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Types of Vegetarians

Personally, I'm not so fond of all the "labels," since we all draw our own arbitrary lines which may or may not conform to other people's definitions. But for the purposes of relating to the rest of the world, here are some common terms vegetarians use to describe their eating habits:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarian: A person who does not eat animal flesh (meat, fowl, or seafood), often excluding gelatin as well. They will consume eggs, milk, as well as all egg and dairy products.
  • Lacto-vegetarian: Same as above, but excludes eggs and egg products. Will still consume dairy.
  • Ovo-vegetarian: Somewhat more rare; will not eat animal flesh, or gelatin, and will not consume milk or any dairy product, but will eat eggs.
  • Vegan: (pronounced VEE-ghin or VEE-gun) Sometimes called "strict vegetarian." No animal products whatsoever, including eggs, egg products, gelatin, milk, and dairy products, and many also exclude honey.
  • Raw foodist: Generally foods that are consumed are raw or dried fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sprouts, sometimes raw egg yolks. Some will allow for brief steaming of vegetables, dehydrating foods, juicing, or other light forms of "cooking". Very rarely do you find someone who adheres strictly to a 100% raw diet, but it happens. The idea of eating primarily uncooked, unprocessed foods is a pretty good one, worth striving for even if you don't intend to be 100% raw.
  • Fruitarian: A raw foodist may be a fruitarian, or a fruitarian may be a raw foodist, but they are not necessarily the same. Fruitarians eat mainly fruits (including avocados and "vegetables" which are botanically fruits, such as tomatoes, olives, squash, and cucumbers. Most fruitarians also include nuts and seeds in their diet as a source of protein and essential fatty acids.
  • Macrobiotic: (Not necessarily vegetarian, as some followers of a macrobiotic diet include fish.) Macrobiotic diets are focused on a balance of "yin" and "yang" foods. Whole grains such as brown rice make up a large portion of the diet, as well as seasonal land vegetables, sea vegetables, legumes, soups (especially miso), and small amounts of fruits and seeds. Processed foods, artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, and other additives are greatly frowned upon. Perhaps that's a lesson we could all learn from macrobiotics.
  • Not-Quite-Vegetarians: The blanket term many people use for those who call themselves "selectarians," "semi-vegetarians," "pescatarians," "pollo-vegetarians," et cetera. Since birds and fish are still animals, a lot of people argue that those who consume poultry or sea life can't quite call themselves true vegetarians just yet.
  • Freegan: Also known colloquially as "dumpster-divers," they seek out free food which would have otherwise gone to waste. Not necessarily vegan or even vegetarian, as some believe that as long as their money does not go to support factory farms and animal suffering, it is okay to eat animal products they get for free.

    Obviously there is a whole lot of room for variation even within these labels, especially because people are drawn to vegetarianism for a wide variety of reasons:

  • Some people who drink milk may avoid certain cheeses due to rennin, or animal-derived enzymes.
  • Some will avoid dairy products from cow's milk but will consume products made from goat or sheep's milk. (Goat's milk is closer to human milk in terms of nutrient content, and ethical vegetarians may avoid cow's milk because of the strong link between the dairy and veal industries.)
  • Some vegetarians will be strict about only consuming organic or free-range eggs and dairy products, for reasons of health or concern about animal welfare.
  • Some vegans are stricter than others: many avoid certain non-dairy cheeses (some contain casein, a milk protein) and refined sugar (which may be processed using bone char), and a whole host of other ingredients which are deemed "non-vegan."
  • Some people are "dutiful" vegans at home, but may concede to the occassional non-vegan item (such as cookies or cake) when eating out, or as an occassional treat.

    As far as lifestyle beyond diet, many ethical vegetarians and/or vegans take it a step further and do not use non-edible products made with beeswax or gelatin, or wear anything made of wool, silk, or leather. Vegetarians who kicked the meat habit out of health concerns tend to lead healthier lifestyles in general: exercising, not smoking, et cetera.

    Evan Keraminas

    Back to the Vegetarian Athlete
    Vegetarian "side bars" (ethics, et cetera)


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