TYPES OF VEGETARIANISM
The term ‘vegetarianism’ covers a range of eating habits, with varying degrees of restriction. The term covers:
• Semi-vegetarians, who eat mainly foods of plant origin and occasional meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.
• Pesco-vegetarians, who eat foods of plant origin, as well as fish and seafood.
• Lacto-vegetarians, who eat foods of plant origin plus dairy products.
• Ovo-vegetarians, who eat foods of plant origin and eggs.
• Lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who eat foods of plant origin, as well as dairy products and eggs.
• Vegans, who eat only foods of plant origin.
IRON ABSORPTION AND VITAMIN C
An adequate supply of iron is particularly important for individuals who eat little or no meat. The body uses vitamin C to help convert iron from non-meat sources into a usable form. Vitamin C-rich foods are therefore an important element in a vegetarian diet. They may be eaten as part of a meal that includes plant sources of iron or as snacks throughout the day.
Sources of vitamin C (peppers, watercress, broccoli, tomatoes, strawberries, kiwi fruit, citrus fruits).
Maximum absorption of iron from plant sources.
Plant sources of iron (dark-green leafy vegetables, pulses, parsley, pumpkin and sesame seeds, nuts, dried fruit).
VEGETARIANISM AROUND THE WORLD
Many Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, encourage vegetarianism as a spiritual idea, believing that all God’s creatures deserve compassion and respect. The largest concentration of vegetarians in the world is in India, where around 80 per cent of the country’s population is Hindu. The Vedas, India’s ancient scriptures in which Hinduism has its roots, state that ‘Only the animal killer cannot relish the message of the Absolute Truth’. In India, cows are not eaten because they are revered as a sacred animal. They are considered to be an animal favoured by the Supreme Lord in the Vedas, Lord Krishna.
The Buddhist view of animals is best illustrated in the Buddhist lessons known as the jakata stories, in which the Buddha is born as various animals in previous lives; the stories equate killing animals with killing humans by saying that, like the Buddha, everyone has lived in animal form before becoming human.
Jainism (an Indian religion founded around the 6th century bce) has such strict rules regarding the consumption of living things that its followers sweep the path before them as they walk along, and wear gauze masks over their mouths, so as not to harm small insects by accidentally treading on them or breathing them in.
Vegetarianism is not a 20th-century invention. The benefits of a diet based on plant foods have been recognized for thousands of years.
During the Renaissance, some people followed a vegetarian diet, believing that cruelty to their fellow man was the next step on from cruelty to animals.
In the late 18th century, some Christians abstained from eating meat, believing that part of Christ’s final mission was the abolition of the killing of animals.
Across the centuries, famous vegetarians (also noted for their intellectual powers) have included Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras, Mahatma Ghandi, Einstein and George Bernard Shaw (who thought that eating meat was a form of restricted cannibalism).