The Flexitarian Diet is a style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing meat and other animal products in moderation.
It’s more flexible than fully vegetarian or vegan diets.
If you’re looking to add more plant foods to your diet but don’t want to completely cut out meat, going flexitarian may be for you.
The Flexitarian Diet was created by dietitian.
Dawn Jackson Blatner to help people reap the benefits of vegetarian eating while still enjoying animal products in moderation.
That’s why the name of this diet is a combination of the words flexible and vegetarian.
Vegetarians eliminate meat and sometimes other animal foods, while vegans completely restrict meat, fish, eggs, dairy and all animal-derived food products.
Since flexitarians eat animal products, they’re not considered vegetarians or vegans.The Flexitarian Diet has no clear-cut rules or recommended numbers of calories and macronutrients. In fact, it’s more a lifestyle than a diet.
It’s based on the following principles:
▪️Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
▪️Focus on protein from plants instead of animals.
▪️Be flexible and incorporate meat and animal products from time to time.
▪️Eat the least processed, most natural form of foods.
▪️Limit added sugar and sweets.
Due to its flexible nature and focus on what to include rather than restrict, the Flexitarian Diet is a popular choice for people looking to eat healthier.
The creator of the Flexitarian Diet, Dawn Jackson Blatner spells out how to start eating flexitarian by incorporating certain amounts of meat per week in her book.
Overall, the goal is to eat more nutritious plant foods and less meat.
Possible Health Benefits.
Eating flexitarian may provide several health benefits .However, since there is no clear definition of this diet, it’s difficult to assess if and how researched benefits of other plant-based diets apply to the Flexitarian Diet.
Nevertheless, research on vegan and vegetarian diets is still helpful in highlighting how semi-vegetarian diets may promote health.
It appears to be important to eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and other minimally processed whole foods in order to reap the health benefits of plant-based eating.
Decreasing meat consumption while continuing to eat refined foods with lots of added sugar and salt will not lead to the same benefits .
1. Heart Disease.
Diets rich in fiber and healthy fats are good for heart health .A study following 45,000 adults over 11 years found that vegetarians had a 32% lower risk of heart disease, compared to non-vegetarians .This is likely due to the fact that vegetarian diets are often rich in fiber and antioxidants that may reduce blood pressure and increase good cholesterol.
A review of 32 studies on the effect of vegetarian diets on blood pressure showed that vegetarians had an average systolic blood pressure almost seven points lower than that of people who ate meat .
Since these studies looked at strictly vegetarian diets, it’s hard to assess if the Flexitarian Diet would have the same effect on blood pressure and heart disease risk.
However, flexitarian eating is meant to be primarily plant-based and will most likely have benefits similar to fully vegetarian diets.
2. Weight Loss.
Flexitarian eating may also be good for your waistline.This is partially because flexitarians limit high-calorie, processed foods and eat more plant foods that are naturally lower in calories.
Several studies have shown that people who follow a plant-based diet may lose more weight than those who do not .
A review of studies in more than 1,100 people total found that those who ate a vegetarian diet for 18 weeks lost 4.5 pounds (2 kg) more than those who did not .This and other studies also show that those who follow vegan diets tend to lose the most weight, compared to vegetarians and omnivores .
Since the Flexitarian Diet is closer to a vegetarian diet than a vegan one, it may help with weight loss but possibly not as much as a vegan diet would.
Type 2 diabetes is a global health epidemic. Eating a healthy diet, especially a predominantly plant-based one, may help prevent and manage this disease.
This is most likely because plant-based diets aid weight loss and contain many foods that are high in fiber and low in unhealthy fats and added sugar .
A study in over 60,000 participants found that the prevalence of type 2 diabetes was 1.5% lower in semi-vegetarians or flexitarians compared to non-vegetarians .
Additional research showed that people with type 2 diabetes who ate vegetarian diets had a 0.39% lower hemoglobin A1c (three-month average of blood sugar readings) than those with the condition who ate animal products.
Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes all have nutrients and antioxidants that may help prevent cancer.
Research suggests that vegetarian diets are associated with a lower overall incidence of all cancers but especially colorectal cancers .
A 7-year study on cases of colorectal cancers in 78,000 people found that semi-vegetarians were 8% less likely to get this type of cancer, compared to non-vegetarians .
Therefore, incorporating more vegetarian foods by eating flexitarian may reduce your cancer risk.
Foods to Eat on the Flexitarian Diet.
Flexitarians emphasize plant proteins and other whole, minimally processed plant foods while limiting animal products.
Foods to eat regularly include:
▪️Proteins: Soybeans, tofu, tempeh, legumes, lentils.
▪️Non-starchy vegetables: Greens, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, cauliflower.
▪️Starchy vegetables: Winter squash, peas, corn, sweet potato.
▪️Fruits: Apples, oranges, berries, grapes, cherries.
▪️Whole grains: Quinoa, teff, buckwheat, farro.
▪️Nuts, seeds and other healthy fats: Almonds, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanut butter, avocados, olives, coconut.
▪️Plant-based milk alternatives: Unsweetened almond, coconut, hemp and soy milk.
▪️Herbs, spices and seasonings: Basil, oregano, mint, thyme, cumin, turmeric, ginger.
▪️Condiments: Reduced-sodium soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, salsa, mustard, nutritional yeast, ketchup without added sugar.
▪️Beverages: Still and sparkling water, tea, coffee.
When incorporating animal products, choose the following when possible:
▪️Eggs: Free-range or pasture-raised.
▪️Poultry: Organic, free-range or pasture-raised.
▪️Meat: Grass-fed or pasture-raised.
▪️Dairy: Organic from grass-fed or pastured animals.
The Flexitarian Diet: A Detailed Beginner’s Guide/https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/flexitarian-diet-guide#meal-plan