Vegetarianism is becoming ever so popular across the globe. But there are different variations of the vegetarian diet. So, if you’re about to opt for a plant-based way of eating, terms like lacto-vegetarian, flexitarian, vegetarian, pescatarian, etc. might confuse you. So what is lacto-vegetarian?
A lacto-vegetarian diet is a plant-based dietery regimen, which includes dairy products like milk, cream, yogurt, and cheese. It excludes meat, fish, eggs, and poultry.
In this post, we will take an in-depth look at lacto-vegetarianism, its benefits, and additional tips to help you make the right dietary choices.
So, keep on reading to learn more.
As stated, the lacto-vegetarian diet is a plant-based eating program that allows the consumption of dairy products but completely bans eating meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. In other words, lacto-vegetarians include some amount of animal derivates in their diet.
It ultimately means that lacto-vegetarians get proteins, fiber, calcium, and other essential nutrients from dairy and plant-based sources, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, etc.
The concept of lacto-vegetarianism is deep-rooted in Indian history. Indian religions like Jainism, a major part of Hinduism, and Buddhism practiced this type of diet as a part of their religious and ethical lifestyle.
Other than that, George Cheyne, a Scottish physician, was also an early practitioner of lacto-vegetarianism, who promoted a plant-based and diary-rich diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent conditions like obesity.
In other parts of the Western world, lacto-vegetarianism gained popularity around the 19th and 20th centuries to stop animal cruelty and promote environmental sustainability.
As we have various concepts of vegetarianism, people often get confused about which term defines what.
See below the different characteristics of various plant-based dietary regimens, which fall under the category of vegeterianism:
As you can see, there are differences, as well as similarities, between different vegetarian concepts and lacto-vegetarianism. If you’ve just started following a vegetarian diet, keeping a flexible approach would help you figure out what meets your nutritional requirements, while satisfying your taste buds.
Lacto-vegetarians eat a variety of plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and of course, dairy products like cheese, yogurt, milk, etc.
Here is a list of foods you can eat as a lacto-vegetarian:
As a lacto-vegetarian, you cannot eat:
Here are a few delicious and nutritious meal options lacto-vegetarians can enjoy:
Since lacto-vegetarianism does not believe in a total ban on the consumption of animal products, finding suitable eating options in various cuisines shouldn’t be an issue.
In almost every cuisine around the world, be it Indian, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, or Chinese, there are plenty of options for lacto-vegetarians.
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The meatless diet, lacto-vegetarans follow, is considered healthier choice. However, vegetarians can be at risk of developing calcium, iron, and vitamin B12 deficiency if not careful.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a range of health issues, some of which - rather serious. And lacto-vegetarians rely only on dairy products to meet their vitamin B12 needs.
Also, lacto-vegetarians should pay extra attention to getting enough iron and Omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts and seeds are a good source of the latter.
To sum up, focus on adding a variety of plant-based and dairy products to provide your body with all essential macro- and micronutriens like protein, carbs, fats, fiber, essential vitamins, and minerals.
Following a well-balanced lacto-vegetarian diet can actually have multiple benefits. Unlike a vegan diet, where you have to cut down on all animal-derived ingredients, lacto-vegetarians, as we've established, consume dairy products.
Here are some potential benefits of the lacto-vegetarian diet:
People, who rely more on plant-based sources for their nutritional needs, are at lesser risk of deveoping high blood pressure.
Since lacto-vegetarians do not consume meat, they typically have a lower risk of developing bad cholesterol (LDL), which can again improve heart health.
A plant-based diet is high in fiber, which improves digestion and prevents problems like constipation and other digestive issues.
If you want to shed some extra weight, following a lacto-vegetarian diet might take you closer to your goals. People following a plant-based diet often have lower body mass index (BMI) than those, who consume meat.
Ovo-vegetarianism is another branch of the vegetarian diet that excludes all animal products except eggs. Ovo-vegetarians do not consume any meat and dairy products. However, they don't mind eating eggs and foods made with eggs like egg noodles, cakes, mayonnaise, etc.
So, what does an ovo-vegetarian diet look like? Here is a list of things that an ovo-vegetarian eats on a daily basis:
Ovo-vegetarians do not eat the following:
Since ovo-vegetarians consume eggs, they get essential nutrients like protein, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and more. However, those, who follow the ovo diet, may be at risk of becoming deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, and iron.
If you find leaving either dairy or eggs out of your diet too restrictive, you can go for the ovo-lacto vegetarian dietary plan. In this dietary approach, you have the flexibility to include both eggs and dairy but not meat or fish.
People, who are at increased risk of protein, calcium, or iron deficiency, would benefit a lot from an ovo-lacto vegetarian type of diet and can have a wider choice of food they can eat.
A: No, lacto-vegetarian and vegan are not the same. Vegans avoid any animal products, including eggs and dairy, while dairy is allowed in the lacto-vegetarian diet.
A: Lacto-vegetarians are also called lactarians.
A: Vegetarianism excludes any form of animal flesh like meat, as well as meat- and bone-derivative products, such as gelatin, stocks, broths and gravy. So, in that sense, eggs are considered suitable for vegetarians.
That's everything you need to know about lacto-vegetarianism, its nutritional considerations, benefits, and drawbacks. If you're new to these diet concepts, it's best to embrace the journey with an open mind and don't be too strict on yourself.
Explore different lacto-vegetarian food options, and see how you and your body respond to them. Aim to include vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, protein, and dairy products to keep your nutrition tank full!