HomeHealth articleszone dietWhat Is the Zone Diet?

The zone diet encourages eating a specific ratio of macronutrients for reducing diet-induced inflammation. Read the article to know more.

Written by

Dr. Asha. C

Medically reviewed by

Sonal Jain

Published At June 8, 2022
Reviewed AtMay 16, 2023


The zone diet was formulated by Dr. Sears, an American biochemist, almost 30 years ago, and the primary goal of this diet is to reduce diet-induced inflammation in the body. This diet got very popular in a short span because of the claims made by the formulators of the diet. Although the diet has been reported to be effective, it is not backed by any scientific evidence. However, the zone diet continues to be popular amongst people who are trying to lose weight and adopt a healthy lifestyle.

What Is the Zone Diet?

The zone diet is a diet that encourages the consumption of macronutrients in a specified ratio. The diet advises eating 40% carbohydrates, 30% fats, and 30% proteins to effectively lose weight and reduce diet-induced inflammation. The diet-induced inflammation is the main cause of weight gain, sickness, and faster aging. The formulator of the diet claims that once the diet-induced inflammation is managed, it gets extremely easy to lose weight faster. The zone diet also claims to help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases like heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, etc. The zone diet suggests dividing every meal on a plate in such a way that there is one-third of lean protein, two-thirds of carbohydrate, and a small amount of monounsaturated fat on the plate. The diet advocates eating three meals and two snacks per day, and there should not be a gap of more than five hours between two meals.

What Is the “Zone” in Zone Diet?

The zone of the zone diet is an actual physiological state of the body attained by following the diet. This zone can be measured and clinically tested by evaluating specific parameters. Three clinical markers determine the zone, and if the values of these three clinical markers are within the ideal range, then the body is considered to be in the “zone.”

The three clinical markers, their ideal values, and their indications are:

If all three clinical markers are within the ideal range, then the body has entered the zone for the zone diet.

How Does the Zone Diet Work?

The zone diet promotes weight loss and reduction in diet-induced inflammation by reducing calorie consumption and avoiding a sudden increase in the insulin level (therefore, maintaining insulin sensitivity). This diet proposes that a narrow distribution ratio of proteins to carbohydrates will ensure a balance in the insulin-to-glucagon ratio, which affects the eicosanoid (signaling molecules made by oxidation of polyunsaturated fats) metabolism, and eventually reduces diet-induced inflammation, improves immunity, reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases, improves mental abilities, and permanent weight loss.

What Are the Benefits of the Zone Diet?

The various benefits of the zone diet are:

  • Losing weight at a faster rate.

  • Increased immunity and maintaining wellness for a long time.

  • Better physical and mental performance.

  • Ability to think faster.

  • Reducing the risk of chronic diseases like heart attack, or stroke.

  • Diet induced-inflammation also disrupts hormonal balance and communication. The zone diet helps prevent that as well.

What Is the Zone Food Pyramid?

  • The zone food pyramid is a variation of the Mediterranean diet by reduction of the glycemic load (glycemic load means how much a food increases blood sugar levels after being eaten) of the diet along with a better protein-to-glycemic load balance to improve hormonal control. Moreover, by reducing the number of grains and starches, the zone food pyramid increases the levels of polyphenols in the diet. Polyphenol helps in reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, it has anti-cancer properties, and it helps in improving immunity.

  • By reducing the amounts of grains and starch and increasing the amounts of fruits and vegetables, the glycemic load of the meal is reduced. The glycemic load determines how quickly glucose enters the bloodstream.

  • The narrow top of the pyramid has grains and starch, followed by monounsaturated fats, then there are lean proteins, and the last blocks of the pyramid include fruits, followed by vegetables.

How to Follow the Zone Diet?

There are two ways to follow the zone diet; the hand-eye method and the zone food blocks.

The Hand-Eye Method:

In the hand-eye method of the zone diet, the hands and the eyes are used to evaluate the frequency and portions of the meal. Five fingers imply five meals that should be taken throughout the day with not more than five hours of gap between each meal. Eyes should be estimating the portions on the plate in the following ways:

  • One-third of the plate should have lean proteins, which should be roughly equal to the thickness of the palms.

  • Two-thirds of the plate should have carbohydrates that are low on the glycemic index.

  • Lastly, there should be a small amount of monounsaturated fat on the plate.

The Zone Food Blocks:

Zone food block is the method of personalizing the zone diet according to specific needs. This method enables a person to calculate how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat they require to consume in one day. This method is determined by the person’s height, weight, waist, and hip measurements. On a regular day, an average male requires 14 zone blocks and an average female requires 11 zone blocks to function. Every zone block contains some amount of protein, fat, and carbs. There should be about seven grams of protein, nine grams of carbohydrates, and one and a half to three grams of fat (depending on the nature of the protein used) in one zone block. Moreover, every meal should contain three to five-zone blocks.

What Foods Should Be Eaten During Zone Diet?

The following proteins, fats, and carbohydrates should be eaten while following the zone diet.


  • Lean proteins like beef, vale, game meat, etc.

  • Turkey breasts.

  • Skinless chicken.

  • Fish.

  • Soy protein.

  • Plant-based proteins.

  • Egg whites.

  • Tofu.

  • Low-fat dairy.

  • Low-fat cheese and yogurt.


  • Peanut butter.

  • Nuts like macadamia, almonds, pistachios, etc.

  • Avocados.

  • Tahini.

  • Canola, olive, sesame, and peanut oil.


  • Fruits include berries, apples, plums, and citrus fruits.

  • Vegetables like cucumber, spinach, tomatoes, etc.

  • Chickpeas.

  • Whole grains like oats, barley, rye, and wheat.

What Are the Anti-inflammatory Supplements of the Zone Diet?

The Zone Anti-inflammatory Nutrition Programme has three components to manage inflammation caused due to diet, of which the zone diet is one of the components. The other two components are ultra-refined omega-3 fatty acids and purified polyphenol supplements. These components will enhance the zone's diet benefits.

  • The Zone Diet:

It regulates hormone balance to decrease the occurrence of inflammation caused due to diet.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

It helps to enhance the resolution of the diet.

  • Polyphenol:

It takes care of the gut system and slows down the aging process.

What Foods Should Be Avoided During Zone Diet?

The following proteins, carbohydrates, and fats should be avoided while on a zone diet:

  • Fruits that have a glycemic index like bananas, grapes, raisins, etc.

  • High-sugar vegetables like potatoes, peas, carrots, etc.

  • Refined and processed foods like bread, pasta, noodles, etc.

  • Breakfast cereals.

  • Food with added sugars like candies, cakes, muffins, etc.

  • Soft drinks and sodas.

  • Coffee and tea.

Is a Zone Diet Healthy?

Even though the zone diet is considered to be a healthy diet by the nutritionist, it does not compensate for the diet recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA recommended a diet that contains half the plate with fruits and vegetables, while the other half with grains, starchy food, and protein. In the case of a zone diet, intake of grains and starch food is avoided. The calorie intake in the case of the zone diet matches with the USDA recommendation, as the zone diet focuses on a healthy diet it does not pay more attention to cutting out calories.


The zone diet can be considered a fad diet because it has gained a considerable amount of popularity in a short span, and it is being excessively used to lose weight quickly. Moreover, this diet is healthy as it encourages people to avoid eating food that is high in calories and high in the glycemic index. However, this diet makes a lot of tall claims regarding its efficiency in reducing the risk of chronic diseases, which is not a medically backed fact. There are no studies done or clinical evidence present to verify these claims. However, some research does suggest that there may be improved blood values after following this diet. Overall, this diet is a safe and healthy option to reduce weight and can be considered a lifestyle for long-term benefits.

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Sonal Jain
Sonal Jain


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