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What are the Different Kinds of Vegetarians?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 23, 2024
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Just as people have different reasons for not eating meat, there are different kinds of vegetarians. Some people choose this diet for reasons relating to animal rights, some are "picky" or health-conscious eaters, and some are vegetarians for religious reasons. Some of the different kinds of are lacto vegetarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians, pesca vegetarians, and vegans. None of these people eat meat or poultry; pesca vegetarians are the only type that eat fish.

Lacto vegetarians are those who eat dairy products; however, they do not eat eggs. Lacto-ovo vegetarians include dairy and eggs in their diet. Pesca vegetarians eat everything that lacto-ovo vegetarians do but they also consume fish.

Vegans differ from all the other types as they eat only plant based foods and consume no animal products of any kind. The vegan diet is the strictest vegetarian diet. Vegans must plan their diets carefully to ensure they get all of the nutrients they need each day. Vegans are typically prone to deficiencies in protein, calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.

Vegans can easily develop a protein deficiency because plant based proteins are incomplete proteins. Since the human body cannot manufacture all of the necessary amino acids to build proteins, we rely on food to supply our bodies with complete proteins. Animal protein sources are complete proteins as they contain all of the amino acids needed to build a protein strand. However, using a concept called complimentary proteins different plant foods can be combined to form complete proteins. Common complimentary protein combinations are grains plus beans or grains plus legumes. Rice and beans or a peanut butter sandwich are also complete proteins.

Dairy foods such as cheese, eggs, and yogurt are complete proteins, so for most of the other types of vegetarians obtaining protein is not too much of a problem. Vegans must consume nuts, legumes, and seeds in combination with whole grains or soy foods to form complete proteins.

Vegetarians can obtain calcium and vitamin D from milk, however, vegans can drink soy milk with calcium and vitamin D added. Tofu, broccoli, nuts, legumes, seeds, and some ready-to-eat cereals contain some calcium. Orange juice fortified with calcium is also available.

Although iron from animal sources is more easily absorbed by the body, vegetarians can obtain iron by combining a food high in vitamin C with an iron-rich food to help the body better absorb the iron. Tofu and broccoli, whole wheat bread or toast and an orange or orange juice, and spinach and tomatoes are some examples of good combinations.

Vitamin B12 is found only in animal proteins, so vegans need to eat cereals and other foods that have B12 added. Adequate amounts of zinc are found in dairy foods, so all of the different kinds of vegetarians except vegans can obtain enough zinc from these. Seeds, nuts, tofu, legumes, wheat germ and bran are common sources of zinc for vegans. However, some vegans take a multivitamin that includes zinc, as it is more difficult for the body to absorb non-animal sources of zinc. Care must be taken to never exceed 100% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc, as too much zinc can be harmful to the body.

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Discussion Comments

By anon1000702 — On Nov 24, 2018

The article falsely claims that vegans are the only ones that must carefully construct their diet to make sure they're getting all the nutrients they need. Omnivores need to carefully construct their diets too. It's the fact that they don't do so that so many of them die of heart disease, diabetes, many cancers, etc. A strictly plant-based diet focused around a wide variety of whole foods is the most nutrient-dense diet on the planet, and the only one scientifically proven to prevent heart disease.

By jonrss — On May 23, 2011

@ZsaZsa56 - I am not a freegan or a raw food eater but I will try and explain their motivations as I understand them. Freegans believe that we live in a wasteful society in which huge amounts of perfectly edible food gets thrown away every day. They eat only what they can find as a way of rejecting the traditional food economy. It is a diet based on strong ethical determinations. Raw food enthusiasts believe that cooking food destroys some of its most valuable vitamins and minerals. By eating food in its raw state, you are connected as closely as possible to the way that plant grows in nature. They believe this has health benefits for both the body and the soul.

By ZsaZsa56 — On May 20, 2011

@jonrss - You said that the people who practice these diets believe in them passionately. What is there to believe in? Why would people eat this way?

By jonrss — On May 18, 2011

There are a few other kinds of vegetarianism that are a little stranger and more obscure. Freegans only eat things that they can get for free. They forage in dumpsters and other places where food gets discarded to find wasted but still edible fruits, vegetables, breads etc. There are also people who eat only raw foods. This means no bread, no cooked pasta, no simmering sauces. All they eat are raw fruits and vegetables and things that can be combined without needing to be heated. These diets are not for everyone, but the people that practice them usually believe passionately in the ways that they eat.

By chivebasil — On May 15, 2011

@LizzyTish - Wow, I have never heard of someone in your situation. I had a friends who was vegetarian his whole life but that was because his parents raised him that way. I've never heard of someone simply refusing to eat meat. I guess you should take it as a sign. If you have no appetite for meat, why eat it?

By LizzyTish — On Dec 23, 2010

Was anyone else born a vegetarian? I never ate meat. This was despite my parents' attempts. Also, I've never heard of someone like me in the sense that I do not like so many foods. Anyone else?

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