The Zone Diet Analyzed
Celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, Madonna, and Demi Moore have used The Zone diet to achieve their highly admired svelte figures. But is this diet that takes into account hormones and balancing acts just another fad diet or can it actually produce w
As if dieting wasn't challenging enough, the sheer number of
fat-buster guides out there may be reason enough to just forget the whole
thing. But, alas, the unforgiving mirror or those too-tight jeans serve as good
reminders of the pudgy enemy. So onward the march to join the infamous fight
One of the more popular weapons of choice has been a program
that claims to use food as a drug for overall good health, weight loss, and the
prevention or management of heart disease and diabetes. In the book The
Zone, Barry Sears, PhD, explains how the right ratio of carbohydrates to
proteins and fats can control levels of insulin in the bloodstream. Too much of
the hormone, he says, can increase fat storage and inflammation in the body --
conditions that are associated with ailments such as obesity, type 2 diabetes,
and heart disease.
Sears' theories resonate with a significant number of people
who become devotees of The Zone Diet. Many of them enthusiastically talk about
"40-30-30," and about "being hormonally correct."
To the outsider, it may seem as if they have gone off to some
other zone, but some health experts say the plan may produce good health and
weight loss for some people. The Zone's recommendations supposedly don't stray
far from the USDA's dietary guidelines.
So where does The Zone stand among other popular diet plans?
WebMD asked Sears and a couple of health experts.
The Zone's Boundaries
In The Zone, Sears writes that you can better regulate
your metabolism with a diet of 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% fat (now
widely known as the 40-30-30 plan).
In a recent conversation, however, the diet's founder says he
rues the day he specified those exact figures. Rather, he would prefer to give
a range for better hormonal balance. Everyone is different, he says, and
there's no magical percentage for all in managing insulin levels.
"The Zone is a diet that contains no more than 30% of
calories from fat, the amount of protein ranges from 25% to 35%, and the amount
of carbohydrates ...would be between 35% and 45%," says Sears.
The diet does not prohibit any foods, but severely restricts
those high in fat and carbohydrates such as grains, starches, and pastas.
Fruits and vegetables are the favored source of carbs. Protein is limited to
low-fat fare that's no bigger and no thicker than the palm of one's hand. And
as far as fat is concerned, monounsaturated fats such as olive oil, canola oil,
almonds, macadamia nuts, and avocados are preferred over other kinds of
For a simple interpretation of The Zone, Sears suggests filling
one-third of a plate with low-fat protein, and then piling the rest with fruits
and vegetables. You may choose to add a monounsaturated source of fat such as
To then determine whether a meal is hormonally correct, Sears
offers the following test: "Eat a meal and see how you feel four hours
later. If you have no hunger and you have peak mental acuity, the composition
of the meal was hormonally correct for your biochemistry."