What Is the Flexitarian Diet?

Have you heard of the flexitarian diet? It's a model that has become quite fashionable because of its positive impact on health.
What Is the Flexitarian Diet?

Last update: 07 January, 2021

The flexitarian diet is a dietary model that has the foundations of a vegan diet, but it has a greater variety. This guideline is based on the possibility of mainly eating vegetables during the week and including animal products on special occasions or on the weekends. However, the goal is to try and minimize animal suffering.

This model proposes eating eggs and dairy products and sometimes fish. Then, it saves meat for specific moments and celebrations. It advocates the consumption of organic, environmentally friendly products. Also, it’s a diet that meets nutritional requirements, while also taking care of the environment.

The flexitarian diet, a sustainable model

One of the characteristics of the flexitarian diet is that it proposes a higher protein intake of high biological value than the strict vegan diet. These nutrients are important for proper muscle health, as stated by research in the journal Nutrients. Therefore, getting enough protein helps prevent problems related to lean mass, such as sarcopenia.

Despite the fact that most of the protein in the flexitarian diet comes from plant sources, it can also come from eggs and dairy. This way, there’s a continuous supply of amino acids that are easy to digest. For this reason, this isn’t a risky diet in terms of protein intake, unlike the vegan diet.

A greater supply of vitamin B12

Salad with broccoli and egg.

Another drawback of a strict vegan diet is the need to supplement it with vitamin B12 since this nutrient is only found in animal products. A vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anemia in the medium term, according to a study in the journal American Family Physician.

However, the flexitarian diet has enough of this nutrient, since it contains foods such as eggs, with high amounts of vitamin B12. On the other hand, this diet has the risk of not getting enough vitamin D, since there’s not a lot of it at the dietary level.

The best way to consume this vitamin is to get enough sunlight. Otherwise, even if you eat more eggs and oily fish, you might need supplements. Through the production of vitamin D, you can improve your bone health and reduce inflammation.

A respectful model

Despite its differences from the traditional vegan diet, the flexitarian diet also focuses on the ethical component when it comes to fighting for sustainable consumption. In this model, the priority is always to eat local and fresh foods.

Likewise, it’s committed to eating less ultra-processed foods, since they can worsen your health because of their sugars, trans fats, and additives. In addition, local trade is always the priority, which helps local food producers.

In this sense, it’s always committed to organic foodgrown with the least amount of pesticides and chemicals possible. Although it sacrifices the “good appearance” of food, it’s good for your body. This is because, without additives, it helps improve the functioning of the body’s physiological systems.

Chicken and vegetables on a plate.

Improve health with the flexitarian diet

It’s clear that the flexitarian diet helps improve the health of those who follow it. Nevertheless, approaching it correctly is necessary to make sure you get enough quality protein.

At the same time, you should monitor vitamin D levels to avoid deficiencies. As we mentioned earlier, you might need to take supplements.

There are several advantages to following this diet, but it can also be more expensive. Accessing organic products or eating local produce usually costs more. Since you’re avoiding production chains, there’s less price adjustment. While you can’t find food as cheap as in the supermarket, the extra effort may be worth it.

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  • Langan RC., Goodbred AJ., Vitamin B12 deficiency: recognition and management. Am Fam Physician, 2017. 96 (6): 384-389.
  • Landi F., Calvani R., Tosato M., Martone AM., Ortolani E., et al., Protein intake and muscle health in old age: from biological plausibility to clinical evidence. Nutrients, 2016.