In a not-so-distant past, the vegetarian diet was fairly easy to understand. People didn’t eat meat and that was all that needed to be said. Today, however, there are 25 different variations of the vegetarian and vegan diets. It’s possible to include or exclude certain foods from a vegetarian diet and still fall under the umbrella of vegetarianism.
The general consensus is that there’s a greater emphasis on plant foods over animal products. Some people transition to this diet for health reasons, while others adhere to it for environmental reasons. Vegetarianism is a staple dietary practice in many cultures that has become more popular than ever within the last 20 years. Nowadays, there are plant-based meat alternatives that entice people to veer away from animal food products. There are different views about these meats, given that they are highly processed, but many people like that they make vegetarian diets more accessible.
Why Are There Different Variations?
People like options and don’t always want to color inside the lines. In order to feel comfortable with dietary choices, many people need flexibility. For example, one group of people may gravitate towards certain foods that others want to avoid. Enjoying animal-based foods or eating processed, plant-based meats can detract from some of the traditional benefits of following a vegetarian way of eating, though. A classic vegetarian diet that excludes animal products has been associated with weight loss, balanced blood sugar levels, and a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer.
If you are interested in the vegetarian diet and want to learn about the popular variants, continue reading. You may find the option that best suits what dietary goals you want to accomplish.
Potentially the most classic variation of the vegetarian diet, lacto-ovo vegetarianism avoids poultry, seafood, and meat. This diet allows for the consumption of dairy products, honey, and eggs. Some people have cultural or religious reasons for choosing this diet, for example, sects of Buddhism and Hinduism follow this way of eating. Others follow it because it is approachable for an introduction into a plant-based way of life.
This may be a more “ridiculous” term in regards to vegetarianism because there is no real definition. It essentially follows a plant-based diet, or diet similar to lacto-ovo vegetarians, but it’s acceptable to include meats and other animal products whenever the mood strikes. For someone who is new to the concept of plant-based eating, this is an excellent dietary option. In theory, a flexitarian should focus on getting nutrients from plant-based foods, but nutrients also come from animal foods.
This variant omits dairy but it does allow for egg or egg product consumption. It’s common for vegetarians who are lactose-intolerant to subscribe to this way of eating. People who choose this diet should make sure to choose eggs that are organic and free-range. This helps to lower exposure to antibiotics and pesticides.
As the name suggests, this diet allows for the consumption of dairy products, but it omits meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Similar to the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, some people adhere to lacto vegetarianism out of respect for Hinduism, Jainism, or Buddhism. Just because this diet allows for dairy, nutritionists don’t advise consuming dairy products in excess. It’s very common for excess dairy consumption to increase the risk of inflammation, bloating, and constipation.
This diet eliminates all animal products, including foods that have animal origins. For instance, strict vegans will not consume honey, dairy, or eggs. Some go so far as to avoid buying merchandise made from animal products like leather. Many studies on the vegan diet exist because it is naturally low in saturated fat and rich in fiber. Following a vegan diet may reduce the risk of heart disease and support weight loss efforts. Because the vegan diet restricts certain foods, people may need to supplement omega-3s, vitamin B12, and vitamin D.
Out of all the vegetarian diets, this is the strictest variation. Excluding all foods from animal origin, this diet focuses on raw fruits, vegetables, and raw nuts and seeds. There is no cooking, so people who want to enjoy legumes or grains must enjoy sprouted varieties. The reason this diet is popular is because of the fact that it offers many beneficial enzymes that foods lose during the cooking process. Cooking foods above 115º F starts to diminish the nutritional content. The raw vegan diet may promote weight loss, healthy cholesterol levels, balanced blood sugar, and mental clarity.