A vegetarian diet is generally a dietary model that excludes all types of meat from creatures of the land (beef, pork, mutton or game), of the air (poultry and other farmyard birds, and game), of the sea (fish and aquatic mammals, molluscs and crustaceans) and all products of industrial transformation derived from them (e.g. cold meats or pâtés).
More specifically, however, there are several types of vegetarian:
– lacto-ovo-vegetarians who do not eat meat and fish, but consume milk, dairy products and eggs; if one of these latter foods is ruled out as well, either for personal reasons or because of intolerances or allergies, we talk about lacto-vegetarians (who consume dairy products but exclude the use of eggs), or ovo-vegetarians (who, on the contrary, exclude dairy products);
– and vegans, or vegetarians who also exclude from their diets all indirect animal products, such as milk, eggs and even honey.
There is, in fact, also another category of people who occasionally eat white meat and fish: when these foods are eaten at a frequency of less than once a week, these people are defined by some researchers as semi-vegetarians.
If, on the one hand, these dietary models are characterised by certain limitations, on the other, foods which many omnivores do not habitually eat are consumed and given prominence: wholegrain cereals, legumes (meaning also the products that derive from them – soy drinks, tofu, or tempeh, for example), vegetables, fresh fruit, fats (oils, seeds and oily dried fruit).
In 2009 the American Dietetic Association gave its official view on the subject of these diets, and also subsequently confirmed its position:
“Vegetarian diets tend to have a reduced content of saturated fats and cholesterol, and higher amounts of fibre, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C, folates, carotenoids, flavonoids and other phytochemicals.
These differences in nutritional composition may explain some of the health benefits in individuals who follow a varied and balanced vegetarian diet.
Nevertheless, vegans and other types of vegetarians may have reduced intakes of Vitamin B12, calcium, Vitamin D, zinc and long chain Omega-3 fatty acids.”
One curious fact: it was Pythagoras who founded the vegetarian movement; before the term “vegetarian” was coined in the 19th century, those who preferred a meat-free diet were generally known as “Pythagoreans”.
“vegetarian” was coined in the 19th century, those who preferred a meat-free diet were generally known as “Pythagoreans”.
Dr. Elena Piovanelli, dietician