All You Need to Know About the Flexitarian Diet
With the advancement in scientific research, specifically nutrition, there are many new diets that have been compiled to help you become fit and lose weight, under all types of situations.
The flexitarian diet is mostly a plant-based diet; however, it does include a moderate amount of protein and animal products for nutritional value. The diet is all about moderating the amount you eat, and keeping it healthy without depriving your body of its needs,
If you are looking to increase the amount of vegetables in your daily food consumption, but are not willing to go vegetarian, this diet is perfect for you.
It was created by dietitian, Dawn Jackson Blatner, and the name of the diet is given because it is mainly vegetarian, but is flexible as there are still some animal products and meats included, so it is a play on the words, flexible, and vegetarian.
The flexitarian diet is more of a lifestyle than a diet, because there are no specific number of calories you must consume, or portion size you must consider. It has certain principles you must follow, like:
- Eat a prominent amount of vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.
- Eat plant proteins like chickpeas, kale, and lentils instead of animal proteins, like chicken, lamb, and beef.
- Balance your lifestyle by including animal products occasionally, but limiting the amount.
- Eat natural, organically grown foods, instead of processed foods.
- Limit the amount of sugar you consume.
The diet is popular amongst many people who are looking to adjust their lifestyle and approach it with a healthier outlook, as it does not require too much change.
While Blatner does provide some information on the preferred amount of meat to eat per week, you can adjust it according to your preference.
There are many health benefits that you will see after being on this diet for some time. Like for example, a healthier heart.
- A study was conducted over a span of eleven years, which included forty five thousand subjects, to see the difference on the heart of vegetarians, and of non-vegetarians. The result was that vegetarians have a thirty two percent lower risk of experiencing heart diseases and pains. This is because vegetables contain antioxidants and high amounts of fiber which help reduce blood pressure and increase good cholesterol.
- Another benefit of following this diet is weight loss. As this lifestyle limits the amount of sugar you take, and increases your plant proteins, which are lower in calories than animal protein, you naturally see a decrease in your weight without having to do anything extreme like exercise routines. There are many studies to show that vegetarian diets help loose significant weight, like one in which a group of researchers monitored one thousand and one hundred people to find a result that those who ate a pure vegetarian diet lost 2 kilo grams more weight than those who did not over a period of eighteen weeks.
- Following this diet has also proven to prevent and manage diabetes, as it helps the patients stay healthy. This is because having a plant-based diet means limiting the amount of unhealthy cholesterol and sugars in your body, which helps diabetic patients. These facts have been proven through research and studies over the years.
- Cancer prevention is another benefit of following the Flexitarian diet. Things like fruit, vegetables, nuts, legumes, lentils, and whole grains all contain certain antioxidants as well as nutrients to help in cancer prevention. A seven-year study was conducted with a group of researches and seventy eight thousand colorectal cancer patients to show that semi vegetarians were eight percent less likely to suffer from cancer than non-vegetarians.
Not only will this diet help your health, and prevent diseases, but also, by following this plant-based lifestyle, you will be helping the environment.
By consuming more plants, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by seven percent, as we are preserving natural resources.
Plant growth requires less energy than what is needed to raise livestock, as well.
Land can also be used solely for growing plants, instead of food for livestock, like it is currently.
Like all diets, you risk having nutrient deficiency when following them. Although the flexitarian diet is well researched and tested, there may be some exceptions. So, to ensure you do not experience nutrient deficiency, you must be careful to eat food with high nutrient levels. The flexitarian diet is good in this aspect, as it is flexible, and you can include what you need for your body.
Some nutrients and minerals that you may be deficient in while following this diet are:
- Vitamin B12
- Omega-3 fatty acid
Just make sure to take the time to plan out the diet before starting it, to prevent any nutrient deficiency.
Some foods that are good to eat while on this diet are:
Proteins: plant proteins in abundance, like, soybean, tofu, lentils, legumes.
Vegetables: you should have a mixture of vegetables to achieve the best results, vegetables containing starch, as well as those lacking it.
Non-starch vegetables: green beans, green peppers, carrots, brussel sprouts.
Starch vegetables: snow peas, sweet potatoes, corn.
Fruits: while on the diet, you should consume high amounts of fruits, to ensure you receive nutrients, like apples, and grapes, cherries, and bananas.
Healthy fats: the flexitarian diet talks about limiting the amount of sugars and fats you consume, but you should replace them with healthy fats to make sure you do not lack any nutrients you may need. Like almonds, and flax seeds, walnuts, peanut butter, avocados, coconuts.
Beverages: make sure to consume a large amount of water while on the diet, like it is recommended in all situations. As well as water, tea and coffee are also allowed.
Proteins: while the diet speaks of limiting your animal protein intake, you should still consume them in little amounts. Some recommended proteins are, organic, free range eggs, organic poultry, like chicken, fresh, wild caught fish, grass fed and pasture raised meat, and organic dairy products.
Another plus of this diet is that it is not expensive, as it requires no extra exotic foods or imported foods. Mainly, you just take everyday groceries, and focus on turning them into healthy meals, by cooking them right and keeping everything natural.
Following The Diet
The reason why this diet is so easy to follow, and popular is because it has a lot of room for flexibility. There is no exact regime, and you can adjust it according to what you find easy. This makes it good for people who are dieting for the first time, and are not used to eating healthy.
It is time manageable, and does not take too long to prepare the meals, or even organize the meal plan. There are many recipe books available on the topic, so you have a wide variety of different dishes, and do not get bored of eating the same meal every day or week. Eating out is still allowed, even while you are on the diet, so you can still go out and meet people without worrying. However, it is best if you look at the menu of the restaurant you are going to beforehand, so you can find the best option on it, health wise. Avoid crispy, fried or greasy foods, and try to go for something fresh, like a salad, or boiled, steamed, even oven baked is a healthy alternative.
As the diet has been around and well established for some time now, you can find a lot of meal plans that people have come up with according to their preferences online, all you have to do is pick which ever one you are comfortable with, and follow that.
Blatner has a website, as well as a book on the details of the diet, including, recipes, grocery lists, facts, and other information. The book has a section which answers common asked questions about the flexitarian diet, including information about weight lost, dieting, strategies to make the diet easier for you, and tips for things like binge craves, and even how to keep the diet going when you are traveling or at a party.
It is common belief that when you are dieting, you should not allow yourself to get full, and should constantly be hunger. This is scientifically proven to be false. It is good to eat as much as you want, until you are full, as that is your bodies way of telling you it has had enough, and does not require anything more. If you stop eating before that, you will not get the right nutrients and minerals your body requires to function. The flexitarian diet approves this fact, and tells you to eat as much as you need to get full. Things like plant-based proteins, legumes, lentils and whole grains help fill you up.
So, as you can see, the flexitarian diet is not only effective, but also easy to follow and be a part of. You should definitely give it a go!
Get some flexitarian inspo from Madeleine Shaw and her easy recipes: