Different Vegetarian Diets
Is One Better Than the Other?
As the years go by, eating plant-based is becoming more popular than ever. Whether someone decides to follow it for environmental and sustainability purposes, or follows it for health reasons, or just follows it because they find it to be cheaper than following a meat-focused diet; there are all kinds of vegetarian diets that fall under the umbrella of plant-based. So the question remains, what are the differences and is one more favorable than the other?
To start, let’s talk about plant-based and vegetarian, because there is a difference. A plant-based diet that is one that still incorporates meat, but simply has a heavy focus on plants. For example, you might only have some type of meat only a couple times per week with one meal each. There are still grains that are incorporated into the diet, but the main focus would be fruits, vegetables, soy or tofu, and really anything else that comes from the ground or a plant. These are diets that are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These are a little bit more forgiving than full vegetarian diets as it still allows for some meat which may make it easier to follow for those with a tight schedule as it would require (slightly) less planning than a full vegetarian diet.
On the flip side, vegetarian diets do not incorporate meat of any kind. Technically though, these diets are sort of synonymous with plant-based because the heavy emphasis of the diet focuses on plants (fruits and vegetables). Remember, all variations of vegetarian diets are plant-based, but a traditional plant-based diet is not technically vegetarian as it still incorporates meats on some occasions.
In addition to being different from the traditional plant-based diet, there are different subtypes of vegetarian diets. Those would be the following:
Lacto-ovo Vegetarian: This one is the one that you may think of when someone tells you they are vegetarian. The diet is plant-based, does not incorporate any meat at all, but still includes dairy products and eggs.
Lacto Vegetarian: This one is also plant-based, incorporates dairy products, and eliminates meats and eggs. Some people choose to eliminate eggs for digestive sensitivities or concerns with cholesterol intake.
Ovo Vegetarian: This one is still plant-based, but instead of eliminating eggs and meat; this one eliminates meat and dairy.
Pescatarian: This is a plant-based diet. It eliminates beef, pork, and poultry; but makes an exception for fish occasionally.
Vegan: This is the ultimate plant-based diet. Not only does it exclude all meats, it also excludes all animal by-products (such as dairy and eggs). Essentially with the vegan diet, if it comes from an animal, it's off limits.
So we have established the basics, now is there one that is better than the others?
To put it simply, no. This is a question that can’t really be answered yes or no. Which one is best for you is going to depend on a lot of factors. It is going to depend on your health goals, where you live, what your income looks like, and how much time you have to plan, shop, prepare, and cook meals. Ultimately, after you consider all of your individual factors, you should consult with a professional like your primary care physician or a Registered Dietitian.
If you are looking to make some dietary changes or are looking for some nutrition counseling, contact Health & Wellness at (603) 862-9355 or make an appointment online here.