Flexitarian Diet: What It Is And What Are The Risks And Benefits
The flexitarian diet doesn't include calorie counting and combines the terms "flexible" and "vegetarian."
If you're searching for a wholesome eating plan that doesn't require calorie counting, overly strict regulations, and allows occasional consumption of meat, look no more than the flexitarian diet.
The flexitarian diet strikes a balance between complete veganism and vegetarianism, granting the flexibility to include animal products from time to time.
What is a Flexitarian Diet?
It is a dietary approach that emphasises consuming primarily plant-based foods while permitting moderate intake of meat and other animal products.
The concept of flexitarian diet was developed with the intention of allowing individuals to enjoy the advantages of vegetarianism while still incorporating animal products in moderation.
The term "flexitarian" derives from combining "flexible" and "vegetarian," reflecting the diet's adaptable nature.
Vegetarians exclude meat and sometimes other animal-based foods from their diet, while vegans abstain from meat, fish, eggs, dairy, and all other products derived from animals.
Since flexitarians consume animal products to some extent, they are not classified as vegetarians or vegans.
The flexitarian diet does not impose strict regulations or prescribe specific calorie and macronutrient targets. Rather, it promotes a lifestyle centred around balanced eating rather than a rigid diet plan.
Principles of flexitarian diet
These principles form the foundation this diet approach:
- Prioritise consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains
- Emphasise plant-based sources of protein rather than animal-based ones
- Adopt a flexible approach and occasionally include meat and animal products
- Choose minimally processed, unadulterated food options whenever possible
- Restrict the intake of added sugar and sweets
Stages of flexitarian diet approach
There are three primary stages involved in reducing meat consumption within this eating pattern:
For individuals who are beginning their journey with the flexitarian diet, it is advisable to abstain from consuming meat for two days each week. During the initial phase, it is recommended to limit overall meat intake to a maximum of 28 ounces per week for the remaining five days.
To provide a point of reference, a portion of chicken or steak equivalent to the size of a deck of cards is approximately 3 ounces.
As you progress with the diet and become accustomed to incorporating a greater amount of fruits and vegetables into your meals, shift your attention towards adopting a complete vegetarian diet for three to four days per week. Limit your meat intake to a maximum of 18 ounces for the remaining days of the week.
Adopt a vegetarian diet for five out of seven days each week. On the remaining two days when meat is included, restrict the total meat consumption to a maximum of 9 ounces.
Benefits of flexitarian diet
Nutrition experts consistently advocate for a dietary approach that prioritises the consumption of fruits and vegetables. The flexitarian diet aligns with this recommendation and offers numerous benefits, such as:
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Weight loss
- Decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes or improved management of pre-diabetes
- Potential cancer prevention
- Environmental friendliness due to decreased meat consumption and a lower carbon footprint
Risks associated with flexitarian diet
Despite the numerous advantages of this eating pattern, there remain potential risks for specific individuals. Decreasing meat consumption can result in nutrient deficiencies such as vitamin B12, zinc, and calcium.
Additionally, individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may not thrive on a predominantly plant-based diet. If you experience digestive problems, it is advisable to be aware of the fruits and vegetables that your body can tolerate.
Foods Recommended on the flexitarian diet
The flexitarian diet encourages the consumption of plant proteins and other whole, minimally processed plant foods, while reducing the intake of animal products.
Here are some foods that should be regularly included in the diet:
- Proteins: Soybeans, tofu, tempeh, legumes, lentils
- Non-starchy vegetables: Leafy greens, bell peppers, Brussels sprouts, green beans, carrots, cauliflower
- Starchy vegetables: Include winter squash, peas, corn, and sweet potato in your diet
- Herbs, spices, and seasonings: Enhance your meals with a variety of herbs and spices such as basil, oregano, mint, thyme, cumin, turmeric, and ginger
- Nuts, seeds, and other healthy fats: Incorporate almonds, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanut butter, avocados, olives, and coconut for their nutritional benefits
- Fruits: Enjoy a variety of fruits like apples, oranges, berries, grapes, and cherries
- Whole grains: Choose from nutrient-rich whole grains such as quinoa, teff, buckwheat, and farro to add to your meals
- Condiments: Use condiments such as low-sodium soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, salsa, mustard, nutritional yeast, and sugar-free ketchup
- Beverages: Enjoy a variety of beverages like still and sparkling water, tea, and coffee
When including animal products, opt for the following choices whenever available:
- Eggs: Free-range or pasture-raised
- Poultry: Organic, free-range, or pasture-raised
- Fish: Wild-caught
- Meat: Grass-fed or pasture-raised
- Dairy: Organic, sourced from grass-fed or pastured animals
Flexitarian diet advocates for a semi-vegetarian strategy that prioritises the consumption of nourishing plant proteins and unprocessed plant-based foods. It permits a moderate inclusion of meat and animal products. Adopting a flexitarian eating pattern can support weight loss efforts and lower the chances of developing heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Moreover, it has potential environmental benefits. Nonetheless, it is crucial to carefully plan your flexitarian meals in order to avoid nutritional deficiencies and maximise the associated health advantages.Disclaimer: The above content is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a qualified physician or doctor. The Company does not vouch for or endorse any of the above content, and disclaims any and all warranties, express or implied, relating to the same.