Vegetarianism is a term that has been used since the 1800s to describe a ‘vegetable diet’. This seems fairly late considering being vegetarian itself originates from the 7th century BC. The western world may not have caught on to vegetarianism as quickly as maybe other regions but it’s now catching on fast. According to The Vegetarian Society, in 2012 there were 1.2 million vegetarians in the UK; this has since risen to 4 million! A consumer trends report by market research company Mintel found a steady increase in the vegetarian diet with 20% of 16-24 year olds now trending towards saying no to meat.
So why are so many more people choosing a vegetarian diet?
Well interestingly, there doesn’t seem to be just one answer:
Health: perhaps unsurprisingly this features high on the list. Vegetarians are thought to have a lower risk of heart disease and some cancersi, something recently highlighted by the World Health Organisation, which draws links between processed meats and colorectal cancer.
Ethics: with ever more information at our finger tips via the internet and available through journals and books, we are all becoming increasingly aware of the impact we are having on the planet. Couple this with the increased media attention on topics such as animal cruelty, ethics is thought to be influencing many to make lifestyle and dietary changes.
Religion: Hindus and Buddhists tend to follow a vegetarian diet. Some other religions are not as strict, but avoid specific types of meat.
Dislike of taste or texture: some people just simply don’t like the taste or texture of meat.
You may be clear on your reason for choosing a vegetarian diet but have you thought about what type of vegetarian you are, there’s quite number of variations?
One size doesn’t fit all, what type of vegetarian are you?
If you follow The Vegetarian Society’s traditional style of the diet you include plant food and avoid any meat, game, poultry, fish and crustacean.
However, there are different styles and adaptations to the vegetarian diet that you may prefer:
Flexitarian/semi vegetarian: combining both plant food and a reduced amount of animal food intake. This is a popular choice as a starting point to ease into a more strict vegetarian diet.
Lacto vegetarian: includes honey and dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese and no other animal based foods. The lacto ovo version would also include eggs.
Pescatarian: includes fish, dairy, eggs and honey but avoids meat.
Whilst vegetarianism is largely considered a healthy diet choose, some food alternatives may include refined or processed foods making them less of a healthy option, so watch out! If you’ve got questions don’t forget to get in touch with one of our experts, we’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have.
i) Lap Tai Le. Nutrients. 2014 Jun; 6(6): 2131–2147.