Sunday, April 20, 2008

What is the Zone

The Zone is a dietary strategy focused on controlling your insulin levels.  By controlling your insulin levels, you improve how you think and feel.   The key to controlling your insulin levels is balancing your carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.  This post is based on the book, The Top 100 Zone Foods: The Zone Food Science Ranking System, by Dr. Barry Sears.

The Story of the Zone
Dr. Sears writes about his inspiration for creating the Zone:

You probably assume you're a product of your genes.  You have your father's eyes, your mother's freckles, and your grandmother's diabetes.  I, too, am a product of my genes.  Every male on my father's side has died at an early death after suffering a premature heart attack.  My father died in 1972 at the age of 54, and I was sure that I was genetically destined for this same fate.

Although I knew I couldn't change my genes, I didn't want to be a slave to them either.  I was determined to alter my genetic destiny and live a normal, healthy lifespan.  I didn't buy into the notion that some new medication would come along to save me.  I had to take charge of my own health directly by changing my eating habits.  So I decided to devote my work as a researcher to discovering what, if any, dietary habits could reverse my impending collision course with my genetic fate.  Through 20 years of research, I've learned that foods can indirectly turn certain genes on and off by altering the levels of hormones, the chemical messengers that control our lives.  These hormones can alter our genetic fate by increasing or decreasing our natural lifespan.

Keep Your Insulin Levels in the Zone
Dr. Sears writes that the key to a longer, healthier life is controlling your insulin levels:

One of the most powerful hormones controlled by foods we eat is insulin.  My research found that if you could keep insulin levels within a certain zone -- not too high and not too low -- you could, in fact, bypass your genetic glitches and avoid certain chronic diseases.  The result?  A longer and healthier life.

A Life-Long Dietary Strategy
Dr. Sears writes that the Zone is not a short-term diet, but a life-long dietary strategy:

I called my program the Zone Diet.  Although it was developed for treating cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, it is also the most effective way to lose excess body fat without feeling deprived or hungry.  It is not a short-term diet, but a life-long dietary strategy that can keep you at a healthy weight for the rest of your life.

Carbohydrates, Protein and Fat 
Dr. Sears writes that the key to the Zone is balancing carbohydrates, protein and fat:

All you need to do is eat the right combination of foods at every meal.  This means eating a balanced amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat at every meal and snack -- and eating all these foods in moderation.  Follow this simple rule at every meal, and you will achieve the hormonal responses that will get you into the Zone.

The Longest Living Population in the World
According to Dr. Sears, the Okinawans have a diet similar to the Zone:

The Zone Diet has continued to evolve into increasingly healthier versions, such as replacing low-fat animal protein with increasing amounts of soy protein. I wrote The Soy zone based on the diet eaten by the longest-living population in the world, the Okinawans.  Their basic diet is the Zone Diet, containing primarily vegetables, some fish and animal protein, but with most of their protein from soy.

Short Term Benefits in the Zone
According to Dr. Sears, within one week of the Zone, you'll enjoy the following benefits:

  • Get mentally focused.
  • Experience a surge of energy.
  • Lose a few pounds of fat.
  • Feel happier.
  • Gain control over your insulin levels.

Long Term Benefits in the Zone
According to Dr. Sears, in the longer term, the benefits of the Zone include:

  • You will achieve permanent fat loss.
  • You will reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • You will protect yourself against adult-onset (Type 2) diabetes.
  • You will lower your risk of arthritis and osteoporosis.
  • You may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
  • You'll get fewer infections.
  • Your skin will look younger.

Key Take Aways
Here's my key take aways:

  • The Zone was originally created for cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.
  • The longest-living population follows  diet similar to the Zone.
  • You can successfully influence your genetic tendencies by your food choices.
  • Treat food like a "drug" that influences your hormone levels.
  • Control your insulin levels to stay in the Zone.
  • The Zone is a life-long dietary strategy.

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