Types Of Vegetarians
Is a Vegan diet unhealthy? Is a Vegan and a Vegetarian the same thing? A vegetarian diet is free of animal flesh, including birds and fish. A vegan diet is a vegetarian diet which does not involve eating any form of animal based products. There are many “levels” and types of vegetarianism. The following are the major types starting from the most restrictive and working our way down:
- Vegan: Vegans don’t eat any animal products or by-products. Therefore vegans, of don’t eat red or white meat, fish or fowl. They also do not eat eggs or dairy products. Vegans do not use honey or beeswax, gelatin, and any other animal by-product ingredients or products. Vegans typically do not use animal products such as silk, leather, and wool, as well. Becoming a vegan is a lifestyle and a way to eat.
- Lacto Vegetarian: Lacto-vegetarians don’t eat red or white meat, fish, fowl or eggs. The main difference between Lacto vegetarians and vegans is that Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products such as cheese, milk, and yogurt. Many Eastern religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism adhere to this type of diet. Their beliefs in the law of ahimsa or non-violence prohibit eating meat. They also believe that according to the Vedas, (Hindu holy scriptures) and that all living beings are equally valued. Accordingly, Hindus believe that one’s personality is affected by the kind of food one consumes, and eating flesh is considered bad for one’s spiritual/mental well-being.
- Ovo Vegetarian: Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs and egg products but do not eat red or white meat, fish, fowl or dairy products.
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian: Lacto-Ovo vegetarians don’t consume red meat, white meat, fish or poultry. However, Lacto-Ovo vegetarians do consume dairy products and egg products. Lacto-Ovo is the most common type of vegetarian.
- Pollotarian: Pollotarians do not consume red meat or fish and seafood. This “semi-vegetarian” diet restricts meat consumption to poultry and fowl only.
- Pescatarian (Pescetarian): While technically not a type of vegetarian, these people do restrict their meat consumption to fish and seafood only. Pescatarians do not consume red meat, white meat or fowl. This is considered a “semi-vegetarian” or “flexitarian” diet.
- Flexitarian – A plant-based diet with the occasional meat item on the menu. These folks do their best to limit meat intake as much as possible, and they have an almost entirely plant-based diet. Even though not technically a “vegetarian” diet, it’s my goal to eat a flexitarian diet
Benefits Of A Vegetarian Diet
People choose vegetarian or vegan diets for several reasons. Some choose it for a healthier lifestyle; others are concerned with eating living things. Religion is another reason as well as concern for the effects the meat industry has on the environment.
For many, health reasons are the driving forces to cut meat and include:
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Lower levels of saturated fats
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower risk of cancer
- Lower risk of Type 2 diabetes
When Is A Vegan Diet Unhealthy?
A vegetarian diet can be quite healthy. The vegetarian needs to be aware that his or her nutritional needs may not be fully met if certain criteria are not followed. By following a meat-free diet, some essential nutrients may be left out.
The meatless diet needs proper meal planning if a person going on this type of diet is to avoid certain nutritional deficiencies. Elderly people, athletes, and children are particularly at risk of nutritional deficiencies.
- Protein – You need protein for your body to grow and function. When you take meat off your plate, replace it with plant sources of protein. Look to soybeans, tofu, tempeh, beans, quinoa, nuts, and flaxseeds, just to name a few. It is a common misconception that protein only comes from meat, as there are many plant sources.
- Calcium – Calcium is a mineral that is needed to build bones. This is especially important for children, athletes, women (to prevent osteoporosis) and the elderly. Replace traditional sources of calcium from dairy with vegan sources that include, soybeans, tofu, soymilk, turnip greens, fortified cereals, and beans, just to name a few.
- Iron – Iron is an essential mineral used to transport oxygen in the blood to all parts of the body. Lack of this nutrient can cause anemia. As above, animal sources are the best sources of iron. Foods like oysters, clams, liver from different animals are at the top of the list of iron-rich foods. Plant foods contain iron and include but are not limited to quinoa, beans, potatoes, soybeans, spirulina, and tofu. Phytic acids found in grains and legumes can get in the way of absorption of iron. This can be minimized by soaking the legumes and eating unleavened grains like crackers. Cooking also helps with the removal of the acid.
- B12 – B12 is a vitamin that is unusable by humans in plant sources. Lack of this vitamin causes nerve problems, depression, tiredness, weakness, to name a few. Best sources include clam, liver, and mackerel. Vegans are particularly at risk for lack of this vitamin.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which enhances the absorption of iron, calcium, and zinc. Lack of vitamin D is associated with high blood pressure, osteoporosis, dental cavities, possible erectile dysfunction and problems with blood cholesterol. Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D. Vegans can more from fortified non-dairy milk, and cereals.
- Zinc – This mineral is necessary for creating DNA, building proteins and for a healthy immune system. Deficiencies include impotence, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. The best sources of this vitamin are from animal sources and include oysters, beef, and lamb.
Replace the meat sources of these nutrients with the proper plant-based foods or supplements so your vegetarian diet can stay healthy.
Eating Healthy Vegetarian Food
Some believe that eating a plant-based diet can somehow make up for other poor food choices. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Vegans and vegetarians can’t eat endless amounts of French fries, chips, cookies, and cake. They should never overindulge in junk food, ice cream, or soda. Vegan foods include candy, cookies, donuts, Doritos, cupcakes, and muffins. These junk foods also come fully loaded with empty calories. The fat, and sugar in them can quickly cause you to lose the health benefits that vegetarian eating has to offer.
Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It is still important to read labels, eat whole food and make smart food choices. Don’t overindulge in junk or that vegetarian diet can quickly turn unhealthy.
Vegetarians and vegans who follow a nutritionally balanced diet; rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts are making smart choices. But exercise is still critical. Just eating plants cannot compensate for all the health benefits offered by regular physical activity.
Combining vegetarian diet with regular physical activity will make you into a health powerhouse and soar your energy levels!
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Have a great week! See you soon!