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Why not flexitarian diet?

BY: Maame Efua Egyima Annan & Dr Joana Ainuson-Quampah
A typical example of  the components of a flexitarian diet
A typical example of the components of a flexitarian diet

The flexitarian diet is a combination of two-word “flexible” and “vegetarian”, which evolved from a definition of a vegetarian consumption pattern, occasionally including meat products.

This diet was created by a registered dietician called, Dawn Jackson Blatner, to help people reap the benefits of vegetarian eating, while still enjoying animal products in moderation.

The flexitarian diet is also referred to as, Semi-vegetarian, Vegivores or Vegan before 6pm.

Why Flexitarian diet?

Flexitarian diet became known when veganism and vegetarianism started to gain some sort of acceptance in a way not seen before. Individuals on vegan and vegetarian diets have been reported to have an increased risk of Vitamin B12 and iron deficiency.

Also, high meat consumption has been associated with environmental stress, as well as obesity and obesity-related diseases, such as, heart diseases, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.

This diet is a style of eating that encourages eating mostly plant-based foods and adding small portions of meat once in a while. It also seeks to protect human health, prioritise animal welfare and protect the environment.

A flexitarian diet does not just mean decreasing meat consumption, however, eating mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, focusing on protein from plants instead of animals, being flexible and incorporating meat and animal products from time to time, eating the least processed, most natural forms of foods as well as limiting added sugar and sweets are important principles that must be considered by people looking to eat healthier.

This diet is nutrient dense, very easy to follow, affordable, has less restrictions and no clear-cut rules, and has no recommended amount of calories and macronutrients.

However, because flexitarian diet is closer to being vegetarian than omnivore, there is a likelihood of being deficient in certain nutrients, if the diet does not contain a variety of whole foods in their right proportions.

To be on the flexitarian diet, one can choose to follow one of the three levels: Beginner; two meatless day, 26 ounces (728g) of meat or poultry weekly.

Advanced; three or four meatless days, 18 ounces (504g) weekly meat or poultry. Expert; five meatless days, nine ounces (252g) of meat or poultry weekly.

Possible benefits

Flexitarian eating is meant to be primarily plant-based and will most likely have benefits similar to fully vegetarian diets.

Flexitarian eating may help manage weight. This is partial because flexitarians often limit high-calorie, highly processed foods and eat more plant foods that are naturally lower in calories.

Several studies have shown that people who follow a plant-based diet may lose more weight than those who do not. Because this diet aids in weight loss and include many foods that are high in fibre and low in unhealthy fats and added sugars, it may help prevent and manage other related diseases.

Since high meat consumption demands for high meat production which inflicts stress on the environment, going in for a flexitarian diet may help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce deforestation and soil degradation, conserve land and water, and increase biodiversity.

Conclusion

The flexitarian diet focuses on healthy plant proteins and other whole, minimally processed plant-based foods, but encourages eating meat and animal products in moderation. Because there are no specific rules or suggestions, it is an appealing option for people who are looking to cut back on animal and animal products.

Eating flexitarian may aid weight loss and reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. It may even be good for the environment.

However, planning your flexitarian food choices well is important to prevent nutritional deficiencies and reap the most health benefits.

Always consult a dietician to ensure that the information displayed on this page applies to your personal needs and guide you in your flexitarian diet choices.

The writers are with the Department of Dietetics,  University of Ghana. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.