Flexitarian diet

By Tom Fortner • Published: February 12th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

You like to eat healthy foods, but draw the line at tofu-burgers. You love a fresh salad, but think topping it off with grilled chicken or tuna makes it all the better.

What niche do you occupy in the nutritional universe?

Some would call you a semi-vegetarian. Or a health-conscious carnivore.

But if such labels seem a bit vague and unwieldy, that may be why a new term, flexitarian, is gaining currency. As this middle-of-the-menu name suggests, flexitarians are people who get most of their calories from vegetables, fruits and whole grains, but who also enjoy fish, poultry and even meat on occasion.

As grateful as flexitarians are to finally have an identity, they’ll be even happier to hear this: A number of studies suggest that people who follow a flexitarian diet experience health benefits comparable to vegetarians. In general, they are healthier, thinner and live longer than their counterparts who have a more conventional meat-and-potatoes diet.

Scientists from Oxford University recently reviewed data from more than half a million people in ten European countries, searching for links between diet, cancer and other chronic diseases. The researchers found minimal health differences between vegetarians and what they termed health-conscious non-vegetarians in overall mortality, blood pressure, stroke and various types of cancer. Those who avoided animal-derived foods did have a slightly lower body mass index and less heart disease.

So the moral of the story is eat that pork chop if you must, but consider rounding it out in a flexitarian diet!