In this brief guide, we will answer the query, ‘How many types of vegetarian diets are there?’ and will discuss the dos and don’ts of each type.
How many types of vegetarian diets are there?
There are seven types of vegetarian diets: Lacto-vegetarian, ovo-vegetarian, Lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegans, flexitarians, pescatarians, and pollotarians (1).
In recent years, the number of people following vegetarian or vegan diets has rapidly increased, with approximately 14% of the world population now following one of these diets. Internationally, young Western females have been reported to be the most likely group to reduce animal products from their diet. In New Zealand, approximately 10% of the population were following a vegetarian diet in 2019 (4).
Vegetarians, for the most part, abstain from eating animal products. Pork, chicken (and other poultry), beef, venison, lamb (or mutton), and all other four-legged animals are included virtually universally. When it comes to animal by-products, there are seven main categories of vegetarians. So, a vegetarian always eats fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and grains (unless another dietary restriction forbids it), but let’s take a closer look at the additional items they may be allowed to consume as part of particular categories.
Different motivations can lead to adopting a vegetarian diet. Ethical concerns are the main reasons, building on the idea that animal slaughter for human consumption is morally inappropriate. Another important motivation is health and the potential beneficial effects of vegetarianism. Religions that encourage abstaining from meat consumption and concerns about the environmental impacts of meat production are also important motivators for adopting vegetarianism (1).
The Lacto-vegetarian is the first kind of vegetarian you should know about. Individuals who follow this diet adhere to all of the same rules as vegetarians, including avoiding all animal products and consuming only plant-based foods as a primary source of nourishment. Dairy items including milk, yogurt, butter, and cheese are allowed for lacto-vegetarians as well.
Some individuals may pick this diet above the others on our list for a variety of different reasons. If they prefer dairy products, they may be reluctant to make the change. Despite this, individuals may have other reasons for doing this. Since dairy includes significant quantities of protein, vegetarians who are worried about getting enough of it in their diet may find that including dairy products helps alleviate that issue.
Vegetarians are more likely to have nutrient deficiencies in their diets, which can affect bone health. A systematic review published in 2019 showed that vegetarians and vegans had lower bone mineral density than omnivores, and vegans also had higher fracture rates. Such results were unlikely explained only by lower calcium intake, as bone health encompasses many complex mechanisms and depends on different nutrients. Vitamins B12 and D and calcium are important nutrients found in dairy products (1).
Also, ovo-vegetarians’ diets are extremely similar to vegetarians’ in terms of what they eat. However, they opt to eat eggs even if they don’t eat any meat or dairy products. Eggs may be eaten for any number of reasons, but the most prevalent ones are either because individuals love them or because they believe they need to eat them for their nutritional benefits.
Vegetarian diets without fish, eggs, or algae result in low plasma levels of omega-3 fatty acids such as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA). A substantial research literature suggests lower levels of n-3 PUFAs correlate with a heightened predisposition toward developmental and mental disorders, cancer and cardiovascular, inflammatory, and neurodegenerative diseases (3).
At this point, it should be very self-explanatory. Lacto-ovo vegetarians abstain from eating meat, however, they do consume dairy and eggs in their diets. Again, this lifestyle may be chosen for a variety of reasons, including the desire to eat certain foods, worries about protein, and even conflicting views on animal cruelty.
Eating dairy and egg products may decrease the risks of having nutrient deficiencies while profiting the benefits of a meat-free diet. Vegetarian diets usually have a higher content of carbohydrates and fibers, in addition to lower levels of proteins and fats—in particular saturated fats. Studies comparing the microbiota of vegetarians and nonvegetarians show that a plant-based diet can benefit the diversity and profile of the bacteria that make up the intestinal microbiota, with increased production of metabolites from the fermentation of prebiotics and phytochemicals by these bacteria, which also have a positive effect on the host’s health, contributing to the prevention of chronic diseases (1).
Vegans and vegetarians vary in a few ways. An important feature of vegetarianism is that it’s widely recognized to be one of the most restricted diets out there. Vegans not only avoid eating animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs, but they also do not consume any of the animal’s waste products. Honey, gelatin, collagen, and even white sugar are included in this category. Additionally, vegans may refuse to buy some items if they include any animal products, as well.
A subgroup of vegans, known as raw vegans, exists as well. They will only eat raw, uncooked plant-based meals with these people. Our ancestors are widely thought to have lived this way before they had access to fire to cook with. The scientific and nutritional communities disagree, however, as to whether a raw vegan diet offers any extra health advantages over a vegan or vegetarian one.
In addition, there are the frugal or frugivorous diet, which is similar to the raw vegan diet, but with 70–80 percent of the diet being composed of fruits, with a small proportion of nuts, seeds and some vegetables; and the macrobiotic diets, which encompass various degrees of restriction but are primarily composed of whole grains, soybeans, algae and some vegetables (1).
Some people in the vegetarian community disagree on whether or not eating seafood counts as vegetarianism, but for the sake of this guide, we’re included in it. Fish and shellfish are still included in the diets of pescatarians, but they do not consume any land animal proteins such as chicken, hog, or cattle. Pescatarians may or may not eat eggs or dairy products, depending on their approach to the diet.
If you’d want to minimize your intake of animal proteins but aren’t ready to remove them entirely, a pescatarian diet may be a terrific alternative. It imposes few restrictions and allows you to consume almost everything. In addition to cardiovascular health, fish and other seafood have been demonstrated to have several additional health advantages. This means that people with specific medical issues may decide to eat fish regularly.
A diet without meat, but including fish may have many advantages. In a review of dietary components and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and all-cause mortality, the consumption of complex carbohydrates, fish, raw vegetables, black tea, alcohol, peanuts, tree nuts, olive oil, and soy was all associated with a significantly reduced risk of CVD and all-cause mortality. In contrast, red meat and processed meat were associated with a significant risk of harm related to CVD and all-cause mortality (2).
A pollotarian forgoes red and pig in favor of poultry, such as chicken and other fowl (including duck and turkey). The elimination of animal proteins may be a goal for some, while others may be worried about the health consequences of eating red meat. As with pescatarian diets, pollotarians may find it simpler to switch to a plant-based lifestyle because of the lower number of constraints (5).
Finally, there is flexitarianism, which is a sort of vegetarianism that allows one to eat a variety of foods. In keeping with the lifestyle’s name, individuals who practice it are willing to bend the rules when it comes to their diet and the restrictions they set on themselves.
Flexitarians, in contrast to the majority of the vegetarian community, do not forgo animal proteins or animal products entirely. This means that instead of eliminating certain items, they make a deliberate effort to consume them less often or only when necessary. Flexitarians, for example, may restrict their meat intake to two days per week or exclusively consume grass-fed beef and pasture-raised eggs.
For those who want to improve their diet but aren’t ready or motivated to make a major lifestyle shift, a flexitarian diet is a great option. A meat-free lifestyle provides you more time to explore all of your options, as well as to learn about the health and environmental advantages of a meat-free diet.
If you think about it, most individuals are flexitarians even if they don’t know it. Vegetarianism has seen a major spike in popularity as more people are aware of the health advantages. Most individuals, on the other hand, have been raised on a meat-heavy diet and find it difficult to adapt. It’s, therefore, possible for them to gradually implement improvements that they can maintain over a longer length of time via flexitarianism.
A flexitarian diet is less sustainable than a vegetarian diet, but it is more environmentally friendly than an omnivorous diet, simply by decreasing the amount of meat consumed. In general, plant-based diets are more sustainable than those based on animal foods, as they require fewer natural resources for food production and have a lower impact on the environment. An omnivorous diet is estimated to require 2.9 times more water, 2.5 times more energy, 13 times more fertilizers, and 1.4 times more pesticides than a vegetarian diet. In addition, meat and dairy production contribute 80 percent of all gas emissions from food production, and 24 percent of total greenhouse gasses coming from food (1).
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Other FAQs about Vegetarian that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we answered the query, ‘How many types of vegetarian diets are there?’ and discussed the dos and don’ts of each type.
- Hargreaves, Shila Minari, et al. Vegetarian diet: an overview through the perspective of quality of life domains. Int j environ res public health, 2021, 18, 4067.
- Rocha, J.P., Laster, J., Parag, B. et al. Multiple Health Benefits and Minimal Risks Associated with Vegetarian Diets. Curr Nutr Rep, 2019, 8, 374–381.
- Russell, Fraser D., and Lara T. Meital. Health impacts of omega-3 fatty acid deficiency. Handbook of famine, starvation, and nutrient deprivation, 2018, 1-26.
- Jalil Mozhdehi F, Abeywickrema S, Bremer PJ, Peng M. Comparing Taste Detection Thresholds across Individuals Following Vegan, Vegetarian, or Omnivore Diets. Foods, 2021, 10, 2704.
- Garbett, Tanya M., Donald L. Garbett, and AnnMarie Wendorf. Vegetarian diet: A prescription for high blood pressure? A systematic review of the literature. J Nurse Pract, 2016, 12, 452-458.