A flexible take on vegetarianism, this approach involves a primarily plant-based diet supplemented with occasional protein.

October 13, 2008

Like vegetarians, "flexitarians" eat a primarily plant-baseddiet composed of grains, vegetables, and fruits, but theyoccasionally obtain protein from lean meat, fish, poultry, ordairy. A quarter of Americans fit the description, consumingmeatless meals at least four days a week, according to the AmericanDietetic Association (ADA).

Why it's here to stay:
Flexitarianism is exactly what dietitians, nutritionalresearchers, and public health advocates have been recommending foryears. "It's about eating a varied diet that's low in saturated fatand high in fiber," says Milton Stokes, M.P.H., R.D., chiefdietitian at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City, and an adaspokesperson. Because the emphasis is on produce rather thanprotein, flexitarians are more likely than most Americans to meetthe recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables and thevitamins and minerals they contain.

What it means for you:
Studies show that people who follow this approach to eatinggenerally weigh less and have lower rates of hypertension, heartdisease, diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer. In one largestudy from Tulane University in New Orleans, researchers trackedthe eating habits of more than 9,600 people over a 19-year periodand found those who consumed fruits and vegetables at least threetimes daily lowered their risk of stroke by 42 percent, and theirrisk of cardiovascular disease by 27 percent.

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