Following a vegetarian diet can benefit your health, especially if you choose a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet. There are different types of vegetarian diets available to choose from; all include primarily plant-based foods, but some include limited varieties of animal products.
What’s the Lacto-ovo Vegetarian Diet?
Lacto-ovo vegetarian diets are similar to vegan (all animal products omitted), and lacto-vegetarian (milk products included but meat, fish, poultry, and eggs omitted) diets. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat plant-based foods but do not eat meat, fish or poultry; however they do consume some animal products such as eggs, milk, and milk products (such as yogurt and cheese) in addition to plant-based foods.
Why Eat Vegetarian?
There are many reasons why people decide to follow vegetarian diets. If you’re eating a balanced diet consisting of all essential nutrients, vegetarianism can benefit your health since plant-based foods (such as soy products, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes) tend to be high in nutrients, fiber, and healthy fats while low in calories and saturated fat. Many vegetarians successfully achieve and maintain healthy weights.
Am I Getting Enough Nutrients?
It is definitely possible to eat a vegetarian diet (especially a lacto-ovo diet) and get all the essential nutrients you need to stay healthy. Lacto-ovo vegetarians are more likely (than other vegetarians) to consume adequate amounts of vitamin B12 and calcium since they eat eggs and milk products. However, when following a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet make sure to consume plenty of the following nutrients that vegetarians can sometimes become deficient in:
- Protein. Since vegetarians don’t eat meat, fish, or poultry, which all contain high amounts of protein, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting protein from other sources. Lacto-ovo vegetarians are more likely to meet their protein needs since both eggs and milk products are high in protein. Soy products, legumes, peas, nuts and seeds are some plant-based foods that contain significant amounts of protein. Protein should make up about 15 -20 percent of your total daily calorie intake, or at least .5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
- Iron. Meats (especially red meats) are high in iron. So, if you decide to go vegetarian you’ll have to get your iron from other sources. Lacto-ovo vegetarians can consume iron from egg yolks. Plant sources of iron include legumes, leafy green vegetables, fortified breads and cereals, and tofu. Consume vitamin C with plant-based iron sources to help increase iron absorption in your body. Taking a multivitamin containing iron is typically a good idea if you’re eating vegetarian, but check with your healthcare provider to be sure.
- Zinc. Since many meats are high in zinc, vegetarians can get zinc from beans (kidney beans, white beans and chickpeas for example), wheat germ, some nuts, pumpkins seeds, some soy products, and zinc fortified cereals. Multivitamins typically contain zinc as well.
- Vitamin B12. Milk, eggs and cheese do contain vitamin B12, which is an advantage of being a lacto-ovo vegetarian. Plant sources of B12 include vitamin-fortified products (such as breakfast cereals).
- Calcium. Lacto-ovo vegetarians and lacto-vegetarians typically don’t have a difficult time meeting calcium requirements since they consume dairy products. Vegans can get calcium from vitamin-fortified foods (breakfast cereals, orange juice, or tofu), broccoli and some dark leafy green vegetables.