People often choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet for health reasons, ethical reasons (opposition to slaughtering animals) or both.
- Semi-vegetarians (flexitarians) eat dairy products, eggs, chicken and fish but no other meats or animal byproducts.
- Ovo-lacto-vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products but no meat, poultry, fish or seafood. (They comprise the largest vegetarian group.)
- Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but no dairy products, meat, poultry, fish or seafood.
- Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but no eggs, meat, poultry, fish or seafood.
- Vegans do not eat any animals or animal byproducts.
Some vegetarians and vegans will not wear or accessorize with anything made from animals, such as leather. Cheeses made with rennet harvested from slaughtered calves are off limits to some ovo-lacto- and lacto-vegetarians.
Not Enough Nutrition?
When you eliminate meat, dairy and eggs from your diet you also eliminate major sources of protein, calcium, vitamin B-12, iron and zinc. But your body can definitely get enough of these and other nutrients on a vegetarian or vegan diet, as long as you choose what you eat wisely.
- For protein, eat soy products, meat substitutes, legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and whole grains; also eggs and dairy products if you follow an ovo-lacto-vegetarian diet.
- For calcium eat dark green vegetables (like spinach, turnip and collard greens, kale and broccoli), calcium-fortified orange juice, tofu and soy milk; also dairy if you're an ovo-lacto- or lacto-vegetarian.
- For vitamin B-12 eat B-12 enriched cereals, fortified soy products and/or take a supplement that contains B-12.
- For iron eat dried beans and peas, lentils, enriched cereals, whole-grain products, dark leafy green vegetables and dried fruit. Eating foods packed with vitamin C (such as strawberries, citrus, tomatoes, cabbage and broccoli) while eating foods with iron will help your body absorb the iron.
- For zinc eat whole grains, soy products, nuts and wheat germ.
To learn more visit VegetarianVegan.com and the Mayo Clinic.