It's Good to Be a Flexitarian, Too

Some 10 percent of U.S. adults now say their diet is 'vegetarian-inclined.'

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A new poll published by Vegetarian Times finds that 3.2 percent of American adults say they're vegetarians. That's slightly up from a 2006 poll, when the number was 2.3 percent. (Both polls were conducted by Harris but on behalf of different organizations). The new poll also finds that about 10 percent of U.S. adults say they follow a "vegetarian inclined" diet. Those folks are also called flexitarians; they mostly eat veggies and plant protein but allow a little meat to cross their plates now and then. (Here's more info on flexitarian eating.)

People who avoid meat largely or in part because of concerns about animal welfare are probably not flexitarians, since that principle is pretty absolutist (thou shalt not kill and all that). But if you're primarily concerned about your own health, being a flexitarian is a great option; research has shown that nutrition is not an all-or-nothing proposition. The study out this week about the DASH diet shows that the closer you stick to an eating pattern that emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and nuts and legumes and goes lighter on red and processed meat, sweetened drinks, and sodium, the better off you are. Yes, the 20 percent of study participants who stuck most closely to the DASH diet saw the most benefits, but those in the 40th to 80th percentiles also saw their risk of heart disease drop. So you can have your occasional burger and your health, too.