A Flexitarian diet is primarily based on plant foods, although one is allowed to eat animal products in moderation while on that diet. The diet has greater flexibility when compared to vegan and vegetarian diets. It is perfect for people who are planning to add more plant foods to their diet but do not wish to avoid animal foods completely.
In this article, we are discussing about the flexitarian diet in detail.
What Is Flexitarianism?
The word flexitarianism is a combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian”. The diet was created to help people get the best benefits of plant foods, all the while enjoying animal foods occasionally.
Vegetarians avoid all foods that are obtained by killing animals while vegans follow an even stricter lifestyle by avoiding food and lifestyle products that are obtained by causing harm to animals in some way. Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, eggs and poultry while vegans avoid eating meat, eggs, fish, poultry, dairy products, honey, and more such animal derived foods.
Because flexitarians eat animal foods, although in moderation, they cannot be called vegetarians or vegans.
Flexitarianism is based on the following principles:
- Focus more on plant proteins rather than protein from animal sources.
- Eat more fruits, whole grains and vegetables.
- Remain flexible and eat meat products occasionally.
- Include less processed foods in meals.
The flexitarian diet is well known for its flexible nature. When people who really like animal foods decide to avoid it altogether, it is not going to be very easy, and the transformation most probably will not happen overnight. They can first try following a flexitarian diet and then make a gradual shift towards a vegan or vegetarian diet, whatever they prefer.
What Are The Benefits Of A Flexitarian Diet?
Here are the benefits of following a flexitarian diet.
Improved Heart Health
Diets that are rich in fiber and healthy fats can be good for heart health.
A study involving 45,000 adults, conducted over a period of 11 years found that the risk of people having vegetarian diets to develop heart disease was 32% lower than that of non-vegetarians. The possible explanation for the observation is the fact that vegetarian diets are rich in antioxidants and fiber that contribute to increasing good cholesterol and reducing blood pressure.
A review of 32 studies on the effects that vegetarian diets had on blood pressure found that the average systolic pressure of vegetarians were about seven points lower when compared to that of people who followed a non-vegetarian diet.
Because all of these studies involved vegetarian participants, it is difficult to conclude how effective it is to translate the results to a flexitarian diet. However, flexitarian diet will more or less give similar benefits as that of vegetarian diets because it is mostly based on plant foods.
Helps In Weight Loss
Flexitarian diets may help you maintain a healthy weight. The possible reason is the fact that flexitarians limit high calorie, processed foods and add more plant foods in that place. From what is known from several studies, people on a plant-based diet can lose weight faster than people who are not.
Although a flexitarian diet offers weight loss benefits, it may not be as effective as a vegan diet.
Reduces The Risk Of Diabetes
Type-2 diabetes affects a significant part of the global population. Eating a predominantly plant-based diet can contribute to reducing the risk of type-2 diabetes.
The reasons could be the weight loss benefits of plant-based diet, its high fiber content and low levels of added sugars and unhealthy fats. A study conducted among 60,000 people found that the chance of type-2 diabetes was 1.5% lower in flexitarians or semi-vegetarians when compared to non-vegetarians.
Lowers Cancer Risk
Fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes and whole grains contain antioxidants and nutrients that may help in cancer prevention. Research suggests a correlation between vegetarian diets and lowered risk of cancer, especially colorectal cancer.
A study conducted among 78,000 people for a 7-year period found that the likelihood of semi-vegetarians developing colorectal cancer was 8% less than that of non-vegetarians.
What To Eat While On A Flexitarian Diet?
Flexitarianism is based on minimally processed foods and plant proteins. Here are the foods that you should eat regularly while on a flexitarian diet.
- Proteins: Tofu, soybeans, tempeh, lentils and legumes.
- Starchy vegetables: Corn, winter squash, peas, sweet potato.
- Whole grains: Buckwheat, Quinoa, farro, and teff.
- Non-starchy vegetables: Carrots, Brussel sprouts, Cauliflower, green beans, and bell peppers.
- Seeds, nuts and other healthy fats: Flaxseeds, peanut butter, cashews, almonds, chia seeds, olives and coconuts.
- Fruits: Bananas, apples, oranges, cherries, and grapes.
A flexitarian diet has many benefits over non-vegetarian diet. Like with any diet, you have to create a balanced meal plan to ensure that you do not miss out on any essential nutrients while on a flexitarian diet.