Being vegetarian is not as straightforward as it seems - as Girija Duggal discovers, there’re many kinds of vegetarianism. Find out where you fit...
Strict, or true, vegetarians staunchly follow a diet free of animal flesh and animal-derived products like milk, dairy products, seafood and eggs. However, unlike vegans, they may not reject products like fur, silk, wool, etc. In India, a strict vegetarian diet would also exclude onion and garlic (called a sattvik diet). Notable vegetarians include ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, Spiderman Tobey Maguire and singer Shania Twain.
Ideologically, flexitarians rest in no-man’s land, for they are ‘flexible vegetarians’. This newly-coined word refers to meat-eating vegetarians, ironic as that may sound. Practitioners prefer a vegetarian diet for health rather than ethical reasons, and indulge in meat and fish occasionally. Strict vegetarians balk at the term, but many health practitioners welcome it as it denotes a healthy, moderate diet.
Raw foodists only eat raw, uncooked foods (though some also eat food that hasn’t been cooked beyond 46 degrees celcius, believing higher temperatures result in loss of nutritional value). Their diet includes all raw fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts and fresh herbs in their unprocessed state. Some also take raw dairy products, meat and fish. Proponents include Ghost actress Demi Moore
Remember Keziah’s lines to Hugh Grant in Notting Hill? “We believe that fruits and vegetables have feeling so we think cooking is cruel. We only eat things that’ve actually fallen off a tree or bush — that are, in fact, dead already.” Fruitarians like Keziah eat mainly fruits (but also some veggies, nuts and seeds) — anything that can be gathered without harming the plant. Their reasons are both ethical and health-related; they believe it’s the most natural of diets, and that uncooked fruit is healthy for both humans and the environment.
One of the most common forms of vegetarianism worldwide, a lacto-ovo diet includes milk, eggs, honey and dairy products apart from fruits and vegetables, but no meat or seafood. ‘Lacto’ means ‘milk’ in Latin, and ‘ovo’ means ‘egg’. Lacto vegetarians take milk and dairy products but not eggs, while ovo vegetarians stick to eggs and avoid the latter. Most vegetarians in India, barring those who follow a sattvik diet, would fall in this category.
Strict vegetarians/vegans will contest their inclusion in this list, for pollo vegetarians (or pollotarians) have a ‘fowl’ taste. That is, they rest in halfway territory — apart from fruits and veggies, they have a fondness for poultry. Chicken, duck, goose, turkey, etc find their way onto pollotarians’ plates, but red meat is a definite no-no. Most pollotarians also consume dairy products and eggs. The debate on whether they can be called vegetarians still rages.
The term (pr. vee-gun), coined by Donald Watson in 1944, refers to a diet that takes the ethics of vegetarianism to what he called its “logical conclusion” — vegans eat only plant-derived food and reject everything sourced from animals. That includes not just dairy products, fish and meat but also leather, silk, wool, etc. Some even reject products processed using animal derivatives e.g. white sugar. Alicia Silverstone and Pamela Anderson are vegans.
Freeganism (‘free’ plus ‘veganism’) stems from a political rather than a healthy living or ethical philosophy. Freegans advocate an anti-consumerist, environmentally-conscious method of eating. They practice veganism as it protects animals, the environment and human health. Freegans source food by foraging through dumpsters for discarded, unspoiled items, so as to avoid wastage.
Pescetarians pledge allegiance to all things green, leafy and with fins — they’re lacto-ovo vegetarians who also eat seafood. Like pollotarians, their status as vegetarians is debatable. In many instances, pescetarianism is the halfway stage for a wannabe vegetarian convert. Others cite health reasons for consuming fish. Celebrity endorsers include actors Ted Dansen and Mary Tyler Moore.