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Well+Good interviewed Dana Hunnes, assistant professor of community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, in a story about the eight most common types of vegetarians.
Those who don’t eat meat often deem themselves a “vegetarian,” period. The end. Take a deeper dive into history and current dietary practices, however, and you’ll soon find that there are actually many types of vegetarians with varying rules about what animals and animal products (if any) earn a spot on their plates. It’s complicated to say the least, but each iteration of plant-inclusive eating banks its own benefits for health and the environment.
Skipping out on meat and animal-derived ingredients has a culturally-diverse history. The practice of “ahmisa” or nonviolence has long characterized the diets of Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Plant-based diets are deeply embedded in many African culinary traditions—particularly in Zimbabwean and Ghanaian cuisine. America has its own complicated history of skipping out on animal agriculture in the name of health, ethics, and even remedying climate anxiety. In fact, nearly every continent has its own connection with eating a diet composed of mostly plants.
With such an abundance of rich and varied lineages of vegetarianism, it makes sense that many degrees of plant-based eating are now practiced globally. So that you can get to know them all, dietitian Dana Hunnes, RD, PhD, adjunct professor at the University of California Los Angeles, breaks down the eight most common types of vegetarians below.