What is flexible eating?
Flexitarians eat mostly and mostly vegetarian food, but eat meat, fish and other animal products when the opportunity arises and at their discretion. The word is a reinvention of “flexibility” and “vegetarian”. Such flexible vegetarians are not to be understood as weak-willed vegetarians who indulge in meat from time to time when it suits them. Flexitarians make the conscious decision to significantly reduce their meat consumption. This is accompanied by greater attention to the quality of the meat consumed. The products of intensive farming in degrading and unhealthy conditions are taboo. Most flexitarists attach great importance to organic seals, sustainability and animal welfare. If you eat meat, then it comes from particularly good sources and farming systems.
In Germany they see themselves as flexitarians more than ten percent of the people. A growing awareness in society for good and sustainable production in agriculture and animal husbandry in recent years, greater general environmental awareness and climate-friendly lifestyles are the main reasons for the rapidly growing following of flexitarians. Attention to individual health and profound insights into the sometimes catastrophic conditions of factory farming have made many people think about their meat consumption.
Since the term “flexitarianism” is relatively new, it is important to note that flexible feeding is by no means a new phenomenon. Many people eat mostly vegetarian food for their own reasons and according to their dietary preferences, without identifying themselves as flexitarians or semi-vegetarians. Furthermore, it is still unclear to what extent meat-based diets such as the Mediterranean diet, Nordic diet or DASH diets can be described as flexible diets. It is likely that the group of those who consume little meat and follow a mainly vegetable diet is much larger than previously thought.
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4 reasons for a healthy, flexible diet
1. Health benefits
The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends a maximum of 300-600 grams of meat per week as part of a balanced diet. In Germany, twice as much meat is consumed on average. Flexitarians who consume meat only occasionally sometimes come very close to the DGE’s recommendation. You benefit from all the benefits of a vegetarian diet, plus you can get important vitamins and nutrients from animal foods through the small amounts of meat deliberately chosen in your diet. Vitamin B12, so important for human metabolism, is found only in animal foods. Flexitarians can get enough B12 from a balanced diet with occasional amounts of meat. However, since flexitarians are mainly vegetarians, there are many health benefits associated with plant-based diets. A sufficient amount of dietary fiber can support digestion. At the same time, soluble fiber is particularly good for normal blood sugar levels. Cardiovascular health also benefits from vegetarian diets thanks to stable and healthy blood pressure. The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is also lower.
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2. Live in a more sustainable and climate-friendly way
The annual per capita consumption of meat in Germany in 2020 was 57.33 kilograms. Although there is a clear downward trend in meat consumption – in 1991, for example, the Germans still ate nearly 64 kilograms of meat per capita – we still eat too much meat and sausages. Animals and the environment suffer from our insatiable appetite for meat. The unworthy intensive farming, the sick animals that are prophylactically treated with antibiotics, and the huge agricultural areas used for breeding and feed production leave an ecologically damaging and climate-friendly footprint. The meat industry as it currently works is not sustainable and needs to change. For this to happen, consumer behavior must first change. Because our demand determines the market and the production methods. Flexitarians, who attach great importance to good meat quality, animal welfare and sustainable production, contribute through their purchasing and consumption decisions to making meat production more humane and environmentally sustainable in the future.
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3. The diet is easy to follow
One of the coolest aspects of the flexible diet is how easy it is to follow. There are no bans or clearly defined maximum limits for food of animal origin. The only thing that matters is the thought of reducing meat consumption. How much or little meat you end up eating is entirely up to you. Of course, if meat consumption is reduced as much as possible, the health benefits and positive effects on animal welfare and environmental protection increase. The fitness for daily use of the flexible diet gives the dieter many followers, because the scope of spontaneous dietary decisions is wide. Flexitarians don’t have to worry about not being able to find dishes that suit them in a restaurant. Even invitations to dinner with friends are not an obstacle: those who eat mostly vegetarian food and pay attention to a balanced diet can, as flexible, eat fish and meat occasionally and depending on the occasion.
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4. Just lose weight or maintain your desired weight
Mostly plant-based diets are healthier than diets high in meat. A flexible diet will also pay off on the scales, as it is much easier to maintain your desired weight by filling your stomach with plant-based fiber. Unhealthy binges during sudden cravings can be avoided. The results of the initial study suggest that flexible diets may actually have a positive effect on weight loss and healthy weight control.