There are many eating plans to choose from, such as the DASH Diet, Mediterranean Diet, Flexitarian Diet, plant-based diet, and vegan Diet. Nonetheless, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Any eating plan is successful only when you follow it regularly. Plus, each individual requirements are different according to their body type and food preferences.
If you are inclined to eat more plant-based diets, the Flexitarian or plant-based diet is an excellent option to choose from.
Let us discuss these diet plans in detail.
What is the Flexitarian Diet?
Flexitarian is a combination of the words “flexible” and “vegetarian.” As the name suggests, it is flexible as it does not have any rigid rules to follow. In this diet, you eat plant-based diets most of the time but are also allowed to occasionally eat meat and other animal food.
For example, you want to eat a vegetarian diet but can’t forgo meat and other animal food. This diet plan is a good option for you to follow. This diet focuses on adding more plant food than restricting any food items. It is like a semi-vegetarian diet where you follow a vegetarian diet plan for most of the weekly meals and allow eating meet in small quantities,
This diet plan includes food items like fruits, vegetables, whole grains (brown rice, oats, barley, quinoa), plant proteins (beans such as black, kidney or navy, edamame, chickpeas, lentils, tofu), nuts, oil, eggs, and, dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt or dairy alternatives).
It limits the consumption of meat and poultry (lean cuts of beef, chicken breast, turkey breast), fish (salmon, tilapia, cod, shrimp), and food items with added sugar or refined carbohydrates.
What is a Plant-Based Diet?
Plant-based diet primarily consists of food items from plant origins like vegetables, fruits, grains, pulses, nuts, etc. The diet restricts animal source food except for dairy and eggs.
Plant-based food contains many essential nutrients, minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals , which offer many health benefits, such as it protects against cancer, diabetes, and other health conditions.
Many people are switching towards a plant-based diet and avoiding animal-based food items.
You can choose any plant-based diets basis the below categorization.
Vegetarians or Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet: The diet plan includes dairy food and eggs but no meat, poultry, or seafood.
Lacto Vegetarian Diet: It includes dairy products but no eggs or any other animal-based food
Ovo-Vegetarian Diet: It includes eggs but no dairy products and other animal foods,
Vegan Diet: No animal products at all, including honey, dairy, and eggs
Pescatarians Diet: Includes fish and seafood but restricts meat and poultry.
Pollotarian Diet: Includes poultry and fowl but restricts red meat, fish, and seafood
Semi-Vegetarians or Flexitarians: The diet includes eating meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products in moderate quantities.
Flexitarian Diet Vs. Plant-Based Diet Differences
Flexitarian Diet is a part of a plant-based diet that includes more food items derived from plants and eating animal source food in moderation.
The plant-based diet only includes food items originating from plants such as vegetables, fruits, and grains, along with animal source food like milk, cheese, other dairy products, and eggs. Meat, fish, and other animal food are restricted in a plant-based diet.
Flexitarian Diet Pros and Cons
This diet has many benefits as you can tailor-make it as per your needs and taste preferences. However, it does have some drawbacks.
Let us first explore some of the benefits offered.
You Can Meet Your Nutrition Needs
As the diet includes items from all food groups, you will meet your nutrition needs. This diet balances the overall nutrient requirement for your body.
For example, people who follow vegetarians’ or vegans’ diets may not fulfill Vit B12 or omega 3 fatty acid requirements.
Flexibility in Food Choices
This diet easily accommodates personal preferences as all food items are included in the Flexitarian diet. Hence you can choose food items as per your taste and goals. You do not have to restrict yourself from eating any food item you love.
Helps with Weight Loss
Research study shows that a semi-vegetarian diet helps in reducing weight. It reduces obesity in an individual.
Reduces Risk of Diabetes
A Flexitarian diet reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. Research studies show that a semi-vegetarian diet lowers the risk compared to a non-vegetarian diet.
Easy to Follow
A Flexitarian diet is sustainable and easy to follow. It is more flexible, and you can choose any food item as per your requirement and taste.
There are a couple of disadvantages to following a Flexitarian diet.
Difficult for hardcore non-vegetarians
Following this diet will be difficult for you if you prefer meat daily.
Research study has shown that semi-vegetarians have high chances of iron deficiency, low iron levels, and anemia. Therefore, you will have to choose plant-food items rich in iron like soy, lentils, beans, etc., to meet the iron requirement.
Plant-Based Diet Pros and Cons
A plant-based diet offers many benefits and also has some drawbacks.
There are many health benefits offered by this diet.
Support Your Immune System
The plant provides many essential nutrients required by the body. Vitamins, minerals, and Antioxidants from the plant help to maintain the balance of your body and keep your cells healthy. This strengthens your immune system to function at its best and fight against germs and infections .
Plant-based food helps to reduce inflammation in your body . Antioxidants from the plant help protect your body from viruses and bacteria.
Helps to Maintain Healthy Weight
Sticking to a plant-based diet allows letting go of food items that result in weight gain.
Improves Your Gut Health
Plant food items are rich in fiber. Fiber helps to reduce cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels. It is also good for bowel movements.
Good gut health helps absorb the nutrients from food into your body, support the immune system, and reduce inflammation.
Natural Source for Antioxidants
Plant food such as dark leafy vegetables and grains and nuts are rich in antioxidants, providing many health benefits to the body.
Antioxidants also help to stop free radicals from causing cell damage. Thus helping to fight against any skin problem or a chronic problem like cancer.
Iron and Vitamins Deficiency
Research study has shown that vegetarians have high chances of iron deficiency, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. Therefore, you will have to choose plant-food items rich in iron and vitamins like soy, lentils, and beans to meet the nutritional requirement.
Flexitarian Diet Vs. Plant-Based Diet: Which is Better?
Both plant-based diets and flexitarian diets offer several health benefits. Each diet plan has its pros and cons. The diet which you can follow regularly is better.
Flexitarian Diet Vs. Plant-Based Diet Meal Plan
There are various options you can choose from in both diets. You can make your daily plan basis your liking of food items. The table below can help you plan all food items that you can include in your diet plan.
|Flexitarian Diet||Plant-Based Diet|
|Fish and Sea Food||Yes*||No|
|Nuts and Seeds||Yes||Yes|
Bottomline: Flexitarian vs. Plant-Based Diet
Flexitarian and a plant-based diet are both beneficial for your health. A Flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diet encourages eating more plant-based food and less meat and other animal food. A Flexitarian diet is more appealing and easier to follow, as there are no strict rules. You can eat your favorite hamburger once in a while in this diet plan.
Meanwhile, a plant-based meal emphasizes plant-origin food but includes dairy products and eggs.
Some of the health benefits these diets offer are reducing heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Derbyshire, E. J. (2017). Flexitarian Diets and Health: A Review of the Evidence-Based Literature. Frontiers in Nutrition, 3. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2016.00055
- Wong, C. S., Lim, C. W., Mohammed, H. I., Liew, K. Y., Tham, C. L., Tan, J. W., & Chee, H. Y. (2022). Current Perspective of Plant-Based Diets on Communicable Diseases Caused by Viruses: A Mini Review. Frontiers in nutrition, 9, 786972. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2022.786972
- Menzel, J., Jabakhanji, A., Biemann, R., Mai, K., Abraham, K., & Weikert, C. (2020). Systematic review and meta-analysis of the associations of vegan and vegetarian diets with inflammatory biomarkers. Scientific reports, 10(1), 21736. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-78426-8