Different vegetarian diets and how to stay healthy in each of them

There are so many reasons do adopt a Vegetarian/Vegan diet but there are also many classifications and pre-conceived notions of the diet as well. Going on a Vegetarian/Vegan diet will not only promote your health but also the health of the planet and all its inhabitants. 

Vegetarians are classified into different categories:

  • Lacto -Ovo Vegetarians: those that still eat dairy (lacto) and eggs (ovo)

  • Vegans: those that eat no animal products at all

  • Fruitarians: those who eat only fruits and vegetable-like fruits (such as tomatoes and avocados) as well as nuts and seeds

  • Raw foodists: Complete diet of raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes

  • Macrobiotics: Wide use of rice, legumes, sea vegetables and Asian condiments

There are also many people who define themselves as vegetarians, but occasionally eat meat from time to time - thus are called "near-vegetarians".

While there are many classifications of vegetarians, it is easy to see how this diet is not black and white but it also has a major effect on our health and the planet. This is something that not a lot of people realize but is such an important issue.

Here are four primary reasons you should consider adopting any of these vegetarian diets (even a near-vegetarian one):

  1. Support personal health and healing: Vegetarians are leaner than non-vegetarians, have less instances of chronic diseases, usually live 7 - 9 years longer than non-vegetarians and are exposed less to harmful food-borne diseases.

  2. Promote animal life: There are huge inhumane practices that are held within animal farming. Animals have rights and feelings just as we do and deserve a little more respect than to be tortured and slaughtered for our hamburgers. Just watch one documentary of animal farming in America and I promise you will gain some empathy.

  3. Protect the environment: It takes less water to produce food that a vegan needs for a year than to produce food that a meat eater needs for a month. Rainforest's are declining because we 'need' the land for cheap hamburger meat and fast-food establishments and intensive animal agriculture is also a contributing factor to major global warming gases. If every person used as many resources to produce his or her food as each American does, we would need three planets.

  4. Religious and philosophical principals: Some religions that promote vegetarian/vegan diets include: Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism, Hinduism and Seventh-day Adventists. Many of these religions choose this lifestyle to promote compassion for all living things and benefits to human health.

I know what you may be thinking: But what about the necessary protein and vitamins/minerals I can't get on a vegetarian/vegan diet. This notion is simply wrong. You can get all the necessary nutrients you need on this diet to live a long, healthy life (see above statement on living 7-9 years longer than non-vegetarians). It is true that this diet can lack in mainstream protein sources, Vitamin B12, Zinc, Calcium and Vitamin D but if you educate yourself on this before you begin you'll see that there are ways to combine plant-based proteins to get your daily protein needs (these can be taken separately throughout the day too - it doesn't need to be in one meal), take daily multivitamins and even consume products fortified with vitamins you may be lacking. No nutrient essential to human life is found in meat that is not also found in plant foods.

Click here to get a list of all the micronutrients you need and may be lacking on a vegetarian/vegan diet!

Vegetarians/Vegans are brave. Within our society they are still mostly seen as strange or "hippies" who go against the grain of societal norms. There are also so many businesses and cultural norms that don't promote vegetarians and make it hard to continue this diet when out to eat with friends/family. Continuing this diet through all these obstacles not only shows my faith in humanity but also strengthens the need for this diet more than ever.

So if you're already on a vegetarian diet or any of its subcategories, keep up the good work! If you're a meat eater looking to go vegetarian (even for one day a week), educate yourself on the reason why you're doing it and how you can get all the nutrients you need. Also, if you decide to go on a Lacto-Ovo diet, make sure you aren't over-dependent on dairy and eggs, as too much of it is linked to many chronic diseases, high cholesterol levels and unwanted fat storage. Opt for more egg whites and

I have recently become a near-vegetarian because, after years of eating meat, it was difficult for me to transition right away. I haven't eaten meat in a month and hope to consider myself a full vegetarian in the future.

This is not a post to bash meat eaters. Eating meat is practiced within many cultural and family traditions and is instilled early on in our lives. It is difficult to practice eating in any other way. We can also obtain many nutrients from meat. However, I urge you to consider eating less of it for the sake of your own health, the planet and the animals that also deserve to live. If you're still reading, you're already on your way to eating less meat and I applaud you for it!

Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
— Albert Einstein

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This post was inspired from a chapter out of "Becoming Vegetarian" by V. Melina, M. Sc., R.D. and B. Davis, R.D.

Chelsey Labusch