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What are the different types of vegetarianism?



Being a vegetarian doesn't mean it's all vegetables all the time. See more vegetable pictures.“Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean it’s all vegetables all the time. See more vegetable pictures.©iStockphoto.com/shmeljov

There are many reasons to go vegetarian. Maybe a meatless diet is dictated by your religion. Maybe you chose to stop eating meat for health reasons, as vegetarian diets are well-known to lower cholesterol levels and reduce heart disease. Or perhaps you just couldn’t possibly conceive of consuming your furry brethren. There are just as many kinds of vegetarianism as there are reasons for doing it. Some are extreme, such as fruitarians, who only eat fresh fruits. And then there are raw foodies who will only eat foods cooked under 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius). Here are some of the most common types of vegetarianism, and the foods they eat.

Traditional Vegetarians

Those who usually qualify themselves as simply "vegetarian" are generally non-meat eaters, but they usually do eat animal by-products, such as eggs and milk. The more accurate term for this is lacto-ovo vegetarians. Yogurt, cheese and eggs are complete proteins, and they also provide the calcium your bones need, so lacto-ovo vegetarians don’t quite have the nutritional challenges that our next sub-group of vegetarians face.


Vegans are strict vegetarians who exclusively eat foods from plant origins. In addition to a meatless diet, this means no animal by-products, like eggs or milk, or even honey or gelatin. Most vegans also eschew wearing animal hides or fur, as well as using products that have been tested on animals. Because of the limitations of this diet, vegans are prone to deficiencies in protein and calcium, as well as iron, zinc and vitamin B-12, all important nutrients in a well-balanced diet. Adopting a vegan diet requires a lot of planning and research to learn how to eat properly to stay healthy. And you should probably plan on cooking a lot.

Vegetarian Plus

And then there’s the sector of vegetarianism that’s a little less stringent in its avoidance of meat. These types aren’t given a lot of merit by strict vegetarians and vegans, but they are generally recognized as part of the vegetarian food chain. Pescatarians are vegetarians that eat fish, and this group includes those who follow a whole foods macrobiotic diet. Pollo-vegetarians take it to the next level and include poultry in their diets, such as chicken and turkey. Flexitarians are those who generally follow a vegetarian diet, but occasionally fall off the wagon and dive into a burger.

Did You Know?

There is actually a recent movement in the world of vegetarianism by former veggies who are choosing to eat meat as a form of activism. This big switch comes as a desire is to support ethical farmers and ranchers who produce meat without hormones and antibiotics, and to speak out against corporate factory farming and the inhumane treatment of animals raised for food.

Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • How Vegetarians Work
  • How Vegans Work
  • How do vegetarians get enough protein?
  • How the Raw Food Diet Works


  • "About Veganism." Vegan.org, 2010. http://www.vegan.org/about_veganism/index.html
  • "Different Types of Vegetarians." Buzzle.com, 2010.http://www.buzzle.com/articles/different-types-of-vegetarians.html
  • Fortin, Judy. "Protein a key concern for vegetarians." Cnn.com, 2010. http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/diet.fitness/10/01/hm.going.vegetarian/index.html
  • Lennon, Christine. "Why Vegetarians are Eating Meat." Food and Wine magazine, August 2007. http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/why-vegetarians-are-eating-meat
  • "Protein – Defined, Requirements, Food Sources." New-fitness.com, 2010.http://www.new-fitness.com/nutrition/protein.html
  • "What are the Different Kinds of Vegetarians?" wisegeek.com, 2010.http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-different-kinds-of-vegetarians.htm

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