If you want to include plant-based foods in your diet, but don’t want to cut down on your meat or dairy products out of your diet completely, then the Flexitarian diet can be a good option for you.
American dietitian, Dawn Jackson Blatner, described the flexitarian diet in his 2008 book “The Flexitarian Diet”. He mentioned in his book that, one does not need to completely give up the consumption of meat to be healthy. Rather, they can occasionally include a limited amount of meat foods in their vegetarian diet.
Dawn Jackson Blatner believes that a smart way to cut down on your calories is to incorporate vegetarian foods into your diet. But she knows that not everyone can be 100% vegetarian. Therefore, a flexitarian diet can be a good option for those people who cannot give up eating meat.
What is the meaning of “Flexitarian”?
‘Flexitarian’ means a combination of ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian’. The Flexitarian diet is a style of eating that encourages mostly plant-based foods while allowing limited amounts of meat and other animal products.
In simple words, instead of completely giving up meat and dairy products in this diet, it is advised to take more vegetarian food. Flexitarian diet is also commonly called as “semi-vegetarian diet”.
Flexitarian Diet is based on the following principles:
- Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains
- Focus on protein from plants rather than from animals
- Include meat and animal products in your diet in limited quantities
- Eat less processed food
- Limit the amount of added sugar
- This diet does not forbid eating any kind of food items and also the quantity of any nutritious food item in this diet has not been predetermined. That’s why it is quite popular among people on a healthy diet.
Benefits of Flexitarian Diet
Following are the benefits of flexitarian diet-
1. Beneficial for Type 2 Diabetes –
Diabetes is a disease in which the level of sugar or glucose in the blood is very high. A study conducted in more than 60,000 participants found that a semi-vegetarian or flexitarian diet, compared to non-vegetarian diet, were found more prone to type 2 diabetes.
2. Helps in Weight Loss–
Increasing weight due to irregular lifestyle is becoming the most common problem in today’s time. Today the younger generation has started becoming a victim of obesity from an early age. Due to which they are facing many serious problems ranging from diabetes to heart disease.
In 2016 meta-analysis, researchers found that people who followed a flexitarian diet for 18 weeks lost almost 2 kg in comparison to those individuals on a non-vegetarian diet. In this sense, a flexitarian diet can be a good option for weight loss. However, the flexitarian diet is not as effective in reducing weight as a vegetarian diet.
3. Reduces risk of Heart Disease–
A study which was conducted on 45,000 adults who were above 11 years in age, it was found that the risk of heart disease was about 32% lower in vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians. This was because vegetarian foods are rich in fiber and antioxidants that help lower blood pressure and increase good cholesterol.
4. Good for Metabolic Health–
Metabolism is a process through which our body converts food substances into energy and this energy is used by the human body in daily activities.
According to research, flexitarian diet can be a good option to increase metabolism because due to the high amount of fiber (dietary fiber) in the flexitarian diet, it helps in running the digestive system properly. The chances of problems like acidity, constipation and abdominal pain are reduced.
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5. Using the Flexitarian Diet to Reduce the Risk of Colorectal Cancer-
Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the world. Many studies show that the high fiber content of the Flexitarian diet can control the risk of colon cancer to some extent, as well as high-fiber foods can reduce the risk of hemorrhoids’ (piles or hemorrhoids’). also minimizes the risks.
Possible side effects of Flexitarian diet
Keep in mind that there may be some disadvantages or side effects of following a flexitarian diet few of them a mentioned below –
- If you do not take dairy products in the Flexitarian diet, you might not get the sufficient amount of calcium, due to which the bones will start weakening.
- Due to the lack of calories in the Flexitarian diet, you might not get enough energy.
- Omega 3 fatty acids make a special contribution to strengthen the heart because there is a lack of omega 3 fatty acids in vegetarian food, due to which you can suffer from heart disease.
- Red meat and fish are rich sources of iron which prevents anemia, because there is a lack of non-vegetarian foods in the flexitarian diet, therefore anemia can be seen in individuals on the flexitarian diet.
- Zinc enhances immunity. People who follow a flexitarian diet may be deficient in zinc as the maximum amount of zinc can be obtained from red meat.
What should be eaten in the Flexitarian diet?
Flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diet, limiting animal products, it is recommended to consume as much protein, vitamins and other important nutrients as possible from vegetarian foods. Below is a list of what you can eat in the Flexitarian diet-
- Proteins: soybeans, soy curd (tofu), legumes, pulses, oatmeal,
- Vegetable: Broccoli, spinach, mustard greens, beans, turnips, green cabbage
- Nuts, seeds and other healthy fats: Almonds, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanut butter, avocado, olives, coconut, raisins, dates
- Oils: Healthy oils like coconut and olive oils
- Fruits: Apples, oranges, berries, grapes, pears, bananas, pomegranates, blueberries and blackberries
- Antioxidant-rich spices and herbs: Basil, mint, cumin, turmeric, ginger
- Beverages: Milk, tea, coffee
When you follow a flexitarian diet, include only a few meat products in your diet for better results. For this, you can consume eggs, chicken and fish in limited quantities.
Foods to Minimise in the Flexitarian Diet
- Added sugar, especially refined sugar such as soda, donuts, cakes, cookies, candy
- Animal protein: which includes chicken, turkey, red meat, and pork
- Refined carbohydrates: white bread, white rice
- Processed meat
- Fast food: Pizza, Burger, Chicken, Nuggets, Milkshake
- Seafood: Seafood is considered an animal protein
- Animal fat: This includes butter, whole milk, cream.