The Flexitarian Diet: Healthier with Less Restrictions

The Flexitarian Diet: Healthier with Fewer Restrictions

Becoming a nutritionist has been transformational for my body and soul (and the environment). It had a beneficial effect on my entire life. I have been introduced to healthy living and eating since a very young age, but understanding the concept of healthy living and practising it on a regular basis was a whole new story.

I have recently realised that I don’t even remember the exact moment when I decided to apply for a nutrition degree. I was always fascinated by science and dreamt about becoming a doctor.

However, did I make the right decision by choosing nutrition over medicine?

One-hundred per cent!!!

Modern or contemporary medicine is life-saving and inevitable in today’s world. It has saved millions of lives and prevented many detrimental outbreaks, but considering 80%  of the diseases are diet-related, why are doctors prescribing pills for diseases that can be prevented, or even cured by healthy eating and reduction in a sedentary lifestyle.

Right?

So becoming a nutritionist that specialises in digestive health gives me a chance to help people who suffered for years due to continues consumption of the Western diet along with Western medicine.

Vegan boom

With a huge veganism boom in 2018, we are becoming more health conscious! Many people go vegan for different reasons. Either, they want to become healthier or they are fed up of the vast amount of cruel animal slaughtering worldwide. And of course, some convert for both reasons.

Veganism is great…short-term!

Many of my clients begin with a vegan diet, especially if their microbiome testing results don’t look so great.  The vegan diet is very clean and focuses only on the good and avoiding all the inflammatory foods that can truly cause havoc in our gut, especially when being consumed in large amounts (a.k.a Western diet).

But in my opinion, the veganism boom does more for food company profits than the planet. The carbon cost of industrial cropping is tremendous: by some estimates, up to 20 per cent of the world’s CO2 output is a direct result of ploughing.

And it seems that some famous vegans are also becoming aware that having such a restrictive diet may not be so beneficial for their health after all. A 28-year-old influencer Yovana Mendoza, also known as Rawvana online, has been a vegan for 6 years and has recently been caught eating fish. With 1.3 million Instagram followers, Rawvana may not have done the right choice about not informing them about her dietary changes, but in her video, she explained the reason she introduced fish back into her diet was because of serious health concerns.

So is veganism the only option?

No!

If I could get a dollar for every time I’ve been asked if I am a vegan, I’ll be very close to becoming a millionaire, for sure. I respect every vegan. It is everyone’s choice to eat what they want, but my approach to healthy living and reducing my carbon footprint is a little less restrictive.

I have been following a flexitarian diet all my life. Growing up in Slovakia meat was a luxury, at least for my family. Our diet looked pretty much like today’s flexitarian diet looks like. Vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and occasional meat dish. We grew most our vegetables and fruits, fermented our own foods from sauerkraut to pickles and cooked at home.

What does flexitarian mean?

I like to look at flexitarianism as less restrictive veganism. Your focus is still on plant-based meals just without completely eliminating meat and other animal products. It is all about adding new foods and variety to your diet as opposed to excluding any, which can be extremely beneficial for your health.

Focusing on variety is essential. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, plant-based protein and meat products consumed in moderation are highly beneficial for your digestive health and microbiome. Considering there are over 100 trillion bacterial cells living in your gut that we have to feed, giving them a large variety to choose from does make a lot of sense.

Diets high in soluble fibre, found in lentils and beans, have also been found to reduce high cholesterol. Other foods such as nuts and seeds, including linseeds (flaxseeds), chia seeds, walnuts, pine nuts, sesame seeds, brazil nut and sunflower seeds are high in the heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats which help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels and provide us with the essential fatty acids that many of us are deficient in.

In 2017, a review article reviewed 25 studies focusing on flexitarian diets and the health benefits they can provide to individuals.

“A total of 25 studies were located with 12 focusing on body weight and diet quality. There was emerging evidence suggestive of benefits for body weight, improved markers of metabolic health, blood pressure, and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. A flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diet (SVD) may also have a role to play in the treatment of inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease. ”

Emma J. Derbyshire

How is a flexitarian diet different from veganism or vegetarianism?

The key is really found in the word itself. The word flexitarian is a blend of two words, flexible and vegetarian. Both vegan and vegetarian diets can, for some, be quite restrictive and complicated to follow. It is becoming more common for most restaurants to have a vegan option in their menu, but when all your friends are proud omnivores, the struggle can be real.

The idea that nothing is off-limits gives you more freedom to choose from a variety of foods and can be much less impactful on your social and personal life. The longer I follow a flexitarian diet the more I am being aware of the endless benefits it has for my body and soul. I love having a choice, but being flexible with my diet provided me with plenty of health benefits and better impact on the environment.

Over time, you get into a routine that your body naturally adjusts to, and it begins to work like a well-oiled machine.