But is being a vegetarian just a fad? Is it a means of losing weight? Does being a vegetarian offer any benefits? If you’ve ever pondered any of these questions we hope to clarify some of them for you. Here we will break down what it means to be a vegetarian.
What is a vegetarian?
According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is someone who consumes grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables, fruits, dairy and egg. A vegetarian does not consume meat – which includes poultry, fish, game or any animal which is slaughtered.
By definition it would appear there aren’t many options left for vegetarians to consume. And one may wonder where a vegetarian gets their essential nutrients from. But the fact is vegetarians still have plenty of options for getting their nutrients in even though they don’t consume meat.
Types of vegetarian
Vegetarians have evolved quite a bit. So much so there are actually different types of vegetarians. Here are the types of vegetarianism which people associate with.
Flexitarian: Some-what of a new age version of vegetarian, a flexitarian follows a semi-vegetarian lifestyle. This means they will occasionally eat meat and fish, but generally sticks with eggs, dairy and plants. This type of vegetarian will choose meat which has been ethically-sourced – meaning it wasn’t abused or improperly treated.
Pescetarian: Pesce, in Italian, means fish, so this type of vegetarian will consume fish but not other forms of meat.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: One of the most common forms of vegetarian, persons will not consume meat but will consume animal products like milk and eggs.
Vegan: No animal products and no meat, this is the root of a vegan. This type of vegetarian strictly consumes plant based food and some will go so far as to not consume honey.
Raw vegan: Similar to vegan with the added step that all food items must be raw.
As you can see there is a vast range when it comes to being a vegetarian. Some types are more “strict” than others. And other types allow for more flexibility. But in either case there really is a level of vegetarian out there for anyone.
Foods to consume and avoid
We have a general idea now of what types of foods vegetarians consume. But let’s break this down into specifics for each level of vegetarian.
Type of Vegetarian
Grains, Nuts and Plants
Meat not sourced ethically
Grains, Nuts and Plants along with Fish
Poultry, Pork, Lamb and Cow
Grains, Nuts, Plants, Dairy and Eggs
Grains, Nuts and Plants
Animal products and animals
Raw grains, Nuts and Plants
Eggs, Dairy and all Meat
Flexitarian: As mentioned flexitarians will consume grains, nuts and plants. Additionally they will consume dairy and eggs. In regards to meat they will try to stick with ethically sourced meat – or if they are in social situations.
Pescetarian: This type of vegetarian will consume grains, nuts and plants along with fish. They will avoid poultry, pork, lamb, game and cow.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: They will consume grains, nuts, plants, dairy and eggs. They will avoid all meat.
Vegan: Vegans will consume grains, nuts and plants. They completely avoid animal products and animals.
Raw vegan: Raw vegans will consume only raw grains, nuts and plants. They avoid eggs, dairy and all meat.
Benefits of being a vegetarian
It’s often wondered if there are any specific health benefits to being a vegetarian or if it’s merely a life choice people choose.
According to the Vegetarian Society eating a balanced vegetarian diet does offer benefits to your health. Firstly, vegetarian food is low in fat, high in complex carbohydrates as well as fruits and vegetables. Eating in this style is often recommended as a balanced and nutritious way to eat. Because being overweight is linked to many serious health concerns, maintaining a healthy weight is useful for good health.
Research on vegetarians also reveals those who eat this way have lower risks of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and constipation. By eating vegetarian food you receive many essential vitamins and nutrients which your body requires to be healthy. Therefore threat of illness from sugar and processed food is greatly reduced.
Being a vegetarian will also ensure you consume the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. In the typical American diet people are often lacking in this food group. Fruits and vegetable consumption promotes good health.
The secret to being successful on a vegetarian diet simply requires planning. Too often we don’t plan our meals so when we become hungry we tend to make poor food choices. With proper planning one can be successful in eating a vegetarian diet and still get the necessary fat, protein, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients.
Why become a vegetarian?
- Ethical Reasons: A common question people ask is why would someone give up meat and become a vegetarian? For starters many people embark on this lifestyle for ethical reasons. This means they do not support cruelty to those animals which are slaughtered and also to how they are treated in order to obtain their by-products. In an effort to not support such cruelty, one may become a vegetarian.
- Dietary Preferences: Other reasons simply have to do with dietary preferences. Some people don’t enjoy the taste of meat, whether it’s too chewy or tough. By this preference one may choose to be a vegetarian.
- Environment Friendly: Environmental reasons may also come into play when choosing to be a vegetarian. Slaughter houses and factories which produce animal products emit pollution and also contribute to deforestation.
- Religion: Religion, too, is also a contributing factor to this choice. In Hinduism and Buddhism specifically vegetarianism is an element of religion.
As you can see, there are a variety of reasons why one may give up meat. Whether it’s for a greater cause or for personal enjoyment, reasons to be a vegetarian are vast. Essentially, it is up to you and your beliefs whether or not you should embark on this lifestyle. We say lifestyle because being a vegetarian isn’t simply a diet – it truly is a way of life. If you think you’re ready to embark on a change in eating, examine each form of vegetarianism – there is a type that will surely suit your needs.
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