The Mediterranean diet limits red meat, while the Zone diet limits carbohydrates.
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If you just want to lose weight, either the Zone diet or the Mediterranean diet can help you. However, if you want proven health benefits, an article published in "The Canadian Family Physician" in August 2011 recommends the Mediterranean diet. While the two diets share some recommendations, they also have key differences.
Basis of the Diets
The Zone diet is a weight-loss diet that recommends eating every three to five hours and getting 40 percent of your calories from protein, 30 percent from carbohydrates and 30 percent from fat. It is based on the glycemic index, which measures how much the carbohydrates in particular foods affect your blood sugar levels. Low-glycemic index foods may help you stay full for longer since they take longer to digest, according to MayoClinic.com. The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, isn't necessarily a weight-loss diet. It is a healthy way of eating based on traditional diets in the Mediterranean region. Unlike other healthy diets, the Mediterranean diet doesn't limit fats as long as you choose healthy unsaturated fats like those in olive oil, nuts and seafood.
What to Eat
On the Zone diet, you'll eat mainly meat and other protein-rich foods, fruits and non-starchy vegetables. Sweets, grains and starchy foods are limited on this high-protein diet. When you do eat small portions of grains, they should be whole grains instead of refined grains. In the Mediterranean diet, you base your meals on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, herbs and spices, nuts and seeds and olive oil. You eat fish or seafood at least twice a week and consume poultry, cheese, yogurt and eggs anywhere from daily to weekly in moderate portions. On this diet, you only consume red meat a few times a month and also limit sweets. You can indulge in red wine in moderation, which means one glass per day for women or two for men.
Ease of Use
When on the Zone diet, you're supposed to eat mainly low-glycemic index foods, which can be difficult since food labels don't tell you the glycemic index of foods. Making things even more complicated, the Zone diet involves eating meals that contain 3 grams of protein to every 4 grams of carbohydrates, which means a lot of calculating. The Mediterranean diet, on the other hand, is relatively easy to follow because you simply adhere to the guidelines on how often to eat particular types of foods.
The Zone diet can help you lose weight and lower your ratio of low-density lipoprotein, or bad cholesterol, to high-density lipoprotein, or good cholesterol, according to a study published in January 2005 in "The Journal of the American Medical Association." However, these benefits weren't any different from the other weight-loss diets used in the study. While the Mediterranean diet may help with weight loss, the evidence for the health benefits of this diet is stronger. Following the Mediterranean diet may help you lower your risk for heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases, according to an article published in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in September 2010.