The thought of divorcing meat, poultry and seafood is daunting for many. Veganism isn’t quite the answer to losing weight, nor is a fad diet. Perhaps it’s time to give the increasingly popular flexitarian diet a chance. It’s a practice wherein you’re primarily a vegetarian, but include meat and fish in moderation.
What makes it attractive
Given the bird flu scare, because of which people are ‘chickening out’ of consuming the animal, the flexitarian diet offers a middle path. It combines the best of both worlds—vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Ranked as the best diet by the US News & World Report, 2019, it is pretty straightforward to follow too.
The emphasis is on locally procured and freshly picked produce. “You don’t have to restrict yourself from any food group, but just include more plant-based foods, consuming meat in moderation. It doesn’t extend fussy rules over your calorific intake. It’s about being inclusive rather than restrictive. The result is a high-fibre intake, limited animal fat consumption, restricted consumption of high-calorie and processed foods,” says Mumbai-based Pooja Bhargava, health coach, holistic nutritionist and fitness expert. It urges dieters to limit sugar and boost the benefits with regular exercise.
It’s a boon for the diabetics. “Being low on the glycemic index and high in fibre, the flexitarian diet consists of healthy fats like monounsaturated and saturated fats, keeping insulin levels under check,” says Dr Manoj Kutteri, Wellness Director at Atmantan Wellness Centre, Mulshi, Maharashtra. The diet also guards against breast and prostate cancers, as plant-based, antioxidant-rich foods prevent damage to oxygen levels in your system, according to him.
The diet also eases out pre- and post-menopausal symptoms. “You essentially streamline hormone-induced non-vegetarian food, in addition to sausages and cold cuts rich in saturated fat and salt, thus contributing towards better health parameters,” says Bhargava.
Add to that, the benefits of micronutrients from the plant kingdom that aid heart health too. “The phytonutrients needed for managing blood pressure and cholesterol are brought in. The diet prevents adipose tissue inflammation, a major source of obesity inactivity-related inflammation,” explains Kutteri.
If not done right, the diet may lead to a deficiency of Vitamin B 12, zinc, iron, calcium, according to Delhi-based nutritionist Lovneet Batra. A common affliction for most vegetarians is that food items from the animal kingdom are rich in B12, and iron. “But you’re not at the losing end. Just include leafy greens, whole grains, legumes, pulses, nuts, and seeds to maintain your iron intake.
Make sure to add vitamin B12 supplements, in addition to probiotics for a healthy gut,” she advises. Ensuring that you include different colours of seasonal vegetables is important. Prefer eating half of these raw. “Three servings each of legumes, vegetables, pseudocereals (amaranth, buckwheat or quinoa), nuts and seeds are ideal. Add to this, two seasonal fruits as mid-meals. When adding animal-based products,
go for free-range, grass-fed, and wild-caught varieties,” says Batra.The flexitarian is a lifestyle choice more than anything else. Rather than heaving in discomfort like a trussed-up trout, fork into flexibility.
The new menu
✥ Add protein-rich sources such as lentils, beans, peas, nuts and seeds to your diet
✥ In animal products, have free-range, grass-fed, wild-caught varieties.
✥ Include seasonal fruits as snacks
✥ Include multicoloured fruits and vegetables
✥ Adhere to the ‘two grains meal per day’ anthem
“As part of the flexitarian diet, half of your plate should comprise of home-cooked vegetables, one-fourth whole grain, and the rest should be legumes. Add two seasonal fruits as mid-day meals.” Lovneet Batra, nutritionist, Delhi