A Lacto vegetarian is a person whose diet excludes meat and eggs. The Lacto vegetarian diet consists of plant-based foods and dairy products. It was first promoted as a lifestyle that could help control obesity. Even today, the advocates of a strictly Lacto-vegetarian diet argue that Lacto vegetarianism is a more nutrient efficient diet.
In the past, most people considered vegetarians as people who do not eat meat. However, in the last decade or so, several sub-categories of vegetarianism have made it into common parlance, making the term ‘vegetarian’ a generic term, which often needs to be narrowed down.
Types of vegetarians
- Flexitarian: This term refers to people who mostly follow a vegetarian diet but occasionally eat meat.
- Pescatarian: Pescatarians include seafood and vegetarian food in their diet but exclude animal meat.
- Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian: This term refers to people who do not eat meat or seafood but include eggs and dairy products in their diet.
- Lacto-Vegetarian: Refers to people who abstain from meat, seafood and eggs, but include dairy products and plant-based food in their diet.
- Vegan: Vegans strictly abstain from all animal products, including dairy and processed foods containing ingredients derived from animals.
Characteristics of a Lacto-Vegetarian diet
People often choose to convert to vegetarianism to reduce their impact on the environment and to distance themselves from the horrific reality of animal cruelty in the food industry. While veganism puts forward an ideal animal-cruelty- free living, the other variants of vegetarian living, such as Lacto-vegetarianism, allow for more flexibility.
A Lacto-vegetarian diet offers the health advantages of ample vegetables and dairy products such as protein and calcium and the advantages of cutting out meat products from the diet.
The diet is more feasible than a vegan diet, yet healthier and more environment-friendly than a non-veg diet.
Health benefits of a Lacto-vegetarian diet
- Reduces the risk of heart failure.
Vegetarian diets, in general, are known to reduce the risk of heart-related health problems. The diets provide sufficient intake of vegetables while avoiding red meat that has been known to cause heart blockages. Vegetarian diets help to decrease blood cholesterol.
- Helps regulate blood sugar.
Lacto vegetarian diets have been known to decrease long-term type-2—diabetes in people.
- Helps maintain a lower Body Mass Index.
People who follow vegetarian diets are known to have a lower BMI than people who follow a non-vegetarian diet. The weight-reducing effect is also prominent in people who convert to a vegetarian diet. This occurs because the fiber in vegetarian food makes you fuller and helps in maintaining a healthy metabolism.
Risks and concerns
A non-veg diet has several sources of nutrients that are important for the body. Since most non-veg diets involve several kinds of meat, eggs, dairy products, and vegetables, the concern regarding sufficient nutrient intake is mostly not necessary.
However, in a vegetarian diet, some of these nutrient intakes might need a bit of conscious planning. Failing which can cause several deficiency problems that include anemia, damage to the nervous system and adverse effects on the immune system.
Additionally, people who choose to follow a Lacto-vegetarian diet, or any vegetarian diet for that matter, should be ready to invest some time into planning out their menu for the week. Make sure to include proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc.
Another general concern among new vegetarians is whether there are sufficient sources of protein in vegetarian diets. The simple answer is yes. There are much healthier sources of protein in vegetarian diets. Soy and soy products such as tofu are excellent sources of protein. Beans, peas and all kinds of lentils provide ample protein intake. Additionally, Lacto-vegetarians can get protein from milk and dairy products.
Other essential nutrients for vegetarians
Vegetarians must also ensure they get enough of essential nutrients such as iron and zinc.
Iron helps maintain a healthy blood count, which is critical for oxygen distribution in the body. Cooking in iron cast works is a good source of iron, along with soy, dried lentils and beans, raisins, and meat alternatives.
On the other hand, Zinc is essential for the growth and maintenance of the body. You can include zinc in your diet through soy or soy products, lentils, nuts and nut butter, and whole grains.
Some nutrients are either not easily accessible or not available in plant-based food; most importantly, vitamin B12 or Omega-3 fatty acids. You have to take these in the supplement form of multivitamins or Omega-3 supplements.
Finally, some plant-based foods are also made to include these nutrients artificially and are readily available in the market.