Are you thinking about becoming a vegetarian but your ‘meat-tooth’ is standing in your way? In honour of World Vegetarian Day, we asked a nutritionist about the benefits of going flexitarian instead...

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Can you have your (fish) cake and eat it too? According to flexitarianism you can.

A less extreme option for those who are thinking of becoming a vegetarian but who don't want to go meat-free for good, the flexitarian, or the flexible vegetarian, mainly consumes a diet which is largely plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat - the amount varying from person to person depending on how they would like it to fit in with their lifestyle, tastes and health concerns.

Its appeal and growing popularity lie largely in the versatility it affords to those with more carnivorous inclinations who would prefer not to fully commit to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, but want to reap some of the rewards from health, ethical, environmental or economic perspectives. It also provides an alternative for those used to a certain way of eating and are fearful of losing out on the nutritional benefits of particular meat and fish dishes - while also providing a compromise for those who the words, ‘roast lamb for dinner’ is their very definition of paradise on a plate *puts hand up sheepishly*.

Tempted to flex your meat-free muscle? We asked nutritionist and Get The Gloss Expert Libby Limon  for her top 10 reasons to consider becoming a flexitarian to provide some interesting food for thought to see if it’s right for you.

1. It makes reaching your green goals more achievable

Struggling to get enough of the green stuff every day? Going flexitarian could help make those goals more manageable. “For optimal health, we know that 8 - 10 portions of vegetables and fruits is ideal. Switching to a more plant-based diet which has these foods as its cornerstones makes this much easier to achieve,” says Libby.

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2. It’s good for your gut

“A healthy body starts with a healthy digestive system. Plant foods are packed full of fibres,” explains Libby. “These not only bulk your stools and help transit time, they also are the food, (known as prebiotics), for beneficial gut flora.”

3. It could be less inflammatory

“Replacing some of your animal proteins for plant proteins can help balance inflammation in the body,” says Libby. “Cured and smoked meats in particular have been found to be inflammatory and are therefore indicated as risk factors for cancers and heart disease.”

4. It’s cheaper

Swapping that double pack of minced meat for cheaper veg during your weekly shop could prove to be good news for your bank balance as well as your veggie goals too. “Plant foods are generally a lot cheaper than animal products because they don't cost as much to produce. So you can save money while also looking after your body,” says Libby.

5. It keeps you fuller for longer

“Plant foods will keep you fuller for longer as well as hydrated,” says Libby. “Nutrient dense, with low calories but high water and fibre content, they will leave you feeling satiated without over-consuming.”

6. It encourages a more varied diet

Being stuck in a rut of the same meals every day is a tale we know only too well. By adopting a new regime though which allows you to step out of your comfort zone from time to time (while not forcing you to jump out permanently) affords a greater opportunity to mix up your diet and incorporate a new roster of nutrients into your meals. “Variety is the spice of life and as a general rule, the more variety, the more nutrients and the better your wellbeing,” explains Libby. “Becoming more flexitarian opens up the possibilities of new and exciting foods in your diet.”

7. It helps support the liver

“Fruits and vegetables are our natural abundant source of antioxidants which support our liver detoxification,” says Libby. “Optimal liver detoxification means vitality and glowing skin.”

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8. It expands your recipe repertoire

Think vegetarian meals are all tofu, Quorn and bland nothingness not dissimilar to a sheet of cardboard? Think again. Fortunately, vegetarian food has come leaps and bounds from what it once was. “Vegetarian food has moved on a lot since stodgy staples of nut loaf and bean stew. It is influenced by global food trends, light fresh flavours, use of spices, herbs and superfoods,” reassures Libby. “In terms of taste and culinary experience, plant-based diets are an exciting way to eat.”

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9. It could help balance certain hormones

“Vegetarian foods such as beans, peas, pulses, nuts and seeds are particular good if you are a woman as they contain natural oestrogens that help us balance our own female hormones,” says Libby.

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10. It could be better for the environment

“The environmental resources to produce energy in the form of plants are much smaller than those needed to produce animal-based foods,” explains Libby. “Our increasingly resource-stretched planet needs us to eat less meat to remain sustainable.”

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