Over 14 million North Americans consider themselves “vegetarians.” Of these, about a third completely eliminate meat, poultry and fish from their diets. The others generally include poultry or fish, but avoid red meat .
It may strike you as rather odd that so many people who eat meat choose to identify themselves as vegetarians. Perhaps it is an indication that vegetarianism is now being viewed as a positive step by many people.
Although vegetarians are by no means a homogeneous group, there are certain characteristics that are more prevalent in this population than in the rest of society. Perhaps the most obvious is a strong interest in health. They often select minimally processed foods, and tend to use less salt, sugar and caffeine. Some prefer organically grown foods and avoid artificial colors, preservatives and additives.
But while vegetarians often share an interest in health and ecology, there is tremendous variety among their ranks, not only in their individual diets, but also in their reasons for becoming vegetarian. For some people vegetarianism is a way of achieving better health, while for others it is a matter of ethics, religion, ecology or animal rights.
Indeed, some find themselves facing rather difficult questions regarding their degree of commitment to vegetarianism questions such as:
Do real vegetarians eat marshmallows?
Am I still a vegetarian if I eat turkey at Christmas?
But these kinds of issues are not important. It matters far more how comfortable you are with your choices and how well they fit into your life. Each one of us will make the transition towards vegetarianism in our own way and in our own time; one way is not necessarily any better than another.
Types Of Vegetarians Diets
Vegetarians are generally described according to the foods that they include in their diets. These categories serve to make communication a little less complicated, and they can reduce the need for lengthy explanations about what foods one is or is not willing to eat.
Food consumption patterns rare’y fall into neat categories; they are a blend of culture, preferences and beliefs that reflect our individuality. Those who include both plants and animals in their diets are called “omnivores.”
In contrast “vegetarians” completely avoid animal flesh, whether it comes from cows, chickens or fish. When people become vegetarian for reasons of health, there may be some flexibility in their use of animal foods. When the choice is made on the basis of ethics or religion, there is a greater tendency towards complete adherence to the diet.
Lacto Ovo Vegetarian
Lacto-ovo vegetarians avoid all animal flesh, but continue to use eggs (ovo) and dairy products (lacto). Approximately 90-95 percent of vegetarians in North America include dairy and/or eggs in their diets. Lacto vegetarians exclude animal flesh and eggs, but continue to use dairy products, and ovo vegetarians use eggs, but avoid dairy products.
Pure Vegetarian Or Vegan
The pure (total) vegetarian or vegan avoids all foods of animal origin, including eggs, dairy foods, gelatin and honey (the product of bees). Although the terms vegan and pure vegetarian are generally used interchangeably, some experts make a distinction between the two.
Vegans usually go beyond diet, avoiding as much as possible products derived from animals. They may shun leather goods, wool and silk, tallow soaps and standard photography that requires gelatin. (Gelatin, used in making marshmaliows,Jell-O and other confections, is made from the bones and connective tissue of animals.)