Vegetarian Diet - Vegetarianism

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Vegetarian Diet - Vegetarianism
Vegetarian Diet - Vegetarianism

Video: Vegetarian Diet - Vegetarianism

Video: Vegetarian Diet - Vegetarianism
Video: Vegan Diet or Mediterranean Diet: Which Is Healthier? 2023, December

Vegetarian diet

The term "vegetarianism" goes back to the founder of classical vegetarianism, the philosopher Pythagoras. The Latin word “vegetare” means “revitalize” and describes the fact that, in addition to plant-based foods, only products from living animals are consumed. The reasons that lead people to eat “differently” from the majority are very different. The forms of a vegetarian lifestyle also differ from one another. Some people have been moved by personal taste preferences to adopt a vegetarian diet. Others decide, for example, for moral, ethical, health or ecological reasons to eat a meatless diet. Ideally, the selected diet is suitable for permanent nutrition and not a diet for weight loss.


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  • What types of vegetarian diet are there?
  • Is a vegetarian diet healthy?
  • Can a nutritional deficiency arise with a vegetarian diet?
  • Is a vegetarian diet suitable for infants and children?
  • Is a vegetarian diet suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women?

What types of vegetarian diet are there?

There are different ways to eat a vegetarian diet. This depends on which foods or food groups are omitted. A distinction is currently made between the following forms:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians do without meat of all animal species, fish and seafood, as well as foods made from them. In addition to plant-based foods, eggs (ovo), milk and milk products (lacto) are on the menu for ovo-lacto-vegetarianism.
  • In addition to meat, fish and seafood, lacto-vegetarians also do without eggs. Milk and dairy products are eaten.
  • Ovo vegetarians forego meat, fish and seafood as well as milk and dairy products. Eggs, on the other hand, are eaten.
  • Vegans reject the consumption of any products of animal origin. This can include honey and animal products such as leather, wool, fur, down and silk.
  • Flexitarianism, pesco (fish) or pollo (chicken) vegetarianism: These forms of nutrition are not vegetarian, because meat, fish and seafood or chicken are eaten - even if only occasionally and in small quantities. The quality and origin of the food (e.g. no meat from factory farming) and a pronounced health awareness often play an important role.
  • Pudding vegetarianism: This term describes the unfavorable implementation of a vegetarian lifestyle. The diet is purely vegetarian, but the diet is one-sided (many desserts and highly processed, nutrient-poor and high-fat products).
  • Fructarians: Followers of this form of nutrition only consume plants that do not have to "die" when harvested. Radical representatives only eat fruit that has fallen naturally from the tree.
  • Raw foodists: With this type of diet, only raw food is consumed. The menu can be vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous. The crucial criterion is that the food is not heat treated.

Tip Often animal ingredients such as gelatine, lard, chicken soup, beef extract etc. are hidden in supposedly vegetarian products. If you want to be sure that no animal products have been used during production, you should take a look at the food labels.

Is a vegetarian diet healthy?

Whether a vegetarian diet has a positive effect on health depends on which foods are used in the menu. A balanced vegetarian diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit and whole grain products is usually characterized by a high intake of cheap nutritional ingredients such as complex carbohydrates, fiber and secondary plant substances as well as a lower intake of saturated fatty acids, cholesterol and purines. A vegetarian lifestyle can therefore reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gout, overweight and obesity as well as some cancers.

Note Vegetarian ready-made products often contain a high amount of calories, sugar, fat, salt and additives (e.g. colorings and flavorings).

Can a nutritional deficiency arise with a vegetarian diet?

With a carefully compiled vegetarian diet based on the Austrian food pyramid, a good supply of nutrients and a healthy, balanced diet can be ensured. The risk of insufficient supply increases the more food groups are left out. Potentially critical nutrients in a vegetarian diet and in any form of unbalanced diet (including mixed foods that contain meat and fish) include:

Egg white (protein)

A varied vegetarian diet provides sufficient protein. Important sources of protein are milk, dairy products, eggs, whole grain cereals, potatoes, legumes such as beans, lentils, soy and (chick) peas. The protein quality can be improved by combining different protein sources. Good combinations include potatoes with eggs or dairy products (e.g. mashed potatoes), dairy products and grains (e.g. rice pudding), grains and legumes (e.g. couscous with chickpeas) and grains with eggs (e.g. pancakes). Protein-rich products made from soy (e.g. tofu) or wheat (seitan) also contribute to the supply. See protein for more information.

Long-chain n-3 fatty acids

Since most vegetarians do not eat fish either, the omega-3 fatty acids are supplied through vegetable oils such as rapeseed, soy, walnut and linseed oil. Nuts (e.g. walnuts) and seeds should be an integral part of the vegetarian diet. They have a favorable fatty acid profile and are rich in unsaturated essential fatty acids. After consulting a doctor, the use of dietary supplements (DHA) can be recommended if necessary. See fats for more information.

Vitamin B12

Foods rich in vitamin B12 include animal products such as meat, eggs, milk and milk products. In the case of a vegetarian diet in which milk and milk products and / or eggs are consumed, the supply of vitamin B12 is usually sufficient. However, if milk and dairy products or eggs are avoided, particular attention should be paid to an adequate supply of vitamin B12. According to specialist societies such as the DGE, the supply of vitamin B12 cannot be ensured through fermented products (e.g. sauerkraut), shiitake mushrooms or algae (e.g. nori or spirulina) and other products with cyanobacteria. It is advisable to have the vitamin B12 status regularly checked by a doctor and, if necessary, toafter consulting a doctor, use supplements and choose fortified foods. For more information, see Vitamin B12.


Vegetable iron is more poorly absorbed by the body than that from animal sources such as meat or fish. To improve the utilization of iron, it is helpful to take in a lot of vitamin C at the same time, for example with a glass of orange or sea buckthorn juice. Good vegetable sources include legumes, whole grains, millet, pseudograins such as quinoa and amaranth, dried fruits such as apricots and various types of vegetables such as peas, spinach, Swiss chard and lettuce. The use of iron supplements should definitely be discussed with a doctor. See Iron for more information.

Vitamin D

Sufficient time outdoors is very important for the self-synthesis of vitamin D to meet your needs. This also applies to people who eat meat and fish. With lacto and lacto-ovo vegetarianism, milk and milk products or eggs and edible mushrooms (e.g. mushrooms, chanterelles) contribute to a small extent to the vitamin D supply. It may be necessary to take vitamin D supplements. This should always be discussed with a doctor. For more information, see Vitamin D.


Milk and dairy products are high in calcium. If these are avoided, vegetable sources of calcium such as almonds, figs, tofu, beans, sweet potatoes and broccoli as well as calcium-rich mineral waters (> 150 mg / L) can be eaten or drunk more. The absorption of calcium is increased by vitamin D. The need to take calcium supplements should always be discussed with a doctor. For more information, see Calcium.


High natural iodine levels are found almost exclusively in marine animals and seaweed. Meat and sausages also provide significant amounts of iodine. Since these sources are omitted with a vegetarian diet, the use of iodized table salt is important. In addition, different types of algae can improve iodine intake. The use of iodine preparations should always be discussed with a doctor. For more information, see iodine.

Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

Vitamin B2 is found in numerous plant and animal foods. Important vitamin B2 suppliers are milk and dairy products. In addition, various types of nuts, mushrooms, oil seeds, legumes and whole grain cereals (products) are good sources of vitamin B2. For more information, see Vitamin B2.


In the case of vegetarian children and adolescents, in addition to the substances mentioned, it is important to ensure that they have a sufficient supply of zinc. The bioavailability from plant-based foods is relatively low, that is, the body is less able to utilize it than from animal-based foods. Zinc-rich foods include dairy products, eggs, whole grains, vegetables (e.g. parsnips, cabbage sprouts) and porcini mushrooms. Note that tannin from coffee and tea, for example, reduces absorption. For more information, see zinc.

Tip The more varied the diet is and the fewer food groups are omitted, the lower the risk of nutrient deficiency.

Is a vegetarian diet suitable for infants and children?

An adequate supply of nutrients is particularly important for adolescents. The more the food supply is restricted, the greater the risk of a deficiency. After weaning, infants represent a particularly endangered group. According to the Austrian recommendations for complementary foods, a vegetarian diet for infants without meat, fish or seafood or products made from them is not recommended. If parents want to do this anyway, they should definitely seek advice from a doctor or a specialist in dietology or nutritional science. A vegetarian diet needs to be well planned to ensure healthy, age-appropriate development.

The VeChi-Youth study (“Vegetarian nutrition in children and adolescents in Germany”) examines how a vegetarian diet affects the health of children and adolescents. The results of the study should make an important contribution to the evaluation of the health advantages and disadvantages of vegetarian diets compared to a diet that contains meat (mixed diet). The results of the VeChi-Youth study are to be published in the 14th DGE nutrition report in 2020.

More information is available at

  • Infant nutrition
  • Austrian complementary food recommendations

Note A vegan diet can lead to growth retardation in children due to serious nutrient deficiencies and is therefore not suitable for infant nutrition.

Is a vegetarian diet suitable for pregnant and breastfeeding women?

Pregnancy and breastfeeding are special times in a woman's life, also in terms of diet. Women who want to eat a vegetarian diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding should take particular care to consume sufficient amounts of all important nutrients. This is the only way to ensure the need for critical nutrients such as iron, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12 and iodine. It is advisable to talk to a doctor and / or a dietician about nutrition and the possible intake of supplements.

For more information, see

  • Diet in Pregnancy
  • Diet while breastfeeding
  • Vegan diet