The flexitarian diet is an increasingly common eating style. It is not just a fad since it also corresponds to changes in modern lifestyles, new advances in nutrition, and environmental constraints. The flexitarian diet is a flexible vegetarian diet. This type of diet is the cross between certain principles of the vegan diets. And since it is semi-vegetarian, it allows the consumption of animal products.
What is a flexitarian diet?
American-born dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, proposed the idea of this diet in her book “The Flexitarian Diet “, published in 2009. She discerned and gave the early foundations of this diet to help people enjoy the benefits of vegetarian diets while consuming animal products in moderation.
The flexitarian diet is a semi-vegetarian style that encourages people to eat less meat, cut out processed foods as much as possible, and consume more plant-based foods. It’s an attractive option for people looking to reduce their consumption of animal products and improve their diet.
Because flexitarians eat animal products, they are not considered vegetarians or vegans, and this diet is therefore similar to the Mediterranean diet (or Cretan diet)
How flexitarian diet differs from veg diet?
Vegetarians eliminate meat and sometimes other animal foods. Vegan diet is stricter. Vegans avoid meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and all other animal foods.
The flexitarian diet follows some basic principles of flexitarian diet. This diet mainly focuses on eating primarily fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
This diet focuses more on vegetables rather than animal proteins. It’s about learning to be flexible and incorporate meat and animal products from time to time.
Also this diet encourages eating the least processed and most natural foods. Naturally you limit added sugar and all sweets as much as possible.
However, you don’t have to follow all specific recommendations to start eating flexitarian.
Some people on this diet may eat more animal products than others because needs and social context are an integral part of this diet.
The main objective and the cornerstone of this diet, is to eat more nutritious plant foods and less meat without modifying and constraining eating habits.
Why we are following this diet
The flexitarian diet focuses on healthy plant proteins and other minimally processed plant-based whole foods.
It encourages the consumption of meat and animal products in moderation, making it easier to follow for a large majority of people. This diet is more flexible than entirely vegetarian or vegan diets, it can be followed without much difficulty.
Additionally, the flexitarian diet does not have clear rules or recommended numbers of calories and macronutrients, making it more straightforward and more adaptable. However, it does not create a significant lifestyle change compared to other diets.
Flexitarian diet approach has several long-term benefits. It helps people stabilize their weight or lose weight and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes or certain cancers. However, it is essential to prevent nutrient deficiencies and make the most of the health benefits of this diet.
In this way, people who wish to eat mainly plant-based foods while allowing themselves to consume meat and other animal products in moderation can move towards this type of diet.
The benefits of a flexitarian diet
Flexitarian can provide several health benefits. Dwelling on our diet and the way we eat can lead to a greater awareness of the effects of food on the body, and healthy eating habit. However, it can be challenging to assess the researched benefits that apply to the flexitarian diet compared to other plant-based diets because there is no clear definition of this diet.
In this case, the scientific literature on vegan and vegetarian diets is still helpful in highlighting how semi-vegetarian diets can promote health.
It seems essential to eat mainly fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and other minimally processed foods to maintain a healthy diet. Therefore, this diet is oriented in this direction and makes it possible not to create a radical or too restrictive change in eating.
Improved Cardiovascular Health
Diets high in fiber and healthy fats are good for heart health, as numerous scientific studies have proven. This is likely why people who follow a pescatarian diet (Pesce-vegetarianism) and vegetarians have lower rates of ischemic heart disease than carnivores.
Vegetarian diets are often high in fiber and antioxidants to lower blood pressure and raise good cholesterol (HDL cholesterol).
A vegetarian diet significantly lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to an omnivorous diet.
Helps manage diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a global health concern. A healthy diet, especially a plant-based diet, can help prevent and manage this disease. This is likely because plant-based diets promote weight loss and include many foods high in fiber and low in unhealthy fats and added sugar.
The prevalence of diabetes has increased faster in low- and middle-income countries than in low-income countries. High income. Diabetes is a significant cause of blindness, kidney failure, myocardial infarction, stroke and lower limb amputation.”
Current studies show that a diet emphasizing plant foods and low in animal foods is associated with a reduction of about 20% in the risk of diabetes.
Other research found that in people with type 2 diabetes, the reduction in HbA1c was more significant in people on a plant-based diet than in those on a conventional diet.
Helps maintain a good body weight
weight loss is not the primary goal of the flexitarian diet. Instead, it focuses on adding more nutrient-dense foods to our diets, such as fruits, legumes, and vegetables, and reducing the consumption of meat and processed products.
However, a flexitarian diet can help you better manage your healthy weight because part of the reason is that followers of the flexitarian diet often limit high-calorie, highly processed foods and eat more naturally lower-calorie plant foods.
Several studies have shown that people who follow a plant-based diet can lose more weight naturally than those who follow another diet.
The flexitarian diet is supposed to be primarily plant-based. That’s why it is most likely has similar health benefits to all-vegetarian diets.
Additionally, other studies of vegetarian, pescetarian, and flexitarian diets found that those who adhered to any diet that excluded or reduced meat consumption had lower body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol (HDL and LDL), and lower blood pressure than those who ate meat.
Flexitarian diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies
Limited meat consumption and other animal products can lead to certain nutritional deficiencies, including vitamin B12, iron, zinc and calcium. Therefore, people who follow a flexitarian diet may be at risk, depending on their food choices. So when flexitarian diets and other plant-based diets are well planned and possibly developed by a health professional specially a nutritionist, they can be very healthy.
How to avoid nutrition deficiency with flexitarian diet
Possible nutritional deficiencies to consider in the flexitarian diet include vitamin B12; calcium; zinc; iron; essential fatty acids (omega-3, etc.).
Some flexitarians may limit dairy products by choice or in the event of an allergy and need to eat plant-based sources of calcium to get adequate amounts of this nutrient.
There are plant foods are rich in calcium, such as kale, Swiss chard, chickpeas, sesame seeds, oats, quinoa, or white or kidney beans.
Iron and Zinc
Flexitarians may also have lower zinc and iron stores because these minerals are better absorbed from animal foods. While it’s possible to get enough of these nutrients from plant foods alone, flexitarians need to carefully plan their diets to achieve this. Most nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes contain iron and zinc.
You can solve this by adding a source of vitamin C is an excellent way to increase iron absorption from plant-based foods.
Vitamin B12 is naturally present in animal products. However, foods enriched with vitamin B12 can also be part of a healthy diet. So it’s worth talking to a healthcare professional to decide what options are available and if a vitamin B12 supplement is needed.
Omega 3 fatty acid
Finally, flexitarians, vegetarians and vegans must ensure that they consume enough omega-3 fatty acids, generally found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, sardines, etc.
If you are avoiding fish, you can consider supplementing their diets with algal oil or fish oil to maintain optimal levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).).
How to follow a flexitarian diet
One of the factors that push to assume it is the impact it can have on health. The motivations for adopting a flexitarian lifestyle are incredibly diverse and vary from person to person.
The flexitarian diet includes a variety of whole, plant-based foods emphasizing plant-based rather than animal-based protein.
It is possible to reduce the risk of a multitude of diseases such as cancer, hypercholesterolemia, heart disease and obesity, by reducing or eliminating the consumption of red meat.
When someone wants to have animal products, they can consider prioritizing free-range eggs, wild-caught fish, and grass-fed meat and dairy products — and from organic farming where possible.
What foods to eat in a flexitarian diet
Flexitarian diet is mostly plant based diet. It has both starchy and non-starchy vegetables included in the diet. Non-starchy vegetables include green vegetables, peppers, Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, cauliflower. The starchy vegetables such as pumpkin, peas, corn, sweet potato are a good choice.
Eating all different types of fruits is also a part of the diet. fruits such as apples, oranges, berries, grapes, cherries are good for your health.
You can also include whole grains quinoa, buckwheat, etc.in your diet. If you want to avoid dairy, plant-based alternatives to milk are almond, coconut, hemp and unsweetened soy milk. Beverages of this diet are plain water, tea, herbal tea, coffee.
This diet gets proteins from soy, tofu, tempeh, legumes, lentils. You can use herbs, spices and seasonings with basil, oregano, mint, thyme, cumin, turmeric, ginger, etc. Condiments of this diet includes reduced-sodium soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, salsa, mustard, nutritional yeast, etc.
Don’t forget to add nuts, seeds and other healthy fats such as almonds, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanut butter, avocados, olives, coconut, etc.
What foods to Reduce or Eliminate on the Flexitarian Diet
Limiting processed meats, refined carbs, and added sugars are other essential aspects of the flexitarian diet.
Eating flexitarian doesn’t just mean cutting down on meat consumption. The flexitarian diet encourages limiting not only meat and animal products but also highly processed foods, refined grains, and added sugar.
What foods to avoid in flexitarian diet
Charcuterie as bacon, sausage, etc. are harmful to health and against flexitarian diet approach. You should also avoid refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, bagels, industrial pastries and pastries, snacks, incomplete pasta, etc. It’s better to avoid added sugars and sweets of sodas, doughnuts, cakes, cookies, candies. Lastly junk food and fast food such as fries, burgers, milkshakes, etc. are not good for your health.