Diet, diet, diet! It is all we read about. We see ads on TV for Weightwatchers, we see colourful ads in our favourite magazines touting whatever diet Dr Oz had on yesterday’s show. Have you been to a bookstore lately and checked out their cookbook/healthy lifestyle/diet sections? Absolutely f*** mind-boggling.
So where do we start? The first thing you need to determine is WHY you want to go on a diet. Do you want to lose weight, gain weight, lower cholesterol, have healthier eating habits, fight inflammation, maybe you suffer from a disease such as diabetes or Crohns and Colitis? Maybe you are just at a ‘savvy’ age where you are starting to think about longevity and what’s best for you to live a long and healthy life. Whatever the reason for your diet; if you plan on making a lifestyle change as opposed to a quick crash diet you need to do your homework.
Over the next few days, I am going to high-lite the top diets on the market according to Medical News Today. By Christian Nordqvist Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD
This article outlines what the diet consists of as well as some pros and cons to each diet. Hopefully, this will help you determine what diet is the best diet for you.
I am not a nutritionist. Before starting any diet you should always speak to a certified nutritionist or your own Dr.
THE ZONE DIET
The Zone diet aims for a nutritional balance of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent fats, and 30 percent protein in each meal. The focus is also on controlling insulin levels, which may result in more successful weight loss and body weight control than other approaches.
The Zone diet involves reducing intake of carbohydrates to ensure healthy insulin levels, and consuming plenty of omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols. The goal of this diet is to reduce inflammation.
Dr Barry Sears, who developed the Zone diet, claims it is closely linked to ideas of human evolution, with the aim of preventing “diet controlled inflammation.” The benefits include healthier weight, less sickness, and slower ageing.
Just 8,000 years ago, grains, bread, and pasta were not part of the human diet. Human genes change as their environment changes, but this is a slow process. Therefore, even 100,000 years is a relatively short period in evolutionary terms. The Zone diet takes this into account and provides a diet plan based on what foods we should eat, according to our genetic makeup.
- What is the Zone diet?
- Meal plans
Fast facts on the Zone diet:
- Meal plans make use of lean meats and natural carbohydrates.
- Reducing inflammation is the primary goal.
- Critics of the diet point out that fewer carbohydrates can lead to a lower fibre intake.
- Maintaining insulin levels within what Dr Sears calls a “therapeutic zone,” makes it easier to burn excess body fat and keep it off permanently.
What is the Zone diet?
The Zone diet was designed to reduce so-called dietary inflammation. The development of many conditions and diseases involves inflammation. These range in severity from mild gastrointestinal or digestive issues, to playing a role in the onset of cancers and other serious illnesses.
Rules of the Zone diet
The Zone diet involves some basic rules:
- A meal or snack should be eaten no later than 1 hour after waking up in the morning.
- The interval between meals should be 4-6 hours.
- A meal should be eaten within 2-2.5 hours after a snack, whether the person is hungry or not.
- The individual should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
The meal or snack should start with a low-fat protein. Then the person can add good carbohydrates with a low glycemic index, such as vegetables and fruits, and good fats, such as olive oil or avocado.
Typical meal protein should be about 4 ounces for men and 3 ounces for women.
Before every meal or snack, a person should assess their hunger level. If they are not hungry and their mind is clear, they are in “The Zone.”
The Zone diet meal plans
Guidelines include eating three meals and two snacks every day. Each meal must have some protein, about the size of a small chicken breast, and each snack should contain some protein.
The more carbohydrates people consume, the more insulin they secrete. Insulin turns excess carbohydrates into stored fat. Dietary fat does not trigger insulin secretion.
As a result, Zone diet meal plans focus on eating:
- low-density carbohydrates
- dietary fat
The Zone diet has four “pillars,” or aims that a person has to bring together to make it part of their way of life. They are to:
- restrict calories without hunger or fatigue
- maintain appropriate levels of inflammation in the body
- use dietary polyphenols to activate genes for improved wellness
- control the inflammation caused by gut microbes
People who follow the diet should balance carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in the following proportions:
- 40 percent carbohydrate
- 30 percent fat
- 30 percent protein
The idea is that by roughly balancing these three things in each meal, a person’s health and weight will improve.
In the Zone diet, calorie intake does not have to go down, but what the person is eating has to change.
FAQs about the Zone diet
According to Sears, the benefits of achieving “the Zone,” aside from weight loss, are improved mental focus, and increased energy and vitality.
Why does dietary inflammation occur?
For the last few hundreds of thousands of years, people have mostly eaten food from two food groups:
- lean protein
- natural carbohydrates, such as fruits and fibre-rich vegetables
Sears argues that human genes are still those of the hunter-gatherer, rather than the farmer. Farming is a relatively new phenomenon, as far as our genes are concerned. In other words, our genes have not yet adapted to a diet of consuming farmed products.
People are not programmed to consume large amounts of processed carbohydrates. When they do, unpleasant biochemical reactions occur within the body.
Why is it called the Zone diet?
Keeping insulin levels within the therapeutic zone means staying in “The Zone.” Zone diet foods need to be taken in the right proportions to help to control insulin production.
What are the consequences of excess processed carbohydrates?
According to the Zone diet theory, the consequences of eating a high proportion of processed carbohydrates include:
- weight gain
- insulin fluctuations
- pre-diabetes and diabetes
- heart disease
- poor overall health
According to Sears, the Zone Diet provides the fuel the body needs for optimum health.
Disadvantages of the Zone diet
Potatoes and whole grains are important sources of fibre, as well as of carbohydrates. The fibre in these foods and many others feed healthy gut bacteria and promote long-term health.
A vegetarian diet would be very difficult to follow using the Zone diet’s guidelines. However, Sears does not comment on the many studies that show vegetarian and plant-based diets, which are higher in carbohydrate and lower in protein than the Zone diet, also result in significantly lower chronic disease and obesity.
The Zone diet’s recommendation to avoid certain fruits and vegetables has been questioned. Most fruits and vegetables are thought to play a valuable role in a balanced diet. The American Heart Associaton urges people to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables and to include, for example, bananas and raisins with breakfast.
Diabetes U.K. lists as a “myth,” the idea that certain fruits are bad, noting that “grapes and bananas, like all fruit, make a very healthy choice.”
Sears also questions whether cholesterol leads to heart disease. Meanwhile, other experts suggest that it is a major controllable risk factor for heart disease.
Anyone who is considering a radical change to their diet should talk to a doctor first.