A vegetarian diet is one that relies on plant foods rather than animal sources. There are several different variations on this approach.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs – which can fix some of the nutritional gaps found in a more traditional plant-based diet. Also, there are ovovegetarians and lactovegetarians, who only add eggs or milk respectively.
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
Somewhat surprisingly, there are lots of different ways people can choose to eat. While many people are omnivorous – to varying degrees – there are lots of individuals who decide to do things differently.
But what does a vegetarian diet include? If you're considering making the switch, what should you know?
A Long History
Vegetarianism is nothing new. In fact, the practice of avoiding meat and other animal-based foods has a long history in cultures and religious around the world.
The ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras was such an ardent supporter of vegetarianism that, for a long time, those who abstained from meat were called Pythagoreans in the Greek world. In the West, though, a meatless diet took a little bit longer to catch on. Still, around the start of the 20th century, many religious reformist and health experts began to champion a vegetarian diet.
Often, vegetarian is based on both health and ethical concerns.
Many experts argue, though, that a vegetarian diet does not offer everything that the human body needs. Specifically, a vegetarian diet makes it difficult for people to get enough calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron, zinc and iodine.
Often, these problems can be overcome with some planning and by eating a wide variety of foods within the restrictions of the diet. Many vegetarian foods are fortified to include these potentially lacking nutrients, as well.
If you still have difficulty getting certain nutrients, supplements are also available.
A Little More Involved
But vegetarianism isn't always just an issue of eating plants; there are a few variations out there. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs – which can fix some of the nutritional gaps found in a more traditional plant-based diet. Of course, there are also ovovegetarians and lactovegetarians, who only add eggs or milk respectively.
And there we have the somewhat controversial pescatarians. There is a bit of disagreement about whether pescatarians – who eat fish – can be categorized as vegetarians. Some pescatarians also eat eggs and dairy.