Vegetarian Diets: Which Plant-Focused Diet is Right For You?
The wide variety of vegetarian dietary options means you’re likely to find the plant-focused plan that’s right for you. Whether you need the omega-3s of heart-healthy fish or hope to eliminate all animal products, there’s a way to meet your goals. Pescatarian, flexitarian, fruitarian . . . there are so many vegetarian diets now, it’s hard to keep track. To make your path to wellness a little clearer, we’ve put together a snapshot of every vegetarian diet. These quick summaries will help you separate your ovo vegetarian from your kangatarian so you can finally narrow down your options.
The Fruitarian Diet
This diet is pretty much what it sounds like: it’s a diet built around fruit. Fruitarians try to make raw fruit account for 75% of their diet, though most doctors and dieticians believe that’s far too high a percentage. The highly restrictive nature of this diet makes it a particularly controversial nutrition plan. There has been great success for those on a fruitarian diet while health issues arose for others. While fruitarians may reap the benefits of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and antioxidants, they lose many essential vitamins as well as fats and proteins. One issue is that it may be difficult to get all of the calories in a day that your body requires eating only fruit. Children and teens should never attempt a fruitarian diet.
This type of vegetarian diet allows nuts and seeds in addition to fruit. If a person chooses to follow the fruitarian diet, they should at least be sure to include oily fruits to get the fats they need. Avocados, coconuts, and bananas are good options.
The Lacto Vegetarian Diets
The lacto vegetarian diet is nutritional plan that requires avoidance of animal products such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. However—as the word “lacto” suggests—dairy products are allowed. Lacto vegetarianism has roots in religious belief systems such as Hinduism and Jainism, and many people who choose this lifestyle do so on ethical grounds, faith-based or not. That said, there are potential health benefits to this particular diet. Studies suggest that a lacto vegetarian diet may improve heart health, promote weight loss, and help control blood sugar.
As is the case with any vegetarian diet, however, lacto vegetarianism can lead to nutritional deficiencies if the dieter is not deliberate with meal planning. Meat and animal products provide essential nutrients, including zinc, iron, protein, and omega-3 fatty acids. If you choose this dietary system, be sure to include the foods or supplements necessary to ensure well-rounded nutrition.
At PH2 Nutrition, we typically try to encourage people to stay away from dairy while they are healing, but understand that not everyone is sensitive to dairy and may keep it in their diet for preference or religious reasons. If you choose to be a lacto vegetarian, it may benefit you to monitor how you feel, inflammation, or digestion when you consume dairy to see if it is beneficial to continue having dairy in your diet.
The Ovo Vegetarian Diet
The ovo vegetarian diet does not allow consumption of meat, poultry, fish, or dairy products. It does, however, permit the dieter to eat eggs and egg-derived products. An ovo vegetarian may be a great alternative to being completely vegetarian as it makes preparing foods with enough protein and saturated fat quick and easy. While ovo vegetarians may choose this nutritional system for ethical reasons, this diet is more commonly selected for health reasons. These reasons include lactose intolerance or a need for more protein than a vegan diet can provide.
If you follow this vegetarian diet, you are permitted to eat fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, beans, and eggs. All animal products other than eggs are prohibited. This includes animal milk products such as ice cream, butter, and cheese.
The Vegan Diet
The vegan diet is one of the most restrictive vegetarian diets. And yet, it is also increasingly popular. Veganism forbids any consumption of animal products. This includes dairy products such as butter and milk, as well as foods made with eggs, like mayonnaise. Even honey is off limits as it affects bees. Many vegans observe this diet on ethical grounds related to issues of environmentalism or animal rights. However, this fiber-rich lifestyle tends to promote weight loss and heart health, among other benefits. If you attempt a vegan diet, you should consider taking supplements such as zinc, calcium, vitamin D, and iron. This nutritional system is not ideal for children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. People who are on the vegan diet report benefits of excellent digestion, clearing of acne, an increased energy.
There are different types of vegan diets depending on the specific food choices of the dieter. These include the whole food vegan diet, the raw food vegan diet, and the junk food vegan diet, which includes processed vegan foods such as mock cheeses.
Semi Vegetarian Diets
Not all who observe a vegetarian diet do so strictly. Some individuals choose to follow a dietary plan that is primarily plant-based, while allowing some wiggle room for meat consumption.
Semi-vegetarianism is a nutritional plan in and of itself. Also called “flexitarianism,” this approach to plant-based eating allows you to consume meat, poultry, and fish at your discretion. There is no consistent rule for how infrequently you must eat meat in order to be considered flexitarian.
However, there are more clearly defined semi-vegetarian diets. These include:
The Kangatarian Diet
It may surprise you to learn that this partially vegetarian diet is exactly what it sounds like. Kangatarians eat plant-based foods and kangaroo meat. Naturally, this diet has been more popular in Australia than anywhere else. The logic behind kangatarianism is that kangaroos are not farmed. As such, they are technically an organic, free-range meat source. Kangaroo meat is also lean and high in iron.
The Pescatarian Diet
This is the semi-vegetarian diet most people are familiar with. Pescatarians eat fish and seafood while still abstaining from meat and poultry. Why keep fish on the menu? As is the case with all plant-focused nutrition systems, pescatarianism has both ethical and health-related explanations. A pescatarian might choose this diet because they still want to consume animal products, but don’t want to support farming on land. Although, there is still a huge environmental impact from fish farms and over-fishing, so some pescatarians may stick to local or wild caught fish. Or they’d prefer to be full vegetarian but need the nutritional benefits of heart-healthy fish.
The Plant-Based Diet
The plant-based diet is the most loosely defined of all vegetarian diets. Technically, any diet focused around plant products is a plant-based diet. This does not mean animal products are not part of the individual’s dietary system. It just means that person has chosen to center their meal planning around vegetables, fruits, and grains. Meat may be present, but the plant-based dieter consumes it deliberately and treats it as a minor side dish rather than a centerpiece.
Which One of Vegetarian Diets IS Right For You?
There are countless benefits to designing a dietary plan around plants. From weight loss to reduced blood sugar to heart health, the advantages of going vegetarian or semi-vegetarian are undeniable. But like any nutrition plan, a responsible vegetarian diet requires full understanding of the nutrients your body needs.
If you could use some help selecting the right diet for your unique goals and health history, reach out to us at PH² Nutrition. We get to know your metabolism and genetics inside out to match you with the perfect dietary plan.
After all, no fad or buzzword should ever determine your nutritional choices. Your unique needs are the most important consideration.