Ranked by health.usnews.com as the number 8 highest ranked diet for your health, why not give a shot to the latest fad that also has the possibility of allowing us to feed an extra 4 billion people.
What is a Flexitarian?
Flexitarian or, “flexible vegetarian”, is a mainly plant based diet. Unlike most diets, the plus side allows individuals “cheat days” to indulge in a juicy steak or Sunday morning bacon. But in reality a flexitarian diet is more than a cheating vegetarian. It’s the conscious decision to reduce meat consumption for environmental and health benefits. Simply, the diet calls for smaller amounts of, probably higher standard, meat, fish and dairy on a less frequent basis (foe.co.uk).
Reducing meat consumption by any amount is beneficial to human health. Harvard Health generalizes that a vegetarian consumes less saturated fat and cholesterol, while consuming more vitamins C and E, dietary fiber and other valuable nutrients. (Harvard Health a Harvard Medical School publication). As a result, Vegheads typically have lower LDL (or bad) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and lower BMI (body mass index). Additionally, US News Health claims carnivorous consumers weigh 15% more than a plant-based consumer. (http://health.usnews.com/best-diet/flexitarian-diet).
In further convincing evidence, reducing global greenhouse gasses, and conserving resources is an enticing perk to making the flex-veg change. It’s no mystery that our rapid population growth is inducing greater environmental challenges from food and water security to pollution and land degradation. And the fact is, globally 1.7 billion animals are occupying over 75% of current agricultural land (livestock production) AND are responsible for 18% of TOTAL greenhouse gas emissions (including feed and transportation). In fact, its reported that if there is a 20 percent decrease in meat consumption nationwide, it would be the same energy saving impact as every American driver switching from a standard car to a Prius. Rarely do you see individual choices contributing to saving the planet, but here the statistics undeniably result in just that.
Reducing meat consumption also has the opportunity to increase water security. It is crazy that anywhere from 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water are used to produce a single pound of beef. On the other hand, a meat alternative, soy tofu, requires 220 gallons of water per pound which is produced in California. With the state of the California drought, reducing meat consumption and substituting with tofu or other plant-based food would be a responsible move and allow more water to be used elsewhere.
The greatest part about this revolutionary diet is that there is an infinite number of ways to self-proclaim “flexer”. Some noted diets consist of
- Meat and dairy free before 6pm
- Meat free during the week : only eating meat at the weekends
- Using meat as a flavor, not the base of the meal
- Only eating meat dishes 3 times a week
The idea is adding five main food groups to your diet rather than the counter of eliminating food groups. The breakdown of the additional food groups:
- “New meat” (tofu, beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, ect.)
- Fruits and veggies
- Whole grains
- Sugars and spices
With a conscious effort to reduce meat consumption and adding the foods listed above everyone can do their part in conserving our planet by pledging to be a flexitarian.