For beginners starting a meat-free diet, there can be a lot of confusion between the four food groups of religious vegetarian, vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based diets. How are they similar or different? Let’s break down these food groups to clear up any confusion.
- Religious vegetarians do not eat any kind of meat, including meat products such as eggs, milk, butter, and animal fats. They also avoid vegetables that have a pungent odor, such as garlic, spring onions, rakkyo (Chinese garlic), Chinese chives, and tobacco leaves. This is because it is believed that these vegetables destroy the elemental energy of the body. Another important aspect of vegetarianism is following religious precepts, both physically and verbally. This means keeping your mind and emotions pure and not hurting others.
- Vegetarianism is a diet that has become increasingly popular, especially in America and Europe. Vegetarians avoid eating meat, fish, and poultry, but they may consume dairy products. They are also known as lacto-vegetarians, while those who consume eggs are called ovo-vegetarians.
- Vegans are stricter than vegetarians. They do not eat any kind of meat or animal products, including eggs, milk, honey, and clothing made from animal products such as wool and silk. They also avoid cosmetics that have been tested on animals. This group is similar to the religious vegetarian group in Thailand.
- Plant-based eaters focus on eating vegetables. They may use vegetables as the main ingredient in their dishes, and they may occasionally add a small amount of meat. This is a good option for beginners who are transitioning to a meat-free diet.
All meat-free diets, whether religious vegetarian, vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based, have many benefits. They can help people lose weight faster, lower cholesterol levels, and reduce blood sugar levels. Some reports also show that vegetarians have a lower risk of ischemic heart disease and cancer than meat-eaters. This is especially true for vegans.
However, long-term avoidance of meat in religious vegetarian and vegan diets can lead to deficiencies in vitamin B, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and protein. Several studies have shown that vegans are more likely to be deficient in these nutrients than vegetarians. Therefore, it is important to make sure you are getting enough of these nutrients from other sources, such as nuts and seeds (protein and calcium), dark green leafy vegetables (vitamin B), mushrooms (vitamin D), or vegan supplements.
Another thing to keep in mind when following a meat-free diet is that some seasonings contain animal products, such as oyster sauce and fish sauce. A good option for beginners is to use “CARECHOICE vegetable-based seasoning powder.” This seasoning powder is free of meat ingredients, MSG, and chemicals.