A flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diet (SVD) is primarily plant-based with the occasional inclusion of animal products. Also known as “flexible vegetarian,” it was created by Dawn Jackson Blatner, a dietitian, with the intention to limit high-calorie, processed food intake. Here are 10 ways how a flexitarian diet can promote weight loss.
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1. Flexitarian Diets Improve Insulin Regulation and Sensitivity
Insulin is a key hormone for weight loss, as it helps regulate blood sugar levels. It tells your body cells to process whatever sugar you eat (like carbs and starch) and convert it into energy.
However, if you eat too much sugar, your body produces unhealthy amounts of insulin, causing your cells to become resistant to its effects. Basically, excess sugar can't be processed and is then stored in the form of fat. It's the root cause of metabolic disorders and subsequent weight gain.
A mostly plant-based flexitarian meal is great because it's not calorie-dense and its fibers do not cause insulin spikes. By improving the body's ability to use sugar, flexitarian diets prevent fat build-up and improve weight loss.
2. Flexitarian Diets Are Higher in Fiber
Flexitarian diets have high-fiber foods that help minimize insulin increases. Low insulin in your body triggers fat burning and causes the body to use ketones as an alternative energy source.
Fiber slows down the rate at which sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream. With fewer spikes in blood sugar levels, you won’t feel as hungry and will overeat less.
Fibers also help regulate your gut microbiome that in turn regulates metabolism, nutrient absorption, and weight management. They also help the growth of two gut bacteria that are directly linked to weight loss, Akkermansia muciniphila and Christensenella minuta (1).
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3. Flexitarian Diets Lead to a Smaller Calorie Intake
Plant-based foods have fewer calories than animal-based food. The fewer calories, the faster you lose weight. If you eat about 500-1000 calories less than what you need, you'll easily see a weight loss of 1-2 pounds.
4. Flexitarian Diets Contain Less Processed Foods
Processed foods are usually calorie-dense and nutritionally empty. This results in a surge of blood sugar and insulin leading to fat and weight gain. A flexitarian diet doesn’t include highly processed food. Instead, it has foods that are low in calories and nutritionally rich. It lowers the insulin surge, which supports fat-burning and weight loss.
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5. Flexitarian Diets Prevent Snacking
The high fiber in flexitarian food keeps you full for a long time, making you want to snack less on junk foods. This reduces your total calorie intake and doesn’t contribute to fat creation. Junk food is replete with refined flour and sugar that converts directly into fat, leading to weight gain.
6. Flexitarian Diets Contain Less Added and Artificial Sugar
Packaged and processed foods contain loads of artificial sugar that should usually be avoided. Flexitarian food comprises mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains that have limited added sugar.
With this diet, insulin and blood sugar levels are better regulated. With less produced fat, your body becomes leaner. And as your body receives less sugar, it's forced to burn fat for energy and will lose weight.
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7. Flexitarian Diets Increase Fat Metabolism
Fat metabolism involves the synthesis of and breaking down of fats to produce energy. It's in a constant state of dynamic equilibrium. However, most people run on stored sugar and don't tap into their fat reserves.
As mentioned above, a flexitarian diet keeps your insulin low. This causes your body to start tapping into your fat reserve. As more and more fat gets broken down for energy, you'll lose more and more weight.
8. Flexitarian Diets Reduce Hunger Pangs
A study was conducted on the effect of dietary fiber, inulin, on satiety. They fed mice inulin-rich food and confirmed that they ate less and gained less weight (2).
Fiber can’t be digested by the body, so when it reaches your large intestine, it's broken down by gut bacteria and releases acetate. Once it's released, acetate is taken to the brain where it tells the body to stop eating.
By sticking to a flexitarian diet with high fiber content, you'll end up eating less food and less frequently. This will help you lose those few extra pounds.
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9. Flexitarian Diets Can Reduce Binging
Since a flexitarian diet helps lower your food cravings, you'll stop binging on processed foods and pave the way for healthy weight loss.
The extra protein in flexitarian food can also increase post-meal satiety. Proteins increase the release of peptide YY, a hormone produced in the small intestine. Also known as the satiety hormone, it helps reduce your appetite. Protein simultaneously reduces the presence of hunger hormones.
10. Flexitarian Diets Lead to More Calorie Burn
Protein increases thermogenesis, a metabolic process that burns calories to generate body heat. Since a flexitarian diet allows you to eat animal protein once in a while, your protein intake would be higher than when compared to purely plant-based diets. This in turn will help you lose more weight.
Food for Thought
A plant-based diet is a great option for healthy living. Flexitarian diets are especially popular since they let you eat meats, making them accessible to most people. If you want to lose weight, this diet is a great way to start.
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