The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as “Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of slaughter.”
There are three main types of vegetarian. First there is the lacto-ovo type who will eat both dairy products and eggs, next is the lacto type who will eat dairy products but avoid eggs and finally there is the vegan who does not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals (including honey!)
Currently there is no definitive legal definition of vegetarian although there is legislation relevant to situations where the terms such as ‘vegetarian’ ‘suitable for vegetarians’ and ‘suitable for vegans’ are subject to the Trade Descriptions Act 1968 (prohibition of false or misleading trade descriptions)
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has implemented guidance to help the food industry use vegetarian food labelling consistently and to help enforcement authorities identify misuse of such terms.
In many ways a vegetarian diet is considered healthier than that of a typical meat eater. Compared with omnivorous diet a varied vegetarian diet contains less saturated fatty acids, cholesterol, and more folate, fibre, antioxidants, phytochemicals and carotenoids.
Recent research has shown that vegetarians have a lower incidence of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and type II diabetes. A balanced vegetarian diet is also likely to exceed the recommended intake of five-a-day fruit and vegetables which is linked to lower rates of colon and some other cancers. A vegetarian diet is sometimes recommended for people with chronic conditions such as arthritis and kidney problems.
Gelatine is a major issue for vegetarians. It is used in drug capsule manufacture but can also be present in solid tablets and even in liquid preparations. Gelatine also plays a vital role in how certain medications work in your body.
There are vegetarian alternatives and a doctor or medic should ‘identify and respect the patient’s values, beliefs and expectations about medicines’ when prescribing. Your local pharmacist can also be a good source of information on suitable alternatives that may be available. The Patient Information Leaflet supplied with individual medications should contain a comprehensive ingredient list as to what it contains.
On the whole though, research shows that in many ways a vegetarian diet is healthier than that of a typical omnivore.
The images on this post are taken from a series of magazine articles dating back to the immediate pre-war years and display a very simple concept of what vegetable cookery for its its own sake was all about.