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Flexitaria­n diet provides benefits

- Jaclyn E., Des Moines, Iowa Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Submit your health questions at


I just read that the Mediterran­ean, the DASH and something called the Flexitaria­n diet are the three healthiest choices. What is Flexitaria­n and is it a smart way to eat?

A: The Mediterran­ean diet centers on eating less animal foods (with an emphasis on healthy fish), more fruits and vegetables, more legumes, more healthy fats like olive oil and having a glass of wine a day.

The DASH diet, originally designed to lower elevated blood pressure, is similar to the Med diet with the additional emphasis on low-sodium, unprocesse­d foods — and no wine. Research supports the benefits of both of those approaches. They help reduce chronic inf lammation and lower your diabetes risk and boost heart health and gut biome and immune system function, while helping you maintain or achieve a healthy weight.

The Flexitaria­n diet is a “mostly vegetarian” way to reclaim and hold on to your health. The aim is to increase the number of meat-free days and reduce your saturated fat intake. The animal proteins you do eat occasional­ly should be more healthful, like salmon and skinless poultry. (Although the original diet said red meats were OK sometimes, I don’t agree.)

One recent study found that the Flexitaria­n diet nurtures maximal gut microbiome diversity — and that improves cognition and gives you a more robust resistance to infection and some cancers.

Another study found that this mostly vegetarian approach helps lower lousy LDL cholestero­l levels and reduces blood pressure.

Just make sure you get enough calcium on this diet by eating plenty of calcium-rich dark leafy greens, almonds, edamame and tofu — and canned salmon and sardines with bones if you want.

If you enjoy dairy, choose reduced or nonfat products.

If this appeals to you and you can stick with it for the long run, I think it’s a good choice. It will help you live younger longer — but don’t compromise by having red meat, processed meat or egg yolks.

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