How to eat: Paleo or Zone?
First of all, what does it mean to be Paleo or Zone? Paleo is the well known "caveman" diet where you don't eat anything that wouldn't have been available in paleolithic times (Prehistoric, stone age type food). Basically this means you don't eat anything with a wrapper on it. You don't eat processed foods, even dairy. You eat meat, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Anything that could have been hunted or gathered are on the table. The pros of eating this way include the high quality of ingredients. It feels back-to-basics and natural - of course this makes sense, you think. The downside to this diet is that it's restrictive and hard to sustain. The omnipresence of dairy, legumes, bread, sugar, peanut butter etc is overwhelming. While our psychology appreciates hard guidelines because they're easy to understand, our nature is also such that once those guidelines are cracked the whole thing quickly falls apart. It's very difficult to be 'partly paleo' without soon reverting to whatever default dietary habits were in place before.
What is Zone? The Zone diet is where you structure your meals and snacks in 'blocks'. Each block is a multiple of 7grams protein, 9grams carbohydrate, and 3grams fat. This ensures that all meals/snacks consumed adhere to the 'Zone ratio': 30% protein, 40% carbohydrate, and 30% fat. This ratio is presumed to be ideal for nutrient absorption, hormone release, and blood sugar levels. For each person, there is an ideal number of "blocks". An individual might be a "24-blocker", and would plan his/her day such that there are three '6-block' meals and two '3-block' snacks. Block prescriptions are varied based on the individual's bodytype and goals. The pros of this diet are that you gain an intimate understanding of what constitutes a protein source, a carbohydrate source, and fat sources. You also get a great idea of what a truly 'balanced' meal looks like. The word 'balanced' has become so overused in marketing that it's basically ambiguous and a complete mystery as to what it means. With the "Zone", you figure it out for yourself every meal. The cons of this diet are that you have to weigh and measure your food in order to be sure to get the ratios correct, which becomes tedious. It's also hard to eat out when you're on this diet because nothing in the world of dining out is "Zoned". You find out actually, that in the world of dining out, the meals are heavily biased towards carbohydrates and fats. No surprise (and no judgement), because it's those things that carry surplus flavor and are also easier for restaurants to store.
The IDEAL diet would be to do both. Paleo-Zone. You would get the benefit of high quality food as well as the balanced macronutrient ratios. The metabolic response to such a diet would be extremely good for fueling the body!
Now, if we can only get our psychology on board...