There is no better time to learn about vegetarianism than the month of green.
October is International Vegetarian Awareness month, which informs and celebrates healthy and ethical eating. Not only an event for vegetarians, non-vegetarians can join in too by removing meat from their diet for a day or for the remainder of the month.
With so many misconceptions and terminologies related to the practice that abstains from meat, one can’t be blamed for being unable to distinguish one from the other. Accredited practicing dietician, Gloria Cabrera, from the Dieticians Association of Australia, helps us clarify eight of the most popular types of vegetarians.
Vegans exclude all animal food and products from their diet. This includes all kind of meats, eggs, dairy and honey. These types of vegetarians may also avoid products made from animals such as leather and wool, due to the ethical issues related to animal cruelty.
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians won’t eat any animal food, with the exception of eggs and dairy products. Lacto-vegetarians, on the other hand, will avoid all animal foods but will include dairy in their diets. An ovo-vegetarian like most vegetarians do not eat any type of meat from an animal, the only food they accept are eggs.
A Pesco-vegetarian is similar to a lacto-ovo vegetarian, who also eats fish. A pseudo vegetarian usually avoids red meat, but includes poultry and beef extracts, for example gelatin, fish, eggs and dairy products.
Fruitarians avoid everything except raw or dried fruits, nuts, seeds, honey and plant based oil. Macrobiotics on the other hand strictly avoid processed foods and excludes all meat, dairy and eggs. They consume warm cooked grains, vegetables, pulses, seaweeds, and fermented products.
“A well-planned vegetarian diet is healthy and may even reduce risks of diet related diseases,” Ms Cabrera said. “Just like people who eat meat, an unbalanced vegetarian diet can… lead to deficiencies and poor health,” she added.
Ms Cabrera offers advice for aspiring vegetarians. “If you are considering going vegetarian or vegan, you should take the time to read up on how to achieve a healthy well balanced diet,” she said. The trouble with many vegetarians is once they eliminate meat products from their diet, they do not replace them with vegetarian foods or supplements that contain nutrients to replace the nutrients present in meat. They still need to maintain balanced diet that includes protein, iron, zinc, calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, iodine and omega 3 fatty acids in order to maintain their health.
Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, are great sources of vegan protein. These protein replacements are best suited in main meals. Lacto-ovo mix vegetarians, who include dairy in their diets, benefit from dairy as it supplies protein and calcium. Ms Cabrera said iron can be found in foods such as soybeans and lentils, tofu, and fortified soy products. Zinc can be found in pistachios, nuts, almonds and chia seeds.
The trend in vegetarian food is slowly increasing with the inclusion of vegetarian meals at more restaurants. Ms Cabrera said the introduction of vegetarian meals when eating out “has improved over the years with a greater number of venues catering for vegetarians.” She has recommended that vegetarians planning to eat out should look at menus beforehand to be sure the place caters to vegetarians.
Vegetarians follow a strict restriction that could unbalance their diet if not well-planned and informed. Nutrition Australia said the benefits of a being a vegetarian include low cholesterol levels, lower risk of cancer and a longer life-span.
International Vegetarian Month is the perfect time for non-vegetarians take the step and abandon chicken wings for the last days of this month and support their fellow vegetarian friends. – Daisy Montalvo
Top photo from Rob Purdie’s Flickr photostream.