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Assortment of healthy food ingredients for a Flexitarian diet on a wooden kitchen table

Flexitarian Diet: A Flexible Way of Eating

By:
Lisa Fabian

The term flexitarian has been around for years. It combines the two words flexible and vegetarian to mean a flexible vegetarian-based diet in which a person reduces their consumption of animal protein most of the time but still eats meat and/or seafood occasionally.

What is a Flexitarian Diet?

While the flexitarian diet acknowledges animal protein as an important source of nutrients, it also recognizes the ethical issues associated with meat consumption--including animal and planetary welfare. The diet also considers the risk factors tied to the long-term consumption of large amounts of red meat and processed meat products, including certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and Type 2 diabetes.

The flexitarian eating plan offers adherents myriad health benefits. By incorporating more plants and less meat into the diet, those who follow the plan may experience greater health and longevity, weight loss, improved heart health, and lower risks for diabetes and cancer.

The Benefits of Eating a Flexitarian Diet

Research shows that vegetarians weigh less, have lower body mass indexes (BMI), and eat fewer calories than those who eat meat. When someone follows a flexitarian diet, the same benefits are garnered. A six-year study of 38,000 adults found that flexitarians tend to weigh less than full-fledged carnivores.

Because plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables are lower in calories, a flexitarian diet can help trim caloric intake. Eating more plant-based foods can also help lower saturated fat and cholesterol intake as well.

The Flexitarian Diet & Weight Loss

A Korean study found that postmenopausal women following a semi-vegetarian diet (a term used interchangeably with the flexitarian diet in scientific literature) for more than 20 years had much lower BMI, body fat percentages, and body weights when compared to non-vegetarians. In another study, a semi-vegetarian diet was found to significantly lower insulin levels and glucose in postmenopausal women who followed the diet for more than 20 years.

Although most current flexitarians are women, the benefits of the diet aren't just for females. A study of over 73,000 Seventh-Day Adventists found that vegetarian diets (including semi-vegetarian) were linked with lower all-cause mortality. The results appeared to be even more evident in the male subjects.

Sources

"The flexitarian diet," www.WebMD.com, 2019

"Flexitarian diets and health: A review of the evidence-based literature" by E.J. Derbyshire, Front Nutr, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, 1/6/17