What is the vegetarian diet? What are the benefits of a vegetarian diet?
The term vegetarian generally means a person who does not consume animal products; this includes land and sea animals. Most vegetarians generally do consume eggs and dairy products (milk products). Somebody who does not consume any animal protein at all, not even eggs, dairy, or honey, is a vegan. Some people call themselves vegetarians, but they consume fish.
The four main types of vegetarians are:
§ Lacto-vegetarians – they consume dairy products, but no eggs. Most do consume honey. § Ovo-vegetarians – they consume eggs, but no dairy. Most do consume honey. § Lacto-ovovegetarians – they consume eggs and dairy. Most do consume honey. § Vegans – only consume plant-based foods (no dairy, eggs or honey) In this article, vegetarian refers only to people who do not consume protein of animal origin (not even fish or seafood), with the exception of eggs, dairy and honey – Lacto-ovovegetarians. Virtually all vegetarian and/or vegan societies and associations do not accept the term “semi-vegetarian”, in the same way a doctor will not accept the term “a bit pregnant”. Scientists from Italy and Japan reported in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistrythat vegans and vegetarians have a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiencycompared to people who consume animal-based products. They showed that the human body is unable to use the plant-based form of the vitamin.2
A short history of vegetarianism
The earliest records of vegetarianism come from the 6th century B.C., in India, Greece and the Greek civilization in Southern Italy. In all these cases vegetarianism was closely linked to a desire not to harm animals. In India this peace towards animals was called ahimsa and was a common lifestyle among religious people and philosophers. The conversion to Christianity of the Roman Empire virtually eliminated all traces of vegetarianism from Europe. Many orders of monks in medieval Europe either banned or limited meat consumption as a gesture of personal sacrifice or abstinence – however, none of them shunned fish. It was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that vegetarianism started to get a foothold again in Western society.