• Kate

Best Diets of 2020 - Flexitarian Diet

Recently, I was asked to comment on the US News & World Reports Best Diet 2020 rankings for Fit & Well Magazine, and which diet I thought was the “best” in terms of overall health.

To be rated top, a diet had to be easy to follow, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against type 2 diabetes and heart disease. There were some diets on the list that most people I have asked have never heard of, and other diets they had heard of, but weren’t sure what they actually entailed. So, I decided over the next few weekly blogs to run through the top three diets, and also cover the two diets that came bottom out of the 35 diets and you may wish to give a wide berth!

In last week's blog, I discussed The Mediterranean Diet, which was awarded first place in the US News & World Report rankings for Best Diet 2020. Second place was a tie between the Flexitarian Diet and the DASH Diet, so in this week's blog I am going to discuss the Flexitarian Diet, which is one of my preferred eating approaches for overall health, in combination with Time-restricted Feeding (TRF), which is an intermittent fasting dietary approach (I will be covering this in a later blog).

The Flexitarian Diet is a simple combination of two words that encompass this way of eating: flexible and vegetarian. You don't have to eliminate meat completely to reap the health benefits associated with vegetarianism, but instead adopt a vegetarian approach for most of the time. Good news though if you do enjoy meat, you can still indulge in a burger or steak now and again. But by eating more plant-based foods and less meat, evidence suggests you will lose weight and improve your overall health, by reducing your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

The Flexitarian Diet was awarded second place in the US News & World Report rankings for Best Diet 2020 and achieved the following rankings:

Becoming a flexitarian is about adding five food groups to your diet – not taking any away. These are: the "new meat" (non-meat proteins like beans, peas or eggs), fruits and vegetables wholegrains, dairy, and spices.

Will the Flexitarian Diet help you lose weight?

It is likely that, yes, you will lose weight following the Flexitarian Diet. Research shows vegetarians tend to eat less calories and also weigh less than meat-eaters. If you focus on the plant-based element of this diet – eating lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains – you'll likely feel full on less calories than you're normally used to. With this calorie deficit and moderate physical activity, you're very likely to lose weight and body fat.

Below are several studies, which consider weight loss in vegetarians and the Flexitarian Diet:

  • According to a review of 87 previous studies, published in Nutrition Reviews in 2006, vegetarians weigh about 15% less than meat eaters. The obesity rate among vegetarians ranges from 0% to 6%, according to the study authors, and the body weight of both male and female vegetarians is, on average, 3% to 20% lower than that of meat-eaters.

  • A six-year study of 38,000 adults,published in the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders in 2003, found that even semi-vegetarians (flexitarians) tend to weigh less than meat eaters do.

  • Additionally, researchers reviewed data from 25 papers published between 2000 and 2016, which evaluated a semi-vegetarian diet. The analysis included epidemiological studies, randomised controlled trials (RCTs), and almost half focused on body weight. Their findings, published in 2017, indicated that participants’ body mass index (BMI) was greatest when following a meat-eating diet, lower while following a semi-vegetarian diet, and lowest while following a strictly vegetarian diet.

The cost of following the Flexitarian Diet should be reasonable, as no expensive ingredients are required, thus food shopping shouldn't cost more than it normally does. Also, by not eating meat as regularly, this will help to reduce the bill. You can also keep cost to the minimum by buying fruit and veg that are in season.

In next week’s blog, I will bring you the diet that came in joint second place - the DASH Diet!

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