Types of Vegetarians

First introduced in 1839, the term vegetarian is used when describing those who partake in a plant-based diet, but vegetarianism had existed for centuries before gaining its name. Being a vegetarian has been on the rise in recent years, but there have been a host of famous names throughout history who shared the belief in a plant-based diet. For example, Leonardo da Vinci, Confucius, Plato, and Henry David Thoreau.

Vegetarianism is not simply one specific diet, throughout the years more and more interpretations of a vegetarian lifestyle have emerged. A common thread between all the different branches of vegetarianism is the idea that abstaining from animal-based foods, will, in turn, benefit the environment, animal life, and the planet. On one hand, some follow veganism, in which not only do they cut out meat from their diet, but any animal product, in a show of ultimate solidarity with the animal kingdom. Some refer to themselves as pollotarians and flexitarians, which are less restrictive diets that still limit the amount of meat consumption.

It can be difficult to differentiate between the different types of vegetarianism, especially with new kinds being constantly discovered, but a simple explanation of each type can help a person choose which diet they would like. Vegetarianism can be broken up into seven main diets, each with varying levels of commitment. When choosing a diet, it’s important to have an understanding of how the diet will affect not only a person’s health but also the impact it can have on animals and the environment around them.

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The Vegan

Vegans are perhaps one of the most well-known kinds of vegetarians. They choose to cut out animal products such as meat, and also animal by-products such as milk and eggs. Not only this, but vegans also do not use products that contain animal products or have been tested on animals. Moreover, vegans will not eat food that contains gelatine, honey, albumin, and/or rennet, and may also cut out processed sugars that contain animal bone char.

Impact and Benefits

One of the main reasons a person decides to adopt a vegan diet is to benefit the environment. This is achieved by lessening the need for animal production, which, in turn, decreases pollution and damage to land from growing and producing animal-based products. Studies have also shown that for every one person that partakes in a vegan diet, approximately 200 animals are saved every year. Not only does a vegan diet help the environment, but it is also good for one’s health, vegans are less likely to suffer from cardiac failure, or die from cancer and are generally healthier than those who adopt a meat-based diet.

The Lacto-Vegetarian

Similar to vegans, Lacto-vegetarians cut meat from their diet, as well as eggs, but they do consume dairy products. This diet allows for the consumption of dairy products such as cheese, yogurt, and various animal milk, but not the consumption of the animal meat itself.

Impact and Benefits

Lacto-vegetarians are still doing their bit for the environment, with the lack of meat in their diet they are saving animals, although not as many as a vegan. Lacto-vegetarian’s health will still benefit from a meat-free diet just as vegans would. Although the consumption of dairy products is more likely to raise cholesterol intake, they are at low risk of contracting various health problems such as low blood pressure. 

The Ovo Vegetarian

Ovo vegetarians also partake in a meat-free, dairy-free diet, but will allow the consumption of eggs and egg-based products. Ovo vegetarians generally will consume eggs laid by specific egg-laying hens but can also eat eggs from other birds such as ducks.

Impact and Benefits

The benefits to being an Ovo vegetarian are similar to a vegan and a Lacto-vegetarian in that the absence of meat in a diet can help with one’s health. Like Lacto-vegetarians, they do open themselves to higher cholesterol with the consumption of eggs, but they are still helping the environment by cutting down their animal product intake.

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian

Considered one of the most popular branches of vegetarianism, a Lacto-Ovo diet consists of no meat but allows for the consumption of foods that contain dairy or eggs.

Impact and Benefits

When switching from a meat-based diet to a Lacto-Ovo based diet, people may experience an improvement in their overall health. The cholesterol intake is significantly higher than those who are simply Lacto or Ovo vegetarians since Lacto-Ovo vegetarians consume both eggs and dairy. Much like vegans, they are still doing their part for the environment by cutting meat out of their diet.

The Pollotarian

Considered a more controversial branch of vegetarianism, a Pollotarian will not consume red meat or fish but will consume poultry and fowl. Due to their consumption of poultry, they can be ostracized by the vegetarian community for not being real vegetarians.

Impact and Benefits

Due to poultry being better for the heart than red meat, Pollotarians are at less risk of contracting heart disease than those who regularly eat red meat. It can be difficult to see how Pollotarians are helping the environment and benefiting animals when they still eat poultry and foul, but their impact is still greater than those who continue a meat-based diet.

The Pescatarian

Pescatarians are similar to Pollotarians in that they only consume a certain type of meat, pescatarians opt for fish and seafood to sustain their diet. Alongside Pollotarians, pescatarians can be shunned from the vegetarian community due to their diet not being exclusively plant-based.

Impacts and Benefits

As with Pollotarians, pescatarians will see a change in their health due to the lack of red meat in their diet. However, other health issues can arise due to the amount of mercury present in many kinds of seafood. Moreover, a fish-based diet relies on harmful fishing practices to sustain the amount of fish consumed, which can be harmful to the environment. So, even though they are not consuming and adding to the negative effects a meat-based diet has on the environment, the diet is not completely harmless.

The Flexitarian

A relatively new branch of vegetarianism, a flexitarian sustains a primarily plant-based diet but will allow themselves to consume meat and meat-based products when desired. It is a completely personal decision how much meat a flexitarian would like to consume, and regularly they only allow meat-based foods sparingly.

Impact and Benefits

The reduction of meat in a person’s diet is said to have a positive effect on their health, whether it be completely removed, as vegans do, or simply having one meat-free day a week, as a flexitarian might do. By taking part in an effort to reduce the amount of meat, and animal products consumed, a person is actively helping the environment, no matter how small the effect. Many businesses, as well as people, have taken part in Meatless Monday, which encourages people to try and at least have one meat-free day a week. Not only does this help with a person’s health, but it also, in turn, helps the environment.

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