Many nutritionists believe vegetarianism can offer some unique health benefits. Traditional vegetarians refrain from eating meat, but these days, there are dozens of other types of vegetarians and semi-vegetarians, each with a different set of dietary restrictions.
Popularity of Vegetarianism
According to a 2009 poll conducted by the Vegetarian Resource Center, 3% of U.S. adults never eat meat, poultry, and fish/seafood and these people are classified as vegetarian. This means approximately six to eight million adults in the United States are vegetarian. About one percent of the U.S. adult population also never eats dairy, eggs, and honey, and these people are classified as vegan.
Types of Vegetarian Diets
Vegetarianism is a much more complicated dietary path than simply choosing not to eat meat. There are many different types of vegetarians and a whole separate set people who label themselves semi-vegetarians.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry but do allow dairy and eggs. This is the most popular form of vegetarianism in the US, Canada, and Western Europe.
Lacto vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry but do allow dairy. They also do not eat eggs or other foods that contains byproducts of the restricted foods.
Ovo vegetarians are the same as above except that they do not allow dairy and they do allow eggs.
Veganism is the most restricted form of vegetarianism. As mentioned above, vegans do not eat any animal products including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products and any foods containing byproducts of these restricted items. Raw vegans only eat fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. The raw foods movement has been growing rapidly in recent years.
Types of Semi-vegetarian Diets
Those who call themselves semi-vegetarians generally follow a vegetarian diet but allow for occasional exceptions. While this practice is not generally accepted by the strict vegetarian community as a whole, a semi-vegetarian diet is considered a healthy and easy way to slowly transition to a full vegetarian diet.
Flexitarians allow occasional exceptions to the traditional vegetarian diet including red meat. Pescetarians occasionally allow fish and other seafood in their vegetarian diet and pollotarians allow poultry in their vegetarian diet.
In reality, many who claim to be vegetarian are truly practicing some kind of semi-vegetarian diet, which is more flexible and accommodating for most people. However, with the growing popularity of vegetarianism, it is much easier to find restaurants (in the US and Canada) that cater to these dietary restrictions.