What is a vegetarian anyway?

375 million people- that is the number of vegetarians worldwide there were in 2014 and that number isn’t decreasing anytime soon. Since this statistic was calculated, vegetarianism has taken off as a fad for fitness icons, celebrities, millennials and everyone in between. Is this lifestyle just a passing trend or is there real truth behind why an estimated 4 percent of the worlds population has decided to go meat free? In this article we will define what vegetarianism is, explain why people go vegetarian and educate on what you can eat.

Vegetarianism in Numbers
by Angelina.
From Visually.

vegetarian is defined as someone who does not eat foods that consist of, or have been produced with the aid of products consisting of or created from, any part of the body of a living or dead animal. This includes meat, poultry, fish, shellfish or any food made with processing aids created from these.  Long story short, vegetarians cannot eat any meat or fish but do have the freedom to eat eggs and dairy products.

There is not a “one size fits all” diet though for people who want to be meat free. Some choose to be pescetarianwho are allowed to eat fish, and some abstain from dairy products and/or eggs. Fully giving up all animal products would mean you are a vegan which is another topic for another day.

Why Vegetarianism?

There are many personal and dietary reasons one might choose to go vegetarian and most everyone’s reasoning is a little different. Today, we will be explore three main reasons: animal rights, health concerns and religious obligation.

Animal Rights

Livestock in the United States are slaughtered at a high rate, around 10 billion land animals every year are killed for human consumption. Many animal rights activists are upset at the cruel treatment of our livestock because they can still feel pain and fear when they are killed. By going vegetarian, some feel as though they are helping to cut down on the animal cruelty in the agriculture industry. Feel free to read more on this topic here, I don’t want to go into too much graphic detail in this post!

Icon from the film, "What the Health"
Photo provided by whatthehealth.com

Health Concerns

The growing amount of documentaries like What the Health and Forks over Knives have educated many people on the possible health benefits of switching to a vegetarian diet. According to the Harvard Medical School, a study found that vegetarians, on average, are 25% less likely to die of heart disease, have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and even lowers risk of diseases like colon cancer. Personally, I noticed I was only eating processed meat from fast food companies which isn’t natural or healthy, so I decided to cut it out completely.

Religious Obligation

There is strong ties to vegetarianism in religions like Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and even some sectors of Christianity. Many of these religions consider these animal sacred and unethical to kill them in a non-ceremonial way. For some, vegetarianism isn’t a choice but a strict religious obligation.

What can vegetarians eat?

Short answer, a lot of things! Vegetarians can indulge in a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, soy, eggs and dairy products. For some vegetarians, they stick to just cutting out meat and eating how they normally would before switching to this diet; however, some vegetarians start getting creative and do exotic and unique recipes. When you’re starting out, stick to the basics. Here are some staples for a vegetarian diet that are rich in vitamins, minerals and protein.

  • Peanut Butter
  • Quinoa
  • Nuts
  • Eggs
  • Spinach
  • Beans
  • Hummus

Overwhelmed yet? Don’t be afraid to dip your toes into this new diet if you are a beginner! Subscribe to The University of Vegetarianism where I will be diving into how to integrate this diet into your college experience. Whether you live in a dorm or live off campus, there are ways you can make vegetarianism work for you.


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