Flexitarian Diet (Science and Research Proven Benefits)
I’ve tried many diets.
From the Ketogenic diet, Paleo, Vegan, to the Filipino diet.
Ok, the Filipino diet is not classified as a type of diet to lose weight. But it is a diet.
The problem with many weight-loss diets is that they are not sustainable.
You can’t enjoy healthy carbs on the Keto diet.
You are deprived of the healthy fats in fish as a 100% vegetarian.
And the Filipino diet is full of yum but can clog your arteries.
There are only 2 diets that I recommend and should make it your way of life. One of them is the Flexitarian diet.
What is a flexitarian diet?
Flexitarian is a form of Vegetarianism with fewer restrictions. Flexitarian is a linguistic blend of flexible and Vegetarian.
A Flexitarian diet emphasizes plants without restricting meat, eggs, or milk. There is no definite amount of meat eaten on the Flexitarian diet, but it should be less than vegetables— way less.
In essence, a Flexitarian has more freedom compared to a vegan.
Who came up with the Flexitarian diet?
I had to dig a little in the Google library and found a book by Dawn Jackson Blatner called “The Flexitarian Diet.” You can find her blog and shop here.
I haven’t read the book, but it has excellent reviews on Amazon.
From the Amazon reviews, this is the gist of the book, I think.
The book contains plenty of educational information but less practical applications.
I believe Dawn just wanted to inform the reader of the fundamentals of the Flexitarian diet.
Because once you know the basics and with knowledge, you can turn any recipe into a Flexitarian diet recipe.
And when you are out in the world, you’ll know what fast food to eat when nothing else is available.
Now, it’s best if you buy the book because I haven’t, and I’m just going by what people wrote on Amazon. However, it scores ⅘ stars from 229 customers’ ratings.
The word Flexitarian Diet made it to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary in 2012.
“…Flexitarian was listed in the mainstream Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary in 2012…”[source: Flexitarian terminology]
How does the Flexitarian diet work?
We as human beings, we overcomplicate things.
Just look at these definitions from Scientists and Doctors.
Let’s not try to make the Flexitarian diet complicated anymore as it needs to be.
The Flexitarian diet consists of a significant amount of vegetables, whole grains, and little to no other food groups. That’s it.
While on the Flexitarian diet, your main focus is vegetables, other types of food such as meat, dairy, or eggs come second. And avoid junk food such as crisps, cheesecakes, and ice creams.
Although the name suggests flexibility, it’s not that soft when it comes to junk food, which makes sense if you want to live a healthier longer life.
Studies have shown that people benefited from the Flexitarian diet. The following are just some of the benefits:
- Lower BMI
- Low cholesterol levels
- Decreased cancer risks
- Lower metabolic disorders
[source: Flexitarian diet]
Bodyweight low BMI
All the studies on Vegetarianism returned low BMI results for every practitioner compared to nonvegetarians.
A study of women after menopause on Flexitorian or Semi-vegetarian diet for 20 years had lower BMI and percentage of body fat compared to nonvegetarians.
[source: Comparative Study of Serum Leptin and Insulin Resistance Levels Between Korean Postmenopausal Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian Women]
More than 70,000 participants in an Adventist Health Study were comparing semi-vegetarian, and none was practicing vegetarian saw that semi-vegetarians had lower BMI.
[source: Nutrient Profiles of Vegetarian and Non vegetarian Dietary Patterns]
Studies found that there are fewer cases of cancer in vegetarians compared to nonvegetarians.
There were 96,000 adults that showed that vegans had a significantly lower risk of breast cancer than vegetarians and nonvegetarians.
[source: Vegetarian dietary patterns and the risk of breast cancer in a low-risk population]
Diabetes and metabolic syndrome
In one study, women after menopause following a semi-vegetarian diet for more than 20 years had lower glucose and insulin levels.
[source: Comparative Study of Serum Leptin and Insulin Resistance Levels Between Korean Postmenopausal Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian Women]
In India, 156,317 adults found that semi-vegetarians reduced the likelihood of diabetes compared to nonvegetarians.
[source: Type of Vegetarian Diet, Obesity and Diabetes in Adult Indian Population]
Adventist Health found that there are lower Diabetes cases in semi-vegetarians (0.92%) compared with 2.1% in nonvegetarians.
[source: Vegetarian Diets and Incidence of Diabetes in the Adventist Health Study-2]
There’s another study that in nonvegetarians, metabolic syndrome occurrences were high at 39.7% and 2% lower for semi-vegetarians. In the same study, diabetic cases in semi-vegetarians were 2.8% lower than nonvegetarians.
[source: Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes]
Researches are coming out in favor of the Flexitarian diet against diseases such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Chrons disease.
- Lifestyle-related Disease in Crohn’s Disease: Relapse Prevention by a Semi-Vegetarian Diet
- High Amount of Dietary Fiber Not Harmful but Favorable for Crohn Disease]
The Flexitarian diet should also be of interest to males because the study shows low mortality rates in men.
[source: Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and Mortality in Adventist Health Study 2]
Types of flexitarians or semi-vegetarians
There seems to be confusion when it comes to being called a vegetarian. A vegetarian eats plant-based foods solely.
A plant-based diet or pure vegetarian does not include cheese, dairy, eggs, fish, kangaroo, or animal meat.
The following are types of flexitarians:
The macrobiotic diet is plant-based, and it may include occasional fish or other seafood. Cereals, especially brown rice, are the staples of the macrobiotic diet, supplemented by small amounts of vegetables and occasionally fish. Some advocates of the macrobiotic diet promote a vegetarian (or nearly vegan) approach as the ideal.
A pescetarian eats fish and shellfish and may or may not consume dairy and eggs. The consumption of meat, such as poultry, mammal meat, and the flesh of any other animal, is abstained.
In the past, some vegetarian societies used to consider it to be a less-strict type of Vegetarianism merely. This is no longer the case now that modern-day vegetarian societies object to the consumption of all fish and shellfish.
A pollotarian eats chicken and other poultry and usually eggs as well. A pollotarian would not consume seafood, the meat from mammals, or other animals often for environmental, health, or food justice reasons.
This term is the most recently coined term for a semi-vegetarian diet pattern; it’s not mainly as well established and accepted in the English vocabulary.
The well-known term pescetarian may have inspired the structure of the word pollotarian. It is a blend of a word borrowed from Italian, possibly pollame, and the English word vegetarian.
The Kangatarian diet is a new practice of following a diet that excludes meat except for kangaroo on environmental and ethical grounds.
Several Australian newspapers wrote about the neologism “kangatarianism” in February 2010.
Describing eating a vegetarian diet with the addition of kangaroo meat as a choice with environmental benefits because indigenous wild kangaroos require no extra land or water for farming and produce little methane (a greenhouse gas), unlike cattle or other farm animals.
[source: Semi-vegetarian varieties]
Being a flexitarian is excellent because you are not limited to vegetables, on those occasions where there are no options but meat.
One craving I have on a flexitarian diet is burgers, namely, the whopper from Burger King.
Although it doesn’t quell my craving for a whopper, there are vegetarian burgers in fast food chains like Oporto and Hungry Jacks (Burger King).
Although they call them veggie burgers and market it for vegans, they are anything but. The cheese in the burger is not plant-based. How about the mayo? How about the sauce? Nope, not plant-based either.
Do these vegetarian burgers replace the real taste of a meat burger? Sadly, no, it does not. Not for me, anyway. But it does the job.
For pure vegans, it’s essential to know that veggie burgers at fast food joints are not 100% vegan friendly.
However, for flexitarians, no problems here. There is, however, the question of being wholesome.
What chemicals are in the cheese, bun, mayo, or even the binding agents that hold the patty together? Salt? Sugar?
According to the CDC, the new US guidelines on salt in 2015 – 2020 is less than 2,300 mg.
[source: Sodium and dietary guidelines]
Just have a look at the sodium included in the vegan burger from Hungry Jacks.
A vegan whopper from Hungry Jacks (Burger King) contains a whopping 1,340 mg of salt. That’s over half a teaspoon of salt. Eat another, and you are way over your daily sodium limit of 2,300 mg. And you still have to eat dinner and bite on snacks.
If you don’t choose the right food to eat, you could be wreaking havoc to your body.
There are many snacks you can find for flexitarians. This is what makes flexitarianism easy to adhere to. In contrast, a vegetarian will have a hard time looking for food.
When you look for flexitarian snacks, think wholesome plant-based produce first. Peanuts, corn, apples are good examples of healthy food.
Then you might want to think about wholegrain crackers as snacks on the flexitarian diet.
Everything else like crisps, cheesecakes, ice creams, and all the bad stuff is a no-no.
My type of flexitarian snacks contains protein. I usually make lentil hummus and pair it with a slice of wholemeal bread or if I have time, a piece of roti.
Lentils pack a punch of protein, and it tastes great when you make it into a hummus. Try the recipe below; you might love it.
Hummus Lentils recipe
This recipe is pretty easy, got it from Bosh.tv. Below is the video and their youtube channel.
1 cup dried red lentils (200g)
2 garlic cloves
3 tbsp tahini
1 tsp smoked paprika
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the lentils and cook them to perfection. It usually takes less than 30 minutes to cook a cup of lentils.
When the lentils are soft, strain the lentils to get rid of excess water. Leave them to cool to room temperature.
Peel the garlic and give it a rough chop-chop. Roll the lemon on a flat surface to soften it a little. You get more juice out of it when you do this. Squeeze the lemon into a blender.
Add the garlic, tahini, paprika, olive oil, and lentils in the blender. Blitz the blender. Keep blitzing until it turns into a paste-like consistency.
Taste the hummus and season to taste. And that’s it! Enjoy your protein-packed flexitarian snack.
From keto to a form of Vegetarianism, I was keen on the Ketogenic diet for quite some time and happily advocated it for years. I did lose 33 pounds in 3 months without exercise, calorie counting, and no hunger pangs.
However, after careful consideration of plants’ great benefit, the possible harmful effects of meat, and the meat industries’ poorly regulated animal living conditions, I turned to a form of Vegetarianism— Flexitarianism.
After careful examination of the type of food available on the vegetarian diet, my first question was, “how do I build muscle?”
The amount of protein in vegetarian food is not enough to sustain a body’s muscle growth. Compared to meat-loving diets, the protein in vegetables is at the low spectrum. For muscles to grow, your body needs at least 1.6x grams of your body weight in kg.
“To maximize muscle protein accretion with resistance exercise, daily protein intakes should be ~1.6 g/kg/day and up to 2.2 g/kg/day.”[source: Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training]
How do we get enough protein in our diet, so our muscles grow as vegetarians or flexitarian?
Well, for vegetarians, it’s challenging but possible. Vegetarians may need supplementations to provide protein boost.
Flexitarians, on the other hand, have an easier time coming by proteins. For example, a flexitarian is allowed to eat meat. However, as a flexitarian, you should always minimize the amount of meat you eat.
There is also cheese, which can add more protein to your diet. A Flexitarian can also have eggs on occasion.
For both vegetarian bodybuilding and Flexitarian bodybuilding, it’s crucial to meet the recommended protein intake. Meeting this requirement can be impossible without adequate supplementation.
Losing weight on the flexitarian diet
I am on the Flexitarian diet for about a month now, and I can see the benefits.
Losing weight on the Flexitarian diet is achievable. The types of food that I eat are low in calories, and you can get full quickly.
I eat a lot of fibrous vegetables such as asparagus, capsicum, beans, lentils, quinoa, and oats.
These vegetables, legumes are considered low gi foods. Studies comparing high gi foods to low gi foods show significant body mass reduction with low gi foods.
[source: Effect of the glycemic index of the diet on weight loss, modulation of satiety, inflammation, and other metabolic risk factors: a randomized controlled trial]
I’ve only started trying to lose weight on the flexitarian diet yesterday. I was in my “bulking” (gain weight) phase.
Honestly, this is only my second day. However, yesterday, I was counting my daily calorie intake. And I felt full at the end of the day with 136 calories to spare on a 1640 calories daily plan.
My protein was at 80 grams, enough to maintain my muscles.
UPDATE: Losing weight on the flexitarian diet
This week is my fourth week on the Flexitarian diet. And I feel amazing! So, far I’ve lost four kilos.
Day by day, I documented my journey. You can watch all the struggles and dramas of trying to lose weight. And, experience the pure joy of losing a mere 200 grams. Click on Healthful Papa‘s YouTube channel. Don’t forget to subscribe.
Flexitarianism is derived from the words flexible and vegetarian. And as the name suggests, it’s not as restrictive as a 100% vegan.
A Flexitarian diet is a vegetarian without other food group restrictions. However, the majority of your overall calories should be from plant-based food.
I’m very well aware of the meat industry’s carbon footprint on the planet. And also the living conditions on farms. It hits you when you see a rotting chicken in a cage crammed with the other 20 chickens.
However, I also don’t have the conviction or compassion of a pure vegetarian. I don’t hold a sign up in front of McDonald’s, saying that meat is bad or vomit by eating a piece of meatballs.
This is why I call myself a flexitarian. I enjoy a little meat, dairy, cheese, and fish now and then.
Now, there are other types of Flexitarian or Semi-vegetarian. Types of Flexitarians are the following:
- Polo vegetarian
- Ovo vegetarian
- Lacto-Ovo vegetarian
The Flexitarian diet is easy to sustain in the long term, and evidence shows excellent results in averting diseases and lowering cancer risks.
It’s important to note that in all the studies, a vegetarian showed better results compared to Semi-vegetarians or Flexitarians.
And if you are male, one study showed that male semi-vegetarians had increased life expectancy.
So, stop your macho BS and consider a plant-based diet for your health.
Oh, and by the way, you can build muscles on a plant-based diet as much as meat lovers.
“I have the metabolism of a sloth and a body that hates putting on muscles. This curse motivated me to study weight loss and nutrition. I want to share my experiences and knowledge to help you achieve your ideal body.”— Christian Tanobey