The idea of excluding meat from the diet isn’t a new one, but vegetarian perspectives and the degree to which dieters exclude animal products varies. Religious belief systems like Hinduism and Jainism discourage the consumption of animal products, but non-affiliated vegetarians may adopt the lifestyle as an expression of environmentalism or animal rights. The practice of being a strict vegetarian, or a vegan, can be difficult for some, but more lenient forms of vegetarianism allow dieters to eat some types of animal products while restricting others.
A vegan avoids all types of animal products, including meat, poultry, seafood, eggs and dairy products. Vegans fulfill their protein requirements by eating nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains and soy products. Even traces of animal products are unwelcome in the vegan diet, blacklisting foods like marshmallows and some types of beer due to the presence of gelatin, an animal-based thickener, or isinglass, a clarifying agent extracted from fish bladders. Vegans who adopt the lifestyle as a stand against animal cruelty also avoid clothing and other products that benefit from the exploitation of animals, such as fur coats, leather shoes, wool and silk fabrics and even pearl jewelry. (See Reference 2)
Ovo-vegetarians avoid meat, poultry, fish and dairy products, but include eggs in their diets. Sometimes called “eggetarians,” these non-meat-eaters often use eggs as their primary source of protein. Lacto-vegetarians are at the opposite side of the spectrum; they consume milk and other dairy products, but avoid eggs and all meat, poultry and seafood. Ovo-lacto vegetarians exclude meat, poultry and seafood, but consume both eggs and dairy products. (See References 1 and 3)
Vegans reject the idea that meat eaters can legitimately call themselves vegetarians, but semi-vegetarians do just that. Semi-vegetarianism loosely describes eaters who typically follow a vegetarian or ovo-lacto vegetarian diet, but consume fish or poultry on occasion. Included under the semi-vegetarian umbrella are pescetarians, who eat fish or seafood; pollotarians, who eat only poultry; and pollo-pescetarians, who eat both seafood and poultry, but no other types of meat. By contrast, a dieter who follows a mostly vegetarian diet, yet occasionally consumes red meat, in addition to fish or poultry is a flexitarian. (See Reference 2)
Less Common Forms of Vegetarianism
While many dieters find it hard to stick to a strict vegan diet, others see a vegan diet as too permissive. Raw foodists only eat raw, unheated foods, or foods that haven't been cooked above 118 F; they believe that cooking on high heats destroys the nutritional integrity of foods, depleting them of enzymes and nutrients. Not all raw foodists are vegetarian or vegan, but because of cooking restrictions, many of them are. Fruitarians are vegans whose diets consist of at least 75 percent fresh fruit. Most fruitarians purchase or grow their own fruits, but some eat fruits only from plants that are not harmed by the harvest of the fruit. This restrictive fruitarian diet, an extreme form of the Jainism religion, consists of eating only fruits or nuts that fall to the ground, and it is unlikely to supply adequate nutritional needs on a long-term basis. Some fruitarians include grains, seeds and legumes in their diets. (See Reference 2)
- New Vegetarian; Robin Asbell
- The Gale Encyclopedia of Diets -- A Guide to Health and Nutrition; Jacqueline L. Longe
- AARP -- 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes; Carol Gelles
Glenda Taylor is a full-time writer with work featured in national and international publications. Taylor specializes in health, business and construction writing and she is a past editor of “Kansas Women—Focus on Fitness.” Taylor's education includes marketing and a bachelor's degree in journalism.