Julia ReznikovGetty Images
Ask 10 people if eating eggs is okay if you are following a vegetarian diet and you are forced to get a mix of different answers. This is because not everyone defines “vegetarian” in the same way, and people choose to eat vegetarian – however they define it – for a variety of reasons, which dictates what they feel good about when they put it in their mouth.
“I’ll give you the favorite answer of all nutritionists – it depends,” says Manju Karkare, MS RDN LDN, a North Carolina-based nutritionist. “It depends on the person and their beliefs and lifestyle, as well as what kind of situation they grew up in,” she says.
First, what exactly is a vegetarian diet?
If you do not think much about it, “vegetarian” is simply a diet that does not include meat; instead vegetarians choose a diet that is heavy on whole grains, vegetables and fruits, nuts and legumes and the like. This is all true.
But after that, it gets more complicated. Think of “vegetarians” as a giant beach umbrella, under which there are different types of vegetarians standing together on their towels. Here are just a few:
- Lacto-ovo vegetariansWith These people do not eat meat, poultry or fish protein along with their plants, but they eat eggs and drink milk and consume dairy products. “Eggs are generally considered vegetarian in America because they do not contain animal meat,” says Stefani Sassos, MS, RDN, CSO, CDN, Good Housekeeping’s registered nutritionist. “I personally consider eggs to be vegetarian.”
- Vegans. People who follow a vegan diet, on the other hand, are vegetarians who choose to give up any product that comes from an animal. This includes not only animal meat but also milk, cheese, butter, eggs and even often things like honey because it comes from bees.
- FishermenWith Fishermen they eat a vegetarian diet other than fish, but they do not eat red meat or poultry. They are usually okay with eating eggs and do not consider fish the same as “meat”, and so, think of yourself as a vegetarian.
Complicating matters further, “vegetarian” does not mean exactly the same thing in other parts of the world as it does here, points out Karkare, who was born in India. “Everywhere in the world, the concept of being a vegetarian is about not harming the animal,” she says. That includes not getting milk from the baby, which is more associated with veganism, she says.
But veganism “is a Western world term,” she says. Growing up, Karkare drank water buffalo milk, produced on a small farm in such a way that consumers received only milk that the beef would not drink under any circumstances, Karkare says. “It was part of the way milk worked: the milk came from animals that were continuing to produce milk that was not for the calf,” she says. That way, the thought was that no animals were harmed, she says. Here, cows are usually raised for milking, often in harsh conditions, which many vegetarians and vegans point out are harmful to animals. And even if there were no animals directly impaired in milk production, a strict vegan would not drink it yet, as vegans are philosophically against the use of animals for human gain.
Eggs are a similar case, and are also widely consumed in India, says Karkare, because they are not fertilized and therefore not thought to be harmful to animals – the egg would never turn into a chicken anyway. Animal rights activists (as well as people who eat vegan) point out that chickens that are bread to lay eggs are naturally damaged and so eggs should not be part of a vegetarian diet.
Why should a vegetarian consider eggs?
In short, they have a lot to offer, speaking from a nutritional standpoint. “Eggs are an extremely versatile and affordable protein choice,” says Sassos, who adds that healthy people can certainly have one to three a day. Moreover, they are a “complete source of protein, which means that they contain all nine essential amino acids which the body cannot make on its own and must get through food,” she says. Add egg vitamins and minerals, such as selenium and vitamin D, as well as choline, a nutrient that is critical to the functioning of the brain and nervous system, she says.
So can vegetarians eat eggs or not?
The best questions are: why did you choose a vegetarian diet and what kind of vegetarian are you? Also, do you like eggs and / or do you need eggs to get the right balance of nutrients the way you live your life? These are all things to weigh, says Kankare.
Some vegetarians, including vegans, do not eat eggs in part because of the way they treat the chickens they place in conventional farming practices. Others say it does not matter how they are grown: Egg feeding is using the poultry reproductive system for human purposes, and thus causing them harm.
Others, says Kankare, do not like to eat eggs for the above reasons, but will eat them in other foods such as bakery items – as long as they are not sitting there on their plate. “Food is very intimate, and not just for food and hunger, but also to satisfy your palate,” she says.
In general, whether you eat eggs as a vegetarian or not is up to you, says Sassos. “This is really a personal decision based on how an individual sets the boundaries of his vegetarian diet as well as their dietary preferences,” she says. If conventional farming practices give you a break, look for Certified Humane Eggs or other third-party certificates that encourage responsible farm animal practices, she says. There are also mixed plant-based options on the market that can meet your needs. And if you are vegan, you will want to make a balanced diet, including all the nutrients you need, without eggs or any other animal products.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and is imported into this site to assist users in providing their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io