and 5 grams of carbohydrate providing approximately 100 calories
Based on activity level and weight goals, individuals will consume a certain number of blocks per day. For example: If you need 2200 calories per day and want to lose weight at a rate of 1 pound per week – you would eat 1600 calories worth or 16 blocks.
The major benefit associated with the Zone Diet is that followers claim it leads to long-term success with weight management due to its balancing effect on insulin levels. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. When there isn’t enough insulin — or when the body can’t use insulin properly — too much sugar stays in your blood. Over time, high blood sugar levels can lead to serious problems with your heart, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and gums and teeth.
In addition, because there are no specific forbidden foods – people find this diet easier to stick with compared to other more restrictive plans. In general, a varied diet is also important for ensuring you get all the nutrients your body need. It can also help reduce your risk of developing some chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Eating a variety of foods helps keep your meals interesting and means you’re more likely to stick to a healthy eating plan over the long term. It also helps ensure you get a wide range of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that are essential for good health. For example, including plenty of fruit and vegetables in your diet will increase your intake of fibre, antioxidants and potassium – all nutrients that are important for maintaining good health. Eating fish regularly can boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health. And choosing leaner cuts of meat and low-fat dairy products can help reduce your saturated fat intake. Including a variety of healthy foods in your diet can also help promote a healthy weight. This is because different foods have different energy (kilojoule or calorie) densities. Foods that are high in water or fibre tend to be lower in energy density than those that contain lots of fat or sugar. So including these types of foods at meals or snacks can help fill you up without adding too many extra kilojoules/calories to your diet.
Some research has shown that the Zone Diet may slightly outperform other diets when results are measured after one year. However, other studies have found that there isn’t enough evidence to support any real advantages associated with this way of eating. Often, whether a diet is “effective” or not is extremely individual-based. Here are the main factors to consider when determining whether a diet is effective or not:
Ultimately, finding an effective diet requires some trial and error and working closely with a healthcare provider to ensure that all individual needs are being met.
From what we know – if you follow the Zone Diet correctly by adhering to their prescribed macronutrient ratios - you will likely see some health benefits such as improvements in cholesterol levels and better blood sugar control. However, these changes are seen with most healthy diets that reduce calorie intake and promote nutrient dense foods - so while the zone diet may work well for some people - it’s not necessarily any “better” than others out there.