The Zone diet is the brainchild of American doctor Barry Sears. It first came out in 1995 and was adopted by numerous celebrities. It advocates foods that encourage weight loss and prevent cardiovascular disease, diabetes, auto-immune diseases and cancer.
How it works
Above and beyond weight loss, the aim of this diet is to maintain insulin and blood sugar levels by consuming low-calorie and low-carbohydrate foods. To reach the ideal balance, the diet recommends taking 40% of calories from carbohydrate, 30% from protein and 30% from fat. This doesn’t fit well with official nutritional recommendations which suggest we take 50 to 55% of calories from carbohydrate, 15 to 20% from protein and no more than 30% from fat.
You should eat at regular intervals with no more than a 5-hour gap in between meals, which in practice works out at 3 meals and 2 snacks per day.
The diet focuses on choosing good fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), good carbohydrates (ones with a low glycaemic index) and good sources of protein (low-fat).
You never eat more than a plateful of vegetables and you can’t eat as much of them as you like. All food is weighed.
Fatty meat, whole eggs, hard cheese, potatoes, beetroot, carrots, marrow, sweetcorn, dried fruit, fruit juice, cereal products, sugar, desserts, butter and cream.
A typical day
For an average sized, reasonably active woman, the Zone diet recommends 3 portions of protein, 3 of carbohydrate and 3 of fat with each meal, with 2 additional snacks including 1 portion of protein, 1 of carbohydrate and 1 of fat.
Breakfast: 1 slice of wholemeal bread, 60g fromage frais, 2 egg whites, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1 kiwi fruit.
Morning snack: Natural yoghurt, nuts.
Lunch: Wholegrain bread, 90g tuna, 1 spoonful of mayonnaise, 250g spinach.
Dinner: 90g lean pork, 60g lentils, cucumber, 1 potato made into mash, 5ml olive oil.
Evening snack: 30g cheese, 1 rye crispbread.
Weight loss of 0.5kg to 1.5kg per week.
If it’s followed meticulously, this diet fills you up because you eat protein five times a day.
It creates a calorific deficit which makes you lose weight.
Because of the high levels of protein you eat, you lose weight healthily providing you follow the diet exactly.
It’s restrictive as it requires lots of calculations and planning; improvising meals or going out for dinner are no-nos.
You need to have your book with you to measure the portions until you know them by heart.
Many tasty foods can only be eaten in small quantities, which can lead to frustration!
In the long term, this low-carbohydrate diet can cause tiredness, irritability and anxiety.
If you exercise a lot, be aware that lowering your consumption of carbohydrates can lead to diminished sporting performance.
This diet is low in fibre and can therefore cause constipation.
Excessive protein is dangerous for people suffering from kidney problems.
Always consult a doctor before starting the Zone or any other type of diet.