7 Types of “Vegetarianism” and Their Environmental and Health Benefits

Although the word vegetarian was coined in the year 1839, and used thereafter as a term referring to a primarily plant-based eater, this particular lifestyle and diet choice has been in existence since practically the beginning of time. In fact, famous vegetarians who lived before then include Confucius (551- 479 BCE), Plato (428- 348 BCE), Leonardo da Vinci (1452- 1519) and Henry David Thoreau (1817- 1862), just to name a very few.

Presently, as it was in the early stages of humankind, there are all sorts of interpretations of what a vegetarian is, as well as assorted names and categories for each type of plant-based eater. Some people believe that vegans, those who do not consume or use animal products whatsoever, are showing the ultimate kindness to animals and the environment. While others feel that pollotarians and even flexitarians, which are both newer terms for two different classes of semi-vegetarians, are doing a great service to their health whilst offering some benefit to the animals and the planet.

Regardless, there are still a sizable many who desire clarity on the issue. Read on for the unequivocal descriptions of each variety of vegetarian, and what impact adopting each type has on their own health, on the animals and on the ecosystem.

The Vegan

A person who practices eating a vegan diet does not ingest animal products or animal by-products. If a person is also living a vegan lifestyle as a whole, one would not use any products that contain or were tested on animals. A vegan does not consume any type of meat, dairy product or other animal ingredients, including honey, gelatin, rennet or albumin. They also avoid sugars that were processed using animal bone char, for example.

Impacts and Benefits: Studies indicate that vegans save approximately 200 animals per year, due to their diet and lifestyle choices. Statistics also show that vegans are healthier than people who include animal products into their diet; cardiac failures and cancer deaths are extremely low among vegan people. Being vegan also has a major positive impact on the environment: it saves water, helps reverse land degradation, lessens pollution and more.

The Lacto Vegetarian

Someone who is a lacto vegetarian does not eat red or white meats, fish, poultry, fowl or eggs, but they do use dairy products. Some animal products that a lacto vegetarian will allow into their diet and lifestyle are cheese, cow’s milk and yogurt. While this type of vegetarian will consume the dairy product of the animal, they will not eat the actual animal itself.

Impacts and Benefits: A lacto vegetarian can reap the health benefits from a meatless diet, including low blood pressure and lower risk of certain diseases, however they are still consuming cholesterol in their dairy products. By not consuming animals, they are saving a number of animals per year, although a smaller percentage than the vegan dieter, still significant, with encouraging impacts on the earth as well.

The Ovo Vegetarian

An ovo vegetarian avoids red or white meats, fish, poultry, fowl and dairy products, but will ingest egg products, like those from chickens farmed for eggs, also referred to as egg-laying hens.

Impacts and Benefits: The ovo vegetarian gains health advantages from eating a meat-free diet, yet still ingests cholesterol the same as the lacto vegetarian. By restricting their intake of animal products, they are also benefiting animals and the environment.

The Lacto-ovo Vegetarian

The most common vegetarian that there is, a person who is lacto-ovo avoids red or white meats, fish, poultry and fowl, but does consume products containing dairy and eggs.

Impacts and Benefits: The lacto-ovo vegetarian can usually notice better health than their meat-eating counterparts, however they are likely increasing their cholesterol consumption, more than the lacto or ovo vegetarian, since they eat both dairy and egg products. This type of vegetarian is still making a difference due to their avoidance of meats.

The Pollotarian

This vegetarian style has been somewhat controversial, since a pollotarian avoids all other meat but does intake poultry and fowl. Though pollotarians do not eat seafood, fish or red meat, they receive criticism for even being categorized as a vegetarian at all.

Impacts and Benefits: The pollotarian sees less heart-health concerns than someone who eats red meat would. People who do not consume red meat have less of a risk of getting heart disease than if they did eat that precise animal product. Depending on how much poultry and fowl that a pollotarian ingests, in terms of numbers, they may not be saving any animals at all, per year.

The Pescatarian or Pescetarian

Impacts and Benefits: This type of vegetarian is similar to a pollotarian, although they restrict all of their meat consumption, besides seafood and fish. Over the years there has been much contention surrounding this certain vegetarian category, with other plant-based eaters saying that categorizing a seafood or fish eater as a vegetarian is wrong.

Although pescatarians have a less chance of developing major chronic medical problems, eating too much fish could lead to health problems like an overload of pollutants and mercury, while supporting the harmful commercial fishing industry. Pescatarians do save other animals from factory farms and reducing those numbers will lead to environmental change as well.

The Flexitarian

The latest in vegetarian terminology, the flexitarian is a person who eats mainly plant-based and only occasionally allows themselves to consume meat products. While the number of meat allowances vary from each individual flexitarian, the idea is that they eat primarily vegetarian but include meat on occasion.

Impacts and Benefits: Research has demonstrated that going meatless as little as one day per week has serious benefits and impacts on health and the environment, not to mention less animals are raised for food and killed per year. As it happens, people who participate in Meatless Monday can see advantages like lessened likelihood of deadly illnesses, and support environmental influences like: water usage minimization, a reduction in greenhouse gas emission, and fuel dependence cutbacks. Of course, the more days that a flexitarian practices vegetarianism, the more that the benefits will be seen.

Have you contemplated vegetarianism? Will you consider it now, after learning that benefits can be reaped from each of the vegetarian styles?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Barbara S
Barbara S14 days ago


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Mia B2 months ago

Thank you

Hannah K
Past Member 3 months ago

Thanks for posting

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Paula A7 months ago

thanks for posting

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Carole R7 months ago

Thank you for the information.

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Sue H7 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Peggy B7 months ago