By Maggie Badore for DietsInReview.com
There are numerous reasons for wanting to cut down on your meat consumption. Various health professionals have argued that eating less meat has health benefits, while environmental scientists say that decreasing your meat consumption uses fewer natural resources and creates less pollution. Many people choose to forgo meat because they don't believe in harming animals for food, others do it as a protest against factory farms. There are also people for whom vegetarianism is rooted in their religion. Considering the many reasons why people become vegetarian, it's no surprise that there are many different levels of abstaining from meat and/or other animal products.
As this month is Vegetarian Awareness Month, we wanted to share a summary of the different types of vegetarianism, from the most inclusive to least.
The "flexitarian" concept is quite new. It refers to someone who leads a mostly vegetarian lifestyle, consuming mostly plants, dairy and eggs, but on occasion also eats meat and fish. Some flexitarians choose to only eat meat that they feel is ethically sourced, such as animals that are raised free-range and fed organic food. Others will eat meat when it is served to them or for social reasons, but choose not to buy meat or other animal products.
Another fairly new term, a pescetarian is someone who eats seafood, but not any other meats. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the term joins the Italian word for fish, "pesce," with the English word "vegetarian."
Many people choose pescetarianism as a kind of middle ground between eating the standard American diet and a diet that excludes all meat. It is particularly appealing to individuals who find it challenging to obtain sufficient protein from a strictly vegetarian diet. Seafood, including shellfish, is a good source of protein, healthy fats and essential minerals. Some macrobiotic diets might be considered pescetarian, because they are entirely plant-based, with the exception of some fish.
When someone describes themselves as a vegetarian this is generally what they mean, and this is most common form of vegetarianism around the world. Most Americans do not consider people in the two categories above to be true vegetarians.
Although lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat any meat, they do eat animal products--specifically eggs and dairy. "Lacto" comes from the Latin word for milk, and "ovo" from the Latin word for egg. Usually, lacto-ovo vegetarians also include cheese, butter, yogurt and honey in their diets. There are also ovo-vegetarians who abstain from meat and dairy products, but will eat eggs.
A vegan diet is entirely plant-based and contains no animal products whatsoever. In addition to abstaining from meat, eggs and dairy, most vegans also do not eat honey or gelatin. A vegan diet includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, beans and grains. Many vegans avoid animal products in other parts of their lives, and do not purchase items made with leather or fur. Additionally, some vegans stay away from goods that are manufactured with carmine, casein, beeswax, shellac or tallow.
Because a vegan diet is somewhat restrictive, it is important for vegans to have a good understanding of nutrition. Those who are considering veganism or are new to it should do some research to make sure they're eating foods that contain the right portion of daily recommended nutrients.
Not all "raw foodies" are vegans, but many choose to abstain from any animal products. A raw diet contains no foods that are cooked above a certain temperature, and also excludes all pre-processed foods. People who eat an all-raw or mostly-raw diet feel that cooking plants damages the quality of the nutrients. A raw vegan diet is very low in calories and fat, but high in fiber, so many people on this diet turn to juicing at home. Juicing allows them to consume food that is densely nutritious and uncooked, and helps them get enough calories for the day. Although the exact temperature that's acceptable to heat food differs from person to person, many raw vegans consider the use of dehydrators to be an acceptable means of preparing foods.
Becoming a raw vegan is a serious commitment. It takes careful planning to make sure that there's enough fat, protein and calories in your food each day.
Another reason people adopt a vegetarian lifestyle is for overall health and weight loss. If this reason appeals to you, but you're not quite ready to take it on by yourself, some commerical diet programs support vegetarianism. Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, South Beach Diet, and The 17 Day Diet, are just a few examples.
Which type of vegetarian do you identify with? Is there a style that we overlooked?
By Maggie Badore for DietsInReview.com