Get Ready For Zone Diet
All dietary regimes have a reputation for being extremely strict. On the surface, Zone diet, with its neat and meticulous distribution of nutrients in meals, seems to be as pedantic as the rest. What makes it unique is its approach to weight management.
For Zone dieters, the calories should come from carbohydrates, proteins and fats in a 40:30:30 ratio. It is easy to follow and includes some easy yet effective lifestyle changes. The catch is, like most diets, it too does not have a scientific study to back the benefits that Dr Barry claims. Nonetheless, dieters swear by its ability to transform one’s body.
The Zone diet has a remarkable resemblance with the ideal food pyramid that we have been trained to follow for ages, changing only the proportion of the macronutrients. “In a normal diet plan, macronutrients are broken down in a manner where carbohydrates should constitute 65 per cent, proteins 15 per cent and fats 20 per cent. And if you are following the Zone diet, 40 per cent of your calorie should come from carbohydrates, 30 per cent from low-fat proteins and 30 per cent from fats. In a way, we can say that this is a fresh packaging of an older trend, as the basis for healthy eating remains the same,” Shreya Katyal, a dietitian and founder of Diets And More, says.
When Sears designed the diet, his objective was to come up with a plan that would reduce the inflammation that stems from irregular or abnormally high insulin secretion. The condition causes people to gain weight. Shreya agrees with this observation, saying, “When there are more carbohydrates with the high glycemic index in a diet, more insulin is secreted by the pancreas. Insulin converts excess carbohydrates into stored fats, which along with regular dietary fats make us feel lethargic and sluggish. Under the Zone diet, a meal focuses on providing the right kinds of nutrients such as proteins, low GI Carbohydrates as well as MUFA and PUFA (Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acids and Poly Unsaturated Fatty Acids).”
Even though people squirm when they hear the word fat, certain fats are essential for our health. “Our body needs fats too. Whenever we hear the term fat we tend to imagine something unhealthy, but it is not always true. There are good fats (MUFA and PUFA) as well as bad ones (the saturated ones). Plus there are some essential fatty acids such as OMEGA 3 necessary for sustenance and health. In practice, the amount of fat on a plate is hardly more than a sliver,” Malvika Rai, a Kolkata-based dietitian, says.
The Zone diet recommends using the right kind of fat and carbohydrates. “As a result,” says Malvika, “you don’t need to compromise on your favourite food unlike Keto or Paleo diets. There is a lot of room to work around. You just need to design your meals smartly.” She suggests instead of using carb-loaded products such as bread, grain and nuts as the main components of your meal, treat them as condiments and use sparingly.
Fruits and vegetables that have a tendency to be rich in their glycemic index and may lead to raised insulin levels, are to be avoided. Instead, fruits and vegetables with low carbohydrates such as tomatoes, strawberries, asparagus, mushrooms should be included. For protein, egg whites, chicken and fish (without skin), tofu, soya beans are good. For fats, include almonds, low-fat cottage cheese (paneer) are great. Animal-based fats such as full-cream milk, butter, ghee and regular cottage cheese are looked down upon but not vilified.
Creating the portions is easy. “Divide your plate into three equal parts. Fill one part of your plate with a low-fat protein and the other two with an assortment of fruits and vegetables. To measure a part, use your palm as a rough guide, both for the size and thickness. And finally, just add a dollop of fat,” says Malvika.
Indian meals tend to focus only on carbohydrates. Some of our most popular breakfast combines one form of carbohydrate with another, such as aloo-puri. “We are also accustomed to consuming highly processed food items such as polished lentils, flour made from de-husked wheat, polished rice etc. We need to go back to our roots, eat locally available, organically grown produce,” says Shreya.
\Apart from reform in eating habits, the diet also advocates a change in habits. It requires dieters to exercise regularly, focusing on aerobic exercises such as running and brisk walking. A few good rounds of strength training such as squats and push-ups work wonders. There are some basic rules that need to be followed. “A meal should be taken within one hour of waking up in the morning. The first meal 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,” Shreya says adding, “the interval between meals should not be more than four or six hours.”
What are the results, one might ask? Followers feel a remarkable difference. Shreya also recommends this diet to her patients, especially if they are pre-diabetic. “They have been able to naturally manage their insulin levels to a great extent,” she says. Malvika says that her patients who follow the diet feel more energetic. “They feel fit and it shows in their activities, the manner in which they deal with regular, everyday lives.”
*Both the dietitians have advised people with diabetes not to follow this diet, as carbs cannot be restricted aggressively for them. Please consult a professional before trying the Zone diet.