Did you know that it’s possible to be a vegetarian without cutting out all meat from your diet?
And in this comprehensive guide we give you an overview of the different types of vegetarians, including what they eat – so you can choose the best plant-based diet for your needs!
What is Vegetarianism (aka a plant-based diet)?
Vegetarianism or a plant-based diet is a dietary pattern that encourages the consumption of plant-based foods over animal-based food products. So, a vegetarian will eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, nutritional yeast, and mushrooms for nutrition.
However, vegetarianism is an umbrella term for a diverse set of people who believe in consuming more plant-based foods. But these people diverge when it comes to consuming meat, poultry, and seafood.
Some are quite lenient, like the flexitarian diet, which allows you to eat all kinds of animal foods in moderation. On the other end of the scale, we have the vegan diet, which prohibits the use of all animal-based foods and products.
Different types of vegetarians (and what they eat)
There are 8 kinds of vegetarians. Each kind has a particular set of beliefs and explanations for its dietary plan. But all of them have one thing in common: plant-based food makes up the majority of meals.
So what are these types, and what do their followers eat?
Kinds of vegetarians:
- Raw vegans
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians
- Lacto vegetarians
- Ovo vegetarians
Each type has its own pros and cons. They have been adapted to cater to different audiences. Since the point of vegetarians is to eat healthily, these diets promote plant-based foods without making the change too difficult, strict, or restrictive.
Who are vegans, and what do they eat?
Vegans are perhaps the most popular kind of vegetarians right now. These people do not eat any animal-based foods and strictly follow a 100% plant-based dietary pattern. People follow veganism for a variety of reasons.
There are four kinds of vegans:
- Environmental vegans: these vegans advocate against eating animal-based food as it releases greenhouse gasses in the environment, which lead to global warming.
- Ethical vegans: these vegans believe it is ethically wrong to use animal-based products since it is a form of animal cruelty. It is why vegans refuse to eat almonds, honey, meat, seafood, and poultry.
- Health vegans: these vegans follow a vegan diet for health purposes.
- Religious vegans: followers of religions like Buddhism, Jainism, and hinduism do not eat meat as this practice goes against their religious beliefs.
A well-planned vegan diet is more nutritious than a Standard American Diet. It is quite fibrous and fulfilling. Therefore, you eat more but gain less, making it suitable for weight loss. Moreover, vegan diets can reduce the risk of development and progression of diabetes type 2, certain cancers, heart diseases, and high blood pressure.
Who are raw vegans, and what do they eat?
Some call it a subclass of veganism; others consider it a whole different kind. But, this is a debate for another time.
All you need to know is that raw veganism is another diet that you can benefit from. You may find it restrictive, but it has its benefits nevertheless.
Raw vegans eat a plant-based diet that is fresh and free of cooked and processed foods. Raw vegans eat raw, uncooked, or partially cooked foods.
The reasoning behind not cooking food is that high temperature denatures enzymes and destroys the food’s nutrition. It is unhealthy as these enzymes are responsible for proper digestion and nutrition to the body. Therefore, raw vegans do not cook their food above 117° F (47° C).
There are three kinds of raw vegans, namely:
- High raw vegans: these raw vegans mostly eat raw vegan food and little partially cooked vegan items.
- Fully raw vegans: these raw vegans eat a 100% raw vegan diet.
- Keto raw vegans: raw keto veganism is a dietary regimen for raw vegans looking to lose weight effectively and quickly.
Raw veganism has a variety of health benefits too. For example, it helps manage the symptoms of autoimmune diseases like SLE (the most common kind of lupus) or Lupus Nephritis. It lowers inflammation levels and also reduces oxidative stress on your body.
The raw vegan diet is also rich in carotenoids which play a huge role in maintaining optimal eye health. Moreover, this diet is linked with raising the amount of beta carotene and lycopene in the blood, lowering muscle degeneration.
It also reduces the risk of site-specific cancerslike gastric, breast, and esophageal cancers. Moreover, it also helps manage cholesterol, decreases triglyceride concentrationin the blood, and lowers the risk of heart stroke and gum diseases.
Who are flexitarians, and what do they eat?
The word flexitarian is a combo of two words: flexible + vegetarian. Just as its name suggests, this is a flexible approach to vegetarianism.
A diet made for people who have a hard time cutting meat out of their life. Flexitarians follow a pretty open-ended and versatile dietary lifestyle.
So you don’t have to make an overnight change. Instead, work on gradually improving your lifestyle.
Flexitarians eat all sorts of plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole-grain cereals. Similarly, they avoid eating meat and other animal-based products. But, flexitarians are under no obligation to eat completely plant-based.
However, like all vegetarian diets, this too focuses on improving human health. Therefore, you should always consume more plant-based foods than animal products.
Of course, there is no globally recognized limit for meat consumption; Dr. Dawn Jackson Blatnerrecommends limiting it to 3 ounces of meat thrice a week in her book The Flexitarian Diet. However, the flexitarian diet is not very strict, and you can also take up to 24 ounces of meat per week. But remember that the point of this diet is to improve your health.
If you eat a lot of red meat and little fish or chicken, it will ultimately harm your physical and mental health.
However, a well-balanced flexitarian diet can lower your risk of developing breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases, lower your body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure, and decrease the incidence of diabetes.
In addition, this diet is also great for people with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease.
Who are Pollotarians, and what do they eat?
The pollo in the word Pollotarian means chicken in Italian. So literally, pollotarians would be chicken-eating vegetarians. However, the pollotarian diet is not limited to chicken only.
Pollotarians can eat chicken, geese, duck, turkey, etc., along with plant-based foods like lentils, peas, hummus, mushrooms, rice, apples, etc.
Pollotarians enjoy the double benefit of eating chicken and not eating red and processed meat. Pollotarians can lose weight by eating poultry in moderation and focusing on plant-based foods.
Moreover, chicken is rich in a ton of nutrients, including digestible proteins, B vitamins like thiamin and B6, easy to remove saturated lipids, pantothenic acid, and essential minerals such as iron, zinc, and copper.
Not eating red meat also does a good deal of good to vegetarians. Red and processed meat have a carcinogenic effect on the body. Red meat contains 16% more saturated fats than white meat. Therefore, its long-term and regular consumption can drastically impact later on.
Red meat increases the risk of respiratory cancers like lung cancer and esophageal cancer. Moreover, it can also affect your mental health. Red meat was found to increase the risk of depression among men by 46%. Similarly, it increases symptoms of distress and anxiety in women.
Who are Pescetarians, and what do they eat?
Pesec means fishin Italian and Spanish. These vegetarians eat plant-based food and only fish while excluding all other animal-based products. These vegetarians use fish as a source of proteins. Fish is healthier than red meat as it contains a lower amount of saturated fat. What’s more, it is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and contains a host of essential nutrients like vitamin B12 and iron.
Some pescetarians believe that fish do not feel pain. Therefore, they can eat seafood without feeling guilty of animal cruelty. However, this ‘fact’ is not completely true as fish can experience extreme distress.
Pescetarians or pesco vegetarians experience lower blood pressure, fewer fatal heart attacks, and a lower risk of abnormal esophageal cancer. This diet is rich in heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids, which can help prevent diabetes, depression, and obesity.
Who are Lacto-ovo vegetarians, and what do they eat?
Lacto means milk, and ovo means egg. Hence, as the name hints, Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume milk and eggs and a plant-based diet. These vegetarians follow a dietary pattern based on whole grains, fruits and veggies, legumes (beans, peas, and lentils), seeds and nuts, and dairy products and eggs.
The Lacto-ovo diet is pretty rich in vitamin Bs, calcium, vitamin A, and other important nutrients. The benefits of this diet are discussed in subsequent sections.
Who are Lacto vegetarians, and what do they eat?
Lacto vegetarians eat a plant-based diet but with the addition of milk. Although milk is not a plant-based product, it is quite beneficial for a person’s overall health. Moreover, a vegetarian diet is, more often than not, quite deficient in certain nutrients like calcium and riboflavin.
However, since the lacto vegetarian diet benefits from the inclusion of milk, you don’t have to worry about diminishing bone health or other deficits.
The Lacto vegetarian diet incorporates all the benefits of a vegetarian diet, including low risk of diabetes, some cancers, cardiovascular disorders, and weight loss. But the inclusion of milk adds to the lot too.
Milk is rich in calcium, riboflavin, vitamin A and B12, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. Following a Lacto vegetarian diet can help manage lower back pain in patients with fibromyalgia. Moreover, by coupling this diet with core exercises, you can increase muscle mass and decrease fat mass for a fit body.
A study conducted on Chinese Lacto vegetarians consistently showed that this diet manifests lower blood pressure, lipid profile, and other metabolic parameters in the body.
Who are ovo vegetarians, and what do they eat?
Ovo vegetarians toss in eggs to their completely plant-based diet plan. Many people find it difficult to follow a completely vegan diet for one reason or another. It could be your health, lack of important plant-based foods, or simply a preference.
So, ovo vegetarians benefit from eggs’ health benefits as it is rich in protein, certain vitamins, and minerals, along with sticking to a well-planned and diverse plant-based diet.
An ovo vegetarian diet is linked with lowering blood pressure. This diet is also good for athletes and people involved in intense workouts. Eggs prove to be a great source of healthy proteins and nutrients that can prevent deficiencies and diseases at present and in the future.
A cohort study conducted on 0.5 million Chinese showed that consuming moderate amounts of egg, i.e., one per day, regularly can decrease CVD (cardiovascular diseases) risk.
What is the most common type of vegetarianism?
Currently, the most common type of vegetarians is Lacto-ovo vegetarians. The Lacto-ovo diet is pretty easy to follow and has a boatload of health benefits. Its followers omit poultry, red meat, and seafood from their diets. However, eggs, milk, and their derivatives still have a place on the table.
Why, among all kinds, is this type the most common?
Lacto-ovo vegetarianism is a healthy diet that excludes most of the risks associated with vegetarian diets. Moreover, you don’t have to combat many vitamin and mineral deficits; but you still may need iron supplements.
Moreover, it is the most easily available and affordable vegetarian diet. Unlike other diets such as veganism and flexitarianism, which involve costly foods, this diet benefits from eggs and dairy products like milk and cheese. Thus, making it available to the common man too.
Benefits of Lacto-ovo vegetarianism
Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes
Obesity, inactive lifestyle, and cholesterol are major causes of diabetes type 2. When you keep consuming food with high amounts of saturated fats but don’t exercise or work enough to burn it, the excess is deposited in your body.
This can lead to obesity and high cholesterol, and ultimately diabetes. This can lead to obesity and high cholesterol, and ultimately diabetes.
Lacto-ovo vegetarianism is an excellent way to lose weight. Thus, it can also decrease the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 50%. In pescetarians, flexitarians, or other meat-eating vegetarians, this effect was not observed to this extent.
Reduces all-cause mortality and the risk of cardiovascular disorders
Lacto-ovo vegetarians have a 9% lower risk of all-cause mortalitysince a Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is rich in plant-based foods like fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, seeds, and cereals that are in turn packed with essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, and other beneficial nutrients.
The deficiency of calcium and protein is made up by milk and eggs and their derivatives. So you are less at risk of various diseases concerning different organs of your body.
Moreover, the Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet enjoys a surplus amount of heart-healthy or unsaturated fats, unlike non-vegetarian diets which are rich in saturated fats. This way, it reduces the risk of ischemic heart stroke by 22-24%. Regrettably, non-vegetarians experience a 16% more mortality risk from circulatory diseases than Lacto-ovo vegetarians.
Boosts weight loss
The Lacto-ovo diet is designed to exclude all kinds of meat from the diet. But eggs and dairy are still on the menu. This diet is more effective in losing weightthan a standard weight loss diet. Adhering to a Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet for a period as short as three months can reduce your overall body weight, BMI (body mass index), waist circumference, insulin, cholesterol, and systolic blood pressure.
So if you are someone who struggles with any of the above problems, a Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is an easy-to-follow, healthy, and efficient solution.
Reduces the risk of gallstones and gallbladder polyps
Lacto-ovo vegetarians are also less at risk of certain cancers like that of the digestive system. This diet was evaluated along with other vegetarian diets like a vegan diet, pescetarian diet, non-vegetarian diet, and flexitarian diet.
The results showed that veganism protected the body from the overall risk of cancer, especially from female-specific cancers. At the same time, the Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet provides immunity against gastrointestinal cancers.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in America, followed only by cardiovascular diseases. Despite advancements in medicine, scientists haven’t found a permanent cure, and prevention is the best medicine yet.
Which type of vegetarianism is best for me? How to tell…
Are you wondering which type of vegetarianism will be the best for you? There are a variety of things you must take into account. Since each type of vegetarianism benefits a certain group, you have to evaluate the benefits of each before deciding on one.
Moreover, ask yourself, why am I turning to vegetarianism? Is it your health, religion, peers, environment, or conscience?
If you seek to improve your health, a Lacto-ovo vegetarian diet is perhaps the best choice. It is also great for people with limited availability. So if you struggle with finding the right plant-based foods like tofu, seeds, and veggies like kale in your area, a semi-vegetarian diet is your best shot.
Flexitarian, pescetarian, and pollotarian diets are good for people who don’t want to give up eating meat entirely. These vegetarians have the option to consume meager portions of meat, poultry, or seafood, a few times every week.
But, if you are someone who really wants to make a change for animals, your health, and the environment, a vegan diet is the way to go. Vegans are less at risk of a variety of diseases, they also have longer lifespans, and the effect of not eating meat has dramatic positive effects on climate change.
Many artists, actors, athletes, and politicians have recently pledged to go vegan. And every one of them has shown better performance in their field.
But remember, to make the best of a vegan diet, you have to give special focus to proper planning and adding diversity to your plate. Without this, you might consume the same kinds of foods repeatedly or eat foods rich in a certain nutrient leading to toxic retention and specific nutrient deficit.
Finally, regardless of which diet you select. Make sure you follow it consistently. If you are planning to improve your lifestyle, you must remain consistent. Remember that a vegetarian diet is going to benefit you in the long run.
Vegetarianism has grown exponentially in western societies. People are now more than ever concerned about their bodies, the earth, and animals. This growing awareness has led to a large-scale change and revolution among the masses.
Many people are taking to the streets or advocating in their own ways to call for an end to animal agriculture, the meat industry, and ripping dead animals off their hides and organs. These demands may be prompted by health or ethical concerns.
But are we on the right path? Isn’t a diet devoid of meat, poultry, dairy, or seafood unhealthy?
Years of work on vegetarianism have shown that eating a plant-based diet is not unhealthy. If you plan your meals appropriately and make sure to add variety to your plate, there is a fat chance that you’ll face any nutritional deficit.