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Flexitarians: advantages and disadvantages

by Josephine Andrews
Published: Last Updated on 202 views

They often, but not always, abstain from fish and meat: flexitarians are part-time or occasional vegetarians. They usually reject factory farming, want to contribute to climate protection and often prefer organic food. Find out here what defines the lifestyle of flexitarians and what advantages and disadvantages it entails.

What are flexitarians?

The English term “flexitarian” is made up of the combination “flexible” and “vegetarian”. So flexitarians are “flexible vegetarians”. This means that they live a nutritional compromise: They primarily eat vegetarian food and only occasionally sausage, meat and fish.

The term originated in the USA. The “Be a Flexitarian” initiative was founded there in 2010. She called on canteens to offer less meat or no meat at all.

No uniform definition

There are no set amounts for flexitarians as to how much meat and fish they can eat. Some flexitarians only eat organic meat and poultry, others only eat meat on special occasions, and still others eat meat regularly but in very small amounts.

Various motivations

The number of flexitarians in Germany varies depending on the study and question. In the federal government’s nutrition report, all people who occasionally avoid meat belong to this category. That was around 55 percent of those surveyed in 2020. In comparison: The proportion of vegetarians in this study is five percent, and that of vegans is one percent.

This study showed that men in particular are increasingly giving up their daily portion of meat: the proportion of those who eat steak & co. every day fell from 39 to 32 percent within a year. For women it is constant at 20 percent. Vegetarian and vegan substitute products, on the other hand, ended up in shopping bags more often in 2020 than in the previous year.

The majority of respondents eat less meat for health reasons. But ethical values ​​or environmental protection are also among the reasons for consuming fewer animal products.

How healthy is flexitarianism?

As a rule, flexitarians consciously deal with their body and their diet and eat accordingly healthy – that means varied and nutritious. While meat is not a bad food per se, research has shown that high meat consumption is often associated with overall unhealthy eating habits.

Typical diet-related diseases and complaints are:

  • digestive problems
  • arthrosis
  • cardiovascular diseases

Frequently eating red meat also increases your risk of cancer.

Flexitarians reduce these risks. The so-called part-time vegetarians tend to be leaner, more athletic, and happier with their body weight than the meat-eating average.

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) also recommends eating no more than 300 to 600 grams of meat and sausage products per week. Converted that would be a maximum of 31 kilograms per year. In fact, according to Statista, the average per capita meat consumption in 2020 was 57.33 kilograms – far too high.

Read more about why too much meat is unhealthy here .

Flexitarianism and the impact on the climate!

Plant-based foods have a significantly better climate balance than animal-based foods: almost 70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from our diet can be traced back to animal-based foods.

According to the WWF, if meat consumption were reduced to 470 grams per person per week, diet-related greenhouse gas emissions would already be reduced by 27 percent. This amount of meat is equivalent to two meatballs and two sausages a week.

Flexitarier: Criticism

Anyone who reduces their meat consumption and eats a conscious and varied diet supports their health and the climate. However, vegans criticize the nutritional concept of the flexitarians.

For them, this way of life is not sufficient and fundamentally different from the way of life of “normal” meat eaters. The animals would still have to suffer and would be reduced to the value of a product supplier. For them, a purely vegetarian or vegan diet is therefore more consistent.

Find out more about vegetarianism and veganism here .

Flexitarian: These nutrients matter!

Anyone who only rarely eats fish and meat should pay close attention to certain nutrients. This includes:

  • Iron is found in broccoli , chard, berries, legumes and whole grain products.
  • Calcium is found in dairy products, kale, broccoli, almonds, sesame and tofu.
  • Vitamin B12 suppliers are eggs and dairy products.
  • Plant-based protein sources include meat substitutes like tofu and tempeh .

Basically, the same applies to flexitarians: It is important to make the diet as varied as possible. Whole grain products, vegetables, legumes, fruit and nuts are best on the menu regularly.

Tips for everyday life: How to eat less meat!

If you find it difficult to reduce your meat consumption, we have practical tips for everyday life:

  • Increase the proportion of vegetables in meat dishes. For example, mix more paprika into the goulash or carrots, celery and fresh tomatoes into the minced meat sauce.
  • Replace a meat meal with an egg dish. An omelette with mushrooms tastes delicious and fills you up. Pancakes with a vegetable filling are also a good alternative.
  • Regularly cook soups, stews and curries with legumes such as lentils, chickpeas or beans. These dishes are filling and provide many important nutrients.
  • Do n’t eat sausages at breakfast , prefer spreads, cottage cheese and eggs.

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