Flexitarianism: is it for you?
Flexitarianism (or ‘flexible vegetarianism’) is becoming increasingly popular as a move towards better health without the commitment of going fully vegetarian. The word made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2014, and Whole Foods predicted that it would be one of the top 10 eating trends for 2017. So what exactly is it and why should we be doing it?
Flexitarianism refers to eating a predominantly, but not exclusively, plant based diet. There are no strict rules here – some flexitarians will eat meat or fish on one day of the week while others may avoid meat altogether at home but happily order a steak when dining out. Ideally, a flexitarian also tries to choose foods that cause minimum harm to animals and the environment including organic, free range and ethically sourced produce.
The idea of reducing the amount of meat in the diet has grown in popularity since the McCartney’s launched their ‘Meat Free Mondays’ campaign back in 2009. Since then, the campaign has been supported by high-profile celebrities like Jamie Oliver and Richard Branson, and more and more people seem to be getting on board, with data indicating that average meat consumption in the UK is on the decline.
So how exactly does it benefit health? Well swapping meat for plant based protein such as beans or lentils will reduce the amount of saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol on the plate, while increasing the amount of fibre. Studies have shown significant health benefits of this approach including reducing the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and type2 diabetes.
Flexitarianism can work both ways and we should remember that meat also has nutritional advantages – some flexitarians are former vegetarians who decide to reintroduce a little high-quality meat into their diet due to concerns over protein intake or iron deficiency. It’s all about balance and studying a course on nutrition or having a consultation with a Nutritional Therapist will help you learn how to adapt your diet to your own individual needs.
Flexitarianism is attractive as it gives people a way to improve their health without having to follow strict rules or give up their favourite foods. If you like the concept but struggle when there are no ‘rules’ to follow, make sure you set your own guidelines and stick to them to avoid going off track.