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What is a flexitarian diet, what foods are in it and does it help stop climate change?

But what exactly is flexitarianism, and why is it beneficial to the planet? Here's everything you need to know.

What is a flexitarian diet?

Flexitarianism – or "casual vegetarianism" – is a plant-based diet that allows meat and other animal products in moderation.

It's more flexible than vegetarian or vegan diets, hence the name.

The flexitarian diet was created by dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner, to help people reap the benefits of being vegetarian while still enjoying some animal products.

It's a popular choice for those looking to eat more healthily.

There are no clear-cut rules or recommended calories.

In fact, it's more of a lifestyle than a diet.

What foods are in it?

Being flexitarian is about adding to your diet rather than excluding anything, with a focus on plant-based proteins.

These include lentils, beans and peas.

Nuts and seeds such as linseed (flaxseed), pine nuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and walnuts are recommended to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

When people do choose to eat meat, good quality lean meat is best, such as chicken or turkey.

The diet is based on the following principles:

  • Eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.
  • Focus on protein from plants instead of animals.
  • Be flexible and incorporate meat and animal products from time to time.
  • Eat the least processed, most natural form of foods.
  • Limit added sugar and sweets.

Does it help stop climate change?

The rise of the flexitarian diet seems to be a result of people taking a more environmentally sustainable approach to food.

According to The Telegraph, scientists have concluded that eating less meat could help mitigate the environmental pressures of global food production.

Dr Marco Springmann – from the University of Oxford's Nuffield Department of Population Health – says: "Without concerted action, we found that the environmental impacts of the food system could increase by 50 to 90% by 2050 as a result of population growth and the rise of diets high in fats, sugars and meat."

The study found that people adopting flexitarian diets could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by over 50%.

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