We have all heard the different types of diets like vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian and one of the most common, omnivore (meat and veggie eaters). Why do people choose these different types of diets and do most people even know the difference?
Omnivore diets consist of eating meat, dairy and fruits and vegetables. This is the basic clear cut American diet that most people know about. This type of diet is what most people grew up on. This has been a popular way of eating for well over 2 million years. During the early omnivore diets, meals were similar to the eating habits of modern chimpanzees.
The term Pescatarian was coined in the early 1990’s and is a mix of the Italian word for fish, “pesce”, and the word “vegetarian”. This may be a healthier option for people whose bodies can’t digest meat properly or want to have a diet to help keep a healthy weight. This diet may not be as sustainable as people think, as long as fish with high levels of mercury are avoided. Pescatarians choose to eat a vegetarian diet but also include fish or other seafood. It is largely plant based and includes whole grains, nuts, legumes and healthy fats. Many pescatarians also eat dairy products and eggs.
Vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat, fish and poultry. This may also include staying away from by-products of animal slaughter. This form of diet has reportedly been around since about 700 B.C. Consuming a full vegetarian diet can be a healthy choice as long as the body receives enough protein daily. There are a few different types of vegetarianism. Lacto-ovo vegetarians, most traditional, consume plant based but still consume eggs and dairy products, just no meat. Lacto-vegetarian consume plant based, dairy but no meat or eggs. Ovo-vegetarian consume plant based food and eggs, but no dairy or meat.
Lastly, we come to Veganism. This diet is considered the strictest form of vegetarianism. Veganism is currently defined by the Vegan Society as “a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty as much as possible”. Vegan diets not only exclude animal flesh, but also dairy, eggs and animal derived ingredients. This type of diet began roughly around 1944 but did not become too popular until around 2010. Due to the innovation in the plant-based industry, as well as a rising awareness around animal agriculture, veganism has become a well-known diet choice for very health conscious and earth friendly people.
For some people religion can be the reason for their diet choices. Vegan diets and Vegetarian diets are strongly linked with a number of religions that originated in India, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. In India for example, people do not kill some living creatures and do not sell live cattle. Vegetarianism in Jainism is based on nonviolent principles. In Hinduism, the cow is viewed as a sacred animal so even if there are meat eating Hindus, they do not eat beef. With Buddhism, most follow a lacto-vegetarian diet, which means they consume dairy products as well as fruits as vegetables but no meat. Christians, a lot of them, eat meat due to the religious belief of meat being clean for consumption.
Besides religion, people may choose their diets due to not wanting to adhere to animal cruelty, believe in animal rights advocacy, believe not eating meat is better for the planet, or because their bodies may not be able to digest the meat properly.
With the different types of diet options out there, choosing what’s best for you can be based on research, religion or any reason you desire.
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