What is the Zone Diet?
by: Adam Waxler
Dr. Barry Sears, a former researcher at MIT, originally developed the Zone Diet. The Zone Diet is based on maintaining insulin levels by striking a balance between carbohydrates and proteins at each meal.
Barry Sears contends that most diets currently recommended are high in carbohydrates and low in fats. Sears argues that this is a combination that contributes to the production of too much insulin. And, according to Sears, the major cause of obesity is an imbalance of insulin in the body.
The Zone Diet is based on the concept of achieving a balance between insulin and hormones called "eicosanoids." By controlling the balance of insulin and eicosanoids with the Zone Diet, you increase the loss of fat (weight loss), increase blood flow, increase your physical and mental stamina, and decrease the likelihood of heart disease and diabetes. The Zone Diet advises a moderate intake of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat in order to control insulin. The diet is designed to balance your intake of protein and carbohydrates at 1 part protein to 4 parts carbohydrates. It prescribes a maximum amount of low-fat protein to one meal at 3-4 ounces, which is nearly exactly the recommendation of the USDA and the FDA. The majority of carbohydrates on the Zone Diet come from vegetables and fruits, with limited amounts of bread, rice, potatoes and grains. Most of the fat intake with the Zone Diet should come from monounsaturated fats like olive oil, safflower oil, and other 'heart healthy' oils.
Many people believe the Zone Diet sounds much like the Atkins diet due to the restricting of carbohydrates. However, the differences between the Zone Diet and the Atkins diet are quite clear. Atkins recommends a diet high in protein without regard to fat, with the intent of provoking ketosis, a potentially unhealthy condition. According to Barry Sears, the Atkins diet, by increasing carbohydrate levels without regard to fat intake, will force the body to induce the production of insulin which, maintains Sears, increases weight gain. Instead, the Zone Diet recommends achieving a balance of nutrients with moderate amounts of proteins, carbohydrates and fat all playing a part.
The Zone Diet also recommends the supplementation of diet with fish oil. Fish oil, provides omega 3 fatty acids which are an important component in healthy cells. Study after study in the past five years has confirmed the importance of fish oil and omega 3 fatty acids in the diet.
A sample meal on the Zone Diet Plan might include:
· 3 oz portion of broiled salmon
· Spinach salad with apples and walnuts dressed with walnut oil and lemon juice
· 1/2 cup of brown rice
· 1 glass fruit or vegetable juice
The Zone Diet Plan combines small portions of low fat proteins, fats and fiber-rich vegetables and fruits. The Zone Diet also suggests eating some protein with each meal or snack, and at least 3 meals and 2 snacks daily.
As always, you should consult a physician before embarking on any diet plan that substantially changes your eating habits. There are significant differences between the Zone Diet and diets recommended for diabetics and heart patients. However, in general, the recommended portions of foods and the balance between them with the Zone Diet is healthy and is maintainable for life.