The Zone Diet was created by Barry Sears, Ph.D., and is characterized by its high intake of animal proteins and fat. In order to allow vegetarians to enjoy the benefits of the Zone Diet, Dr. Sears created the Soy Zone, a vegetarian adaptation of the Zone Diet, allowing you to replace animal proteins with vegetable sources such as soy and tofu.
The Zone Diet found popularity following the 1995 release of "Enter The Zone," a book by Dr. Sears. Although the Zone Diet was marketed for its weight-loss benefits, Dr Sears also intended for it to assist in the reversal of silent inflammation, a condition from which Dr. Sears believes all chronic disorders stem. Silent inflammation may be hard to detect as it is painless, and according to Dr. Sears, no medication can reverse it. The Zone Diet does reverse it, Dr. Sears says, promoting wellness by regulating hormones and blood glucose levels. The Zone Diet also helps suppress your appetite, controls blood lipids and encourages fat loss.
Organizing Food Groups
Each meal in the Zone Diet is organized into food blocks of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that are divided into 40-30-30 percent ratios. An article on The Zone Diet Recipes website highlighted the Zone Diet's vegetarian adaptation. Although the 40-30-30 percent ratios still hold on the vegetarian Zone Diet plan, the 30 percent fat portion is replaced with monounsaturated fat, and the 30 percent protein portion with vegetable protein. This allows you to receive the same benefits of the Zone Diet minus animal fats and proteins.
Challenges For Vegetarians
According to Dr. Sears, vegetarian diets high in carbohydrates elevate insulin levels, leading to fat storage and weight gain. Beans, a staple in many vegetarian meals, are rich in protein but also contain high levels of carbohydrates, which may explain causes for weight gain in vegetarians. Some vegetarians disagreed with Dr. Sears’ assessment, though, and ascribed weight gain to overeating. Selecting suitable vegetables for the Zone Diet that are not excessively high in carbohydrates to your food blocks can be difficult. Dr. Sears recommends vegetarians use awareness when counting food blocks to avoid carbohydrate overload. The North American Vegetarian Society expresses concerns with a vegetarian-based Zone Diet, saying that it could lead to nutritional deficiencies.
If you are vegetarian, soy foods and tofu are sources of protein and provide tasty alternatives to meat and carbohydrate-rich beans. The Soy Connection website highlighted the nutritional properties found in soy protein, which they reported as being rich in vitamins and minerals such as potassium and folic acid. The Food and Drug Administration, or FDA, claims that eating 25 grams of soy daily could help lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. The American Heart Association recognizes soy food as low in saturated and trans fat, two features they say make it beneficial to heart health.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The website Diets in Review, discussing pros and cons of Soy Zone, lists pros including the high volume of fresh vegetables and minimal amount of processed and refined foods. Soy, as the article suggested, is versatile, having the ability to adapt to various recipes. The drawbacks of the Soy Zone diet also center on the high concentration of soy. Soy is hyper-allergenic, and eating large amounts can adversely affect your health, according to the article. The Linus Pauling Institute discussed the effects of soy in your diet, reporting that it can affect thyroid function and trigger the growth of cancerous tumors in women with a history of estrogen sensitive cancer.
- Dr. Sears.com: The Science Site of Anti-Inflammatory Nutrition: Chronic Disorders
- The Zone Diet Recipes.com: Zone Diet Vegetarian is Possible
- Soy Connection.com: Soy's Role in Health and Nutrition
- Diets in Review.com: The Soy Zone
- Linus Pauling Institute: Isoflavones
- North American Vegetarian Society: Caution -- Approaching the Zone
- Zone Diet.com:Helpful Ways To Eat In The Zone