DEVELOPED by biochemist Barry Sears, the Zone diet, which has been made popular by many celebrities including Jennifer Aniston, is touted for its ability to burn fat even as you sleep without triggering feelings of hunger by balancing the fat, carbs, and proteins that you eat. This diet, nutritionist and wellness expert Donovan Grant says, ultimately promotes weight loss and wards off chronic illnesses and diet-induced inflammations such as heart disease.
“The Zone diet is designed in a way which it balances meal proportions, specifically along the ratio of 30-30-40 — proteins, fats and carbohydrates, respectively. The diet is not that restrictive in terms of what foods you must eat; however, they must match the recommended components,” Grant said.
He reasoned that the foods that are chosen daily as part of the diet must meet several criteria. The carbohydrates should have a low glycaemic index, which means they provide a slow release of sugar into the blood to keep you fuller for longer; the protein should be lean and preferably a mix of meat and poultry at every meal, plus whole grains, fruits and vegetables; and fats should be mostly monounsaturated, for example avocados, nuts and coconut oil. Some foods such as dairy products, Grant said, should be limited.
“When you are in the Zone you should eat at least one hour after waking and you shouldn't go beyond five hours without eating. In addition, your meal plan for the day should include five meals and should be broken down as follows: three main meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — along with two snacks, one of which should be eaten before going to bed,” Grant advised.
He said that this composition was deliberately thought out to make it easier for dieters to follow since a feeling of satiety is maintained.
Grant said that while there are a number of benefits to be had from the diet, there are also some pitfalls. However, there are a number of ways in which you can reduce the negative implications. Below he shares what they are and how they can be countered.
•Since dairy products are not highly recommended, the body is likely to lack calcium if you are not careful. To counter this, he suggests that you explore non-dairy sources of calcium such as leafy greens and almonds.
•Because the diet is so high in protein, there is also a concern that it puts pressure on the kidneys, which can be risky for some people, especially those with kidney challenges. He suggests that you take care if you fall into this group.
• Another concern is that, as outlined by the American Heart Association, the high amount of fat that makes up the diet could contribute to challenges such as high cholesterol and blood pressure. Grant said that you can choose healthier fats to reduce negative repercussions.
• There is the possibility that some food restrictions can result in a lack of some essential vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, vitamin C and fibre. Multivitamin supplements, however, can be used to support where there is a shortage.
Overall, Grant said that the Zone diet, once your aim is not to achieve rapid weight loss, is ideal especially with the added health benefits. It is also easy to follow, limits the intake of refined sugars which encourages stabilisation of blood sugar, and reduces hunger.