A flexitarian diet includes predominantly plant-based foods but also contains meat and meat-based products in small quantities. This diet was created by dietitian Dawn Jackson for helping the people who wanted to reap the benefits of plant-based foods but still want to enjoy animal products in moderation. The word flexitarian is the amalgamation of two words; flexible and vegetarian.
The flexitarian diet focuses on eating more legumes, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. But it sources essential protein mainly from animal products. The diet also limits the consumption of processed foods and sweets.
Health Benefits Of Flexitarian Diet
Following a flexitarian diet offers a wide range of health benefits. Many people will argue that most of the vegan diets are a lot healthier than a flexitarian diet. However, people who follow this diet also consume animal products in moderation, which will be providing some additional nutrients that plant-based food cannot offer. Even so, most of the dieticians and health experts recommend reducing the consumption of processed meat and increase the consumption of plant-based foods to improve the health of your body.
Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits offered by a flexitarian diet.
Reduce Heart Disease Risk
The flexitarian diet is very rich in healthy fats and fiber and both these nutrients are very good at improving your heart health. A recent study has shown that this risk of developing heart disease in people who follow a plant-based meal plan is 32% lower than that of non-vegetarians.
This is mainly because of the high amount of fiber and antioxidants in vegetarian diets that will help in lowering blood pressure and increase the levels of good cholesterol in your blood. When there are no fluctuations in your blood pressure, the risk of heart disease is not there.
Most of these studies looked at vegetarian diets and since the flexitarian diet is predominantly plant-based, it is also helpful in lowering the blood pressure and increasing the good cholesterol levels and thereby reduce the risk of heart disease.
Millions of people around the world are suffering from type 2 diabetes. This health condition mainly occurs due to an unhealthy diet. Therefore, following a healthy plant-based diet will help in reducing the blood sugar level and prevent type 2 diabetes. This is mainly because of the high amount of fiber in the plant foods.
Plant-based foods are low in unhealthy fat and added sugar, which makes it effective for weight loss and reducing the blood sugar levels. A recent study conducted on over 60,000 participants showed the chances of getting type 3 diabetes in non-vegetarians are 1.5 % higher than flexitarians or semi-vegetarians.
Another study showed that the hemoglobin A1c levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes who ate vegetarian diets are 0.39 % lower in people who ate non-vegetarian diets and suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Promote Weight Loss
One of the main reasons why many people are following a flexitarian diet is that it helps in promoting weight loss. The intake of high-calorie, processed foods are limited in a flexitarian diet and you will get more plant-based foods that are low in calories. It is scientifically proven that people who eat plant-based foods are more likely to lose weight than people who eat meat-sourced foods.
A review of some recent studies conducted o over 1,000 people found that the people who predominantly consumed plant-based foods for 18 weeks lost about 4.5 pounds more than people who ate meat-sourced foods.
There are several other studies that also that vegans tend to lose more weight than vegetarians and omnivores. The flexitarian diet is almost similar to a vegetarian diet and it will help in losing weight but not as effective as a vegan diet.
Reduce Cancer Risk
Plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are loaded with nutrients and antioxidants that help in preventing the development of several forms of cancer. There are several studies that have proven the effectiveness of consuming more plant-based foods in reducing the risk of cancer.
A recent study has found that the risk of developing colorectal cancer in people who follow a vegetarian diet is significantly lower. Since a flexitarian diet also predominantly contain plant-based foods, it may also reduce cancer risk.
A 7-year study conducted in 78,000 people showed that following a semi-vegetarian diet will decrease the risk of colorectal cancer by 8% when compared to the people who followed a non-vegetarian diet. This proves that eating more plant-based foods will reduce cancer risk.
Environmental Benefits Of Flexitarian Diet
The flexitarian diet demands the reduction in meat consumption and this will help in conserving our natural resources. Reducing meat consumption will help in water conservation, decreasing the emission of greenhouse gases, and land use. When the meat consumption is reduced, the demand for land and water for raising the livestock will be reduced and the water can be used for other purposes.