Flexitarian Diet: Why So Popular With Millennials?
What Is a Flexitarian Diet? What to Eat and How to Follow the Plan
Possible Flexitarian Diet Benefits: for Your Health, Your Wallet, and the Environment
The benefits of being vegetarian carry over to this diet, which is why the Flexitarian Diet is recommended for people who are curious about vegetarianism, and occasionally for former vegans or vegetarians who may have experienced nutritional deficiencies as a result of going completely meat-free. But it’s also a great option for anyone who wants to adopt a healthier lifestyle because it emphasizes plants without being anti-meat, says Lexington, Massachusetts–based Liz Weiss, RDN, of Liz’s Healthy Table.
Here’s a closer look at some of the possible benefits of the eating approach.
Lowers Risk of Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
Given its third-place ranking in the Best Diets Overall category and third in Best Diets for Diabetes in the 2019 Best Diet Rankings by U.S. News and World Report, it’s not surprising that a study published in theJournal of the American College of Nutrition found that a vegetarian diet (the flexitarians’ stricter counterpart) was more effective at reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes than a “diabetes-friendly diet.” (3)
In the study, 74 participants consumed the same number of calories for six months. Some went on a vegetarian diet, and others went on a diet that emphasized reducing sugars, refined carbs, cholesterol, and saturated fat. Interestingly, people on the vegetarian diet lost more subcutaneous fat (the fat under your skin), subfascial fat (the fat that lines your muscles), and intramuscular fat (the type stored inside your muscles themselves). The fat stored in your muscles can impact your metabolism and lead to insulin resistance (and even type 2 diabetes).
A study published inDiabetes Carecited specifically, flexitarians had a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes compared with nonvegetarians. In addition, being overweight is one of the biggest risk factors for type 2 diabetes, and this same study showed that flexitarians had lower BMIs than nonvegetarians. (4, 5)
Helps With Weight Loss
If you’re trying to lose weight, there a seemingly infinite number of eating plans and diets to choose from, and the Flexitarian Diet can be considered one of the most credible. For one, if you emphasize the plant-based component of this diet by eating lots of fruits, veggies, and whole grains, you'll likely feel full on fewer calories than you're accustomed to, which makes shedding pounds almost inevitable, says Keri Gans, RDN, nutritionist and author ofThe Small Change Dietfrom New York City.
In addition, one Polish review exhibited that following a vegetarian diet has been shown to lower your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. (6) What’s more? Plant-based eaters often weigh 15 percent less than meat eaters, which could lead to the benefits that result from a decreased incidence of obesity and its related medical problems, according to a review published inNutrients. (7)
More on Diets and Weight Loss
Decreases Your Risk for Heart Disease
A large study presented at an American Heart Association meeting in 2015 found that people who followed a semi-vegetarian (a.k.a. a flexitarian) diet had a lower risk of heart disease and stroke. In the study, the researchers followed more than 450,000 Europeans for 10 years and found that the participants who consumed at least 70 percent of food coming from plant sources (called “most pro-vegetarian”), had a 20-percent lower risk of dying from heart disease, compared to those who ate less plant-based foods (called “ least pro-vegetarian”). The researchers concluded that substituting some of the meat in your diet with vegetables may be a simple way to lower the risk of heart-related death. However, it’s worth noting that this study was not published in a peer-reviewed journal, and therefore credibility is limited. (8)
It’s also worth noting that one case report and literature review published in theJournal of Geriatric Cardiologyfound that plant-based diets may be effective in preventing and treating heart failure. (9)
Contributes to a Longer Life
Research also suggests that Flexitarians may live about 3.6 years longer than their carnivorous counterparts, likely as a result of the reduced risk of disease. (7) Meanwhile, a study of over half a million people published inArchives of Internal Medicine found that red and processed meat intakes were associated with modest increases in total death rates, death by cancer, and death by heart disease. (10)
Reduces Your Carbon Footprint
An under-recognized benefit of going flexitarian is its benefit to our planet, says Sharon Palmer, RDN, “The Plant-Powered Dietitian,” who’s based in Los Angeles, California. Palmer suggests
eating less meat (and replacing it with more whole-plant foods, such as beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds) can help reduce your carbon footprint. In fact, research suggests the agriculture and livestock industry are the third-largest generator of greenhouse gases, right behind transportation and fossil fuels. (11)
Is Easy to Follow
The other major advantage of going Flexitarian is the diet's straightforwardness and flexibility, says Blatner, which increases the chances that the diet would become a long term lifestyle.
Video: What is flexitarian? Why I believe in a flexitarian diet
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