You're encouraged to eat at least 10 servings of fresh produce daily on the Zone Diet.
Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images
The Zone Diet is based on the premise that if your blood contains too much insulin and certain hormone-like compounds known as eicosanoids, you'll experience more inflammation and be more likely to become obese. Barry Sears, the biochemist responsible for developing the Zone Diet in the mid-1990s, says that if you follow a diet that consists of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fat, you can prevent inflammation, lose weight and enhance your health. Sears contends that this is especially true if you obtain your carbohydrates, protein and fat from particular sources. Scientific evidence does not support all of Sears' claims, says U.S. News & World Report. Consult your personal physician before starting any type of diet, including the Zone Diet.
Fruits and Vegetables
Sears recommends that the bulk of your carbohydrates while on the Zone Diet should come from fresh fruits and vegetables -- at least 10 servings each day. This requirement is, according to Sears, important for two reasons: produce -- especially richly colored produce -- is high in polyphenol compounds and also has a low glycemic index. Polyphenols are naturally occurring, plant-based chemicals that act as antioxidants and may decrease inflammation and your risk of diseases like cancer. Foods like fresh produce that have a low glycemic index don't cause a sharp increase in your blood sugar and insulin levels when compared to foods with a high glycemic index. The only fruits and vegetables limited on the Zone Diet are those with a higher glycemic index: potatoes, corn, bananas, carrots, papaya, mango and raisins. Fruit juices are also limited.
Meat, Poultry, Seafood and Dairy
The Zone Diet instructs followers to choose low-fat protein choices that contain as little saturated fat and cholesterol per serving as possible. Adult women can have 3 ounces of protein in every meal, and men can have about 4 ounces, preferably choosing from fish, skinless chicken or turkey, soy products such as tofu, egg whites and low- or no-fat dairy products. Avoid consuming processed meats like ham or hot dogs, egg yolks, organ meats like liver and full-fat milk products.
While on the Zone Diet, you're advised to use primarily monounsaturated fats like canola or olive oil when cooking. Saturated fat from animal-based fats like butter, and omega-6 fatty acids from oils like corn or safflower oil increase the risk of inflammation, says the Zone Diet website. You're also advised to consume at least one serving of food rich in omega-3 fatty acids daily. Good Zone Diet choices include a 3.5-ounce serving of fish like salmon, albacore tuna, herring or mackerel.
Grains and Starches
Individuals on the Zone Diet are recommended to look at grains such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread or whole-grain pasta as optional to a healthy diet. Sears says oatmeal and barley are fine to include regularly, but that all other grains and starches like potatoes should be eaten only sparingly, and that you should avoid all refined grains like white bread or white rice in favor of whole-grain varieties, which contain more polyphenol compounds.