Types of Vegetarian Diets: A Dietitian Explains the Pros and Cons of Each
Types of Vegetarian Diets:
It can be challenging to know what types of vegetarian diets are out there, and which one is best for you. There are the standard three types of vegetarian diets: vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian, and lacto-vegetarian.
There are also variations on those diets such as flexitarian, which allows occasional meat consumption.
Pescatarian, which eats fish but no other types of meat, semi-vegetarian, which sometimes eats meat or fish but does not follow any type of vegetarian diet most of the time, and so on.
The idea behind a vegan diet is pretty simple. No animal products, period. You don’t eat meat or fish, but you also avoid dairy, eggs, and any other products that are derived from animals (unless they’re labeled vegan).
If your goal is to eat in a more eco-friendly way—meaning produce as opposed to packaged foods—or if you want to improve your health by losing weight or lowering cholesterol levels (research shows vegans have lower rates of heart disease), then cutting out animal products entirely might be an option for you.
Be aware that going vegan means changing your lifestyle completely; it isn’t something you can do overnight. And because there aren’t many studies on long-term vegan diets, it’s important to make sure you get all of your nutrients while still maintaining a balanced diet. But if you’re up for a challenge, here’s how to go about starting one.
A vegetarian diet may not be right for everyone, especially those who need more protein in their diets due to increased physical activity or high levels of stress.
There are two types of vegetarian diets: lacto-ovo vegetarianism and ovo vegetarianism. Lacto-ovo vegetarians consume plant foods such as grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes with dairy products and eggs allowed in moderation.
The macrobiotic diet is a vegetarian diet. Its main tenet is that food should be consistent with natural law.
There are several different versions of it, but all are based on whole grains and vegetables (though there may be animal products in some versions). The macrobiotic diet, like other vegetarian diets, has been linked to a number of health benefits.
However, experts caution that it can also carry certain risks for people with certain conditions or who eat more than one version at once. To learn more about it—and its pros and cons—read our full report on macrobiotics here.
On first glance, you might assume that veganism and macrobiotics would go hand-in-hand. While they do share some similarities—such as removing meat from your diet—they’re fundamentally different in their approaches to food and eating habits.
Veganism involves cutting out all animal products, including cheese, milk, eggs and even honey; whereas vegetarians can still consume dairy and eggs in addition to plant foods.
More specifically, veganism only considers plant foods as real foods; anything else is considered processed junk by vegan standards. This extends beyond just meat into coffee creamer as well!
This is an eating style where you avoid red meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and other animal products. However, you do eat a small amount of these foods occasionally.
The flexitarian diet is basically an eat-as-little-animal-products-as-possible approach to vegetarianism. The biggest benefit to going vegetarian is that it could lead to healthier habits in other areas of your life—namely your waistline.
Flexitarians report they’re less likely to overeat because they don’t feel deprived of all those good animal products they can’t have most days.
Plus, research shows vegetarians tend to weigh less than their carnivorous counterparts. According to one study published in Nutrition Journal , Vegetarians are leaner than nonvegetarians, but protein sources do not seem to affect body mass index (BMI).
Plus, research from Harvard University found that even if you are overweight or obese when you go veg, there are still benefits associated with reducing your consumption of animal products . These include lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
If you’re looking for a high-protein, low-carb diet, or if you have any digestive issues that are less than ideal with grains, dairy or legumes, then a Paleo diet could be right for you.
This diet is centered around eating foods that would have been available during our hunter-gatherer days (read: lots of meat) and eliminates all grains, legumes and dairy.
The result is often weight loss, which can be surprising to people who don’t realize they’re missing out on carbohydrates.
For some added peace of mind, consider adding a probiotic supplement (either in food or pill form), which helps to balance your gut bacteria by improving immunity.
Raw foodists are true vegetarians, meaning they avoid all animal products. Since no cooking is involved, raw foodists typically eat a large volume of produce every day (think 10 servings a day or more) to make up for calories lost by not consuming meat or dairy.
In addition to eating tons of fruits and veggies, some raw vegans will also consume nuts, seeds, sprouted grains and legumes to get enough protein in their diet.
Any time you dramatically increase your intake of a single food group (even healthy ones), be aware that nutrient deficiencies may result—especially if you don’t do anything else differently. You can read more about eating raw here.
In a fruitarian diet, adherents get their protein from fruit. There is no limit to how much fruit you can eat. No other foods are consumed, except for seeds and nuts.
If you choose to go on a fruitarian diet, it’s important to understand that there is a risk of vitamin B12 deficiency if no other foods are eaten (vegans also need to be careful here). The lack of variety makes it easy to fall into unhealthy eating patterns as well.
Although most people have no problem with a limited selection at first, sticking with it long-term could mean that an entire way of eating doesn’t provide enough nutrients or calories needed by someone who exercises regularly or has an active lifestyle.
Juice fasts are widely considered to be a healthy way to lose weight, but there are potential dangers. It’s important to note that juice fasts don’t actually have any health benefits over other forms of fasting, because it’s a restrictive type of diet that isn’t sustainable for most people.
Additionally, cutting out certain foods from your diet can cause you to miss out on essential nutrients—like protein—that you need each day.
That said, juice fasts can be beneficial if you want to kick-start weight loss or detoxify your body. Just be sure not to exceed two weeks without incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables back into your diet in some capacity.