Not everyone realizes that there are different types of vegetarians. They hear the term and assume all vegetarians eat the same fare, but that's not the case. Not even those who claim to be vegetarians agree on what it is to be vegetarian. Some eat only plant-based foods, others include dairy products and still others may even eat fish or chicken.
Definition of Vegetarian
In this day of inclusive definitions the term vegetarian has drifted from its original definition. Originally, the term vegetarian meant, "with or without eggs or dairy products", which is the definition the Vegetarian Society still holds to today. However, under the umbrella term vegetarian there are different types of vegetarians with their own personal reasons for eliminating certain foods from their diet.
Reasons for Different Types of Vegetarians
The reason a person chooses to be a vegetarian plays a major role in the reason there are different types of vegetarians. People give up meat and or dairy products for the following reasons:
More and more professionals in medical and nutritional fields recognize the health advantages to a vegetarian diet. With the increased understanding of the health benefits associated with the elimination of meat and dairy, choosing a vegetarian lifestyle for health reasons is growing in popularity. These benefits include things like:
- Lower cholesterol
- Reduced risk of heart diseases
- Reduced risk of cancer
- Higher life expectancy
Concern for Animals
Another reason people choose to give up meat is their concern for animals. They are against the cruel or inhuman treatment of the animals slaughtered for food. It is not uncommon for these vegetarians to participate with animal rights organizations to help promote the advantages of the vegetarian diet in order to help others to become aware of inhumane slaughterhouse practices.
Another reason people choose a vegetarian diet is because of their religious beliefs. Vegetarianism is a precept for some religions. It is against their rules to eat non-vegetarian food and some even forbid the killing of animals for food.
Different Types of Vegetarians
Flowing from the different reasons to embrace vegetarianism are a number of variations on the vegetarian diet.
Total Vegetarians eat a diet which consists only of plant food and excludes animal foods, which along with meat includes:
- Dairy products
Like the Total Vegetarian, Vegans eliminate animal products from their diet. However, they take it a step further. They don't use any products made from animals. This includes:
While lacto vegetarians eliminate meat from their diet, they do eat dairy products with the exception of eggs.
Lacto Ovo Vegetarians
Lacto ovo vegetarians don't eat meat but do include dairy products and eggs in their diet. This is the most common type of vegetarian.
Semi-vegetarians restrict their intake of animal products but do allow specific kinds of meat in their diet. These restrictions vary from one person to another. If you are a semi-vegetarian, you'll find that purists don't look at semi-vegetarians as real vegetarians. Semi-vegetarians include:
- Pesco Vegetarians: Allow fish in their vegetarian diet.
- Pollo Vegetarians: Eat a largely plant-based diet but do allow poultry to be consumed. This includes:
Raw foodists don't heat their food above 115 degrees Fahrenheit because they believe the cooking process kills valuable enzymes. This diet consists mostly of:
- Raw vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
Fruitarians only eat fruit and fruit-like vegetables (about 75 percent of their diet) and is actually a type of vegan diet. It consists of a minimal amount of processed or cooked foods. An added twist to the fruitarian diet is that they only eat fruit harvested without killing the plant.This includes things like:
Disadvantage to Being Vegetarian
Becoming a vegetarian isn't necessarily as easy as giving up meat. Not all these types of vegetarian diets are deemed healthy, so do your research. Talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian to help plan and monitor your diet.
One other disadvantage to eating vegetarian that's worth mentioning is that eating vegetarian is often misunderstood. Trying to help the people in your life to understand that you don't eat meat-can't eat meat, and that you don't eat things cooked with meat can be quite a challenge.