Health A to Z

Vegetarian diet

A vegetarian in the strictest sense of the word, chooses not to eat meat, poultry, game, fish or any other product from dead animals, including gelatine or rennet.

vegetarian, vegetarian side effects, vegetarian health benefits

About four percent of Canadians are vegetarians. People may choose to become vegetarians for many reasons, for example, to improve their health; for ethical reasons, because they do not want animals to be killed for food, or for the sake of the environment.

There are several types of vegetarians:

Lacto-ovo vegetarians The most common type of vegetarian, lacto-ovos eat vegetables, fruit, beans, grains, eggs and dairy products.

Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but not eggs.

Ovo-vegetarians consume eggs but not dairy products.

Vegans A vegan diet is completely plant based so it does not include eggs, dairy products or any kind of animal product, including honey.

Semi-vegetarians don’t eat red meat but do eat chicken, fish and eggs.

Health benefits
Since most vegetarian diets do not contain animal products, they tend to be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than non-vegetarian diets. Studies have shown that vegetarians appear to have a lower risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes and some types of cancer.

Side effects
A vegetarian diet can be very healthful and nutritious if you’re careful to get all of the nutrients you need. Vegetarians may be at higher risk for iron deficiency and should make sure they eat enough iron-rich foods each day plus ensure they get protein from plant sources, amino acids from grains, iron from egg yolks, dried beans and other foods, vitamins D and B12, zinc and calcium. Like any diet, if a vegetarian diet contains too many calories or too much saturated fat, it can be unhealthy. Planning meals with Canada’s Food Guide can help vegetarians and vegans ensure they get all of the nutrients they need.

More info from Chatelaine
Are you avoiding dairy, gluten, soy or meat? Then you need to get this book
Healthy recipes: Quinoa with chickpeas and spinach
Everyday vegetarian recipes

Outside resources
Canadian Vegetarian
Choose Veg
The Vegan Society
Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide