As a general rule, a vegetarian diet involves not eating meat; but there are several sub-types of vegetarian diets including lacto-ovo vegetarians , lacto-vegetarians, vegans, fruitarians and semi-vegetarian. People on vegetarian diets have been shown to consume fewer calories, weigh less, and have lower body mass index (BMI) than people who eat meat regularly.
Generally speaking, a vegetarian eats fruits, vegetables, dried beans and peas, grains, nuts and seeds and avoids meat, fish, and fowl. However, within the vegetarian category, there are a number of subgroups, including the following:
– Lacto-vegetarians who eat plant foods plus dairy products.
– Lacto-ovo vegetarians who consume both dairy products and eggs.
– Vegans who avoid all animal products — no dairy, no eggs — and eat only vegetables, fruits, and grains.
– Fruitarian: A diet which predominantly consists of raw fruit.
Benefits of being a vegetarian
Have a lower body weight: found that those who continue eating meat will carry on putting on more weight over a five year period, compared to those who switched over to vegetarianism.
Have better cholesterol levels: demonstrated that a vegetarian diet made up of specific plant foods can lower cholesterol as effectively as a drug treatment.
The diet reduced levels of LDL – the ‘bad’ cholesterol known to cause clogging in coronary arteries – in participants by almost 29%, compared to a 30.9% decrease in the lovastatin participants. The diet consisted of a combination of nuts (almonds), soy proteins, viscous fiber (high-fiber) foods such as oats and barley and a special margarine with plant sterols (found in leafy green vegetables and vegetable oils).
Live longer: several studies have shown that vegetarians have a much lower risk of becoming obese, developing diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. All these conditions and diseases reduce one´s life expectancy.
Have a lower risk of developing cancer: several studies have shown a reduced risk of developing many different types of cancer among vegetarians, compared to meat eaters.
Have a lower risk of developing several diseases: that plant-based diets either reduce or completely eliminate people’s genetic propensity to developing long-term diseases, including diabetes type 2, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
Tips for people who want to adopt vegetarianism
• Select whole grain products – whole wheat bread, wild/brown rice, whole grain cereals
• Make sure your diet is varied.
• Choose low or non fat dairy products (if you wish to continue consuming dairy).
• Do not eat more than three or four egg yolks per week (some studies are disputing this, suggesting there should be no limit).
This is the most common of the vegetarian diets, one that does not include animal flesh but does use the by-products of the chicken and/or cow—eggs and milk products (vegans, or strict vegetarians, do not eat these foods). Some vegetarians are lacto and not ovo, because of a moral aversion to eating unborn chickens. And some may be sensitive to milk but find eggs okay. However, usually the vegetable foods are the largest part of the diet, which consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
The strengths of the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet are many and the weaknesses few. Both are more pronounced for the strict vegan diet, but here we focus on the lacto-ovo diet, which usually provides sufficient protein, calcium, iron, and vitamin B12, all of which are concerns for any vegetarian. If eggs or milk products are eaten once a Day along with other wholesome foods, the diet should be fairly balanced in all respects.
The high amount of fiber and lower amount of fat in the vegetarian diet are also very helpful in keeping cholesterol down and digestive tract diseases at a minimum. The high amounts of vitamins and minerals present in vegetables, especially, are also an advantage.
Potential problems for vegetarians include a reduced iron and vitamin B12 intake and thus a higher incidence of anemia. As stated earlier, this is less a concern for the lacto-ovo-vegetarian than for the strict vegan, but it is still something of which to be aware.
There is some concern that infants, growing children, and women who are pregnant or lactating should avoid vegetarianism. This is unfounded, particularly for the lacto-ovo diet. Pure veganism, in these cases, I think, should be avoided. If children can eat a wholesome diet with a good protein balance, they can grow well and be healthy on a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, as can pregnant women.
Veganism is more of a philosophy than just a diet. A vegan has an ethical standard to treat all animals with respect and love. Therefore, a true vegan does not use any animal products including those for clothing or cosmetics. Many use the term vegan interchangeably with vegetarian, but actually it isn’t the same. All vegans are vegetarians but not all vegetarians are vegans.
This is the strict, or pure, form of vegetarianism. No animal products are consumed, only fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. No eggs, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter, or other milk products are eaten.
This diet is not suggested for children unless the parents can painstakingly oversee it and select the right foods. It is difficult with this diet to obtain a balanced intake of all the nutrients that are needed during growth; however, it can be done. This is true also in pregnancy and lactation, where higher intakes of most nutrients are needed.
See also: “Simple Guidance For You About Mediterranean Diet“
However, the potential nutrient deficiencies are a concern. Vitamin B12 is the main one. Iron and calcium may also be low. Protein levels may be all right if the person is very conscious of protein intake and complementing food. Vitamin A may be low unless a high amount of the orange, yellow, and green vegetables is consumed. Vitamin D is often low; some sunshine will help. Zinc may also be low unless seeds and nuts are consumed regularly.
A diet which predominantly consists of raw fruit.
However, fruits do not contain all the nutrients that human beings need to live, at least not on a long-term basis. Protein content is very low, and many of the B vitamins, iron, calcium, magnesium, and other minerals are scarce in fruits. They are also deficient in fats, though if the seeds of the fruits are eaten, the essential fatty acids, the only fats that are truly needed, can be obtained.
Overall, a fruitarian diet is a limited one and it is generally considered poor nutrition. It can be invigorating and purifying on a short-term basis, a couple of weeks at the most; staying on such a diet any longer than that could be dangerous.