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All About Ovo-Vegetarianism

Updated on July 24, 2013
Eggs are the egg-ception for ovo-vegetarians.
Eggs are the egg-ception for ovo-vegetarians. | Source

Different Types of Vegetarianism

Chances have it that when you think of a typical vegetarian, you may in fact be thinking about an ovo-lacto-vegetarian, a person who refuses to eat animal flesh, but still eats eggs and some dairy. This is the most common type of vegetarian in North America.

However, less common is the ovo-vegetarian.

Ovo-vegetarianism is a type of vegetarianism that limits the consumption of animal flesh and dairy, but allows practitioners to eat eggs. No dairy is permitted in this diet, so ovo-vegetarianism is often used by those with a lactose intolerance.

There is a wide range of diets available within the 'vegetarian' label. Aside from ovo-vegetarians, the main types of plant-based diets are:

  • The vegan diet, which severely restricts any animal products. Under a vegan diet, you cannot eat eggs, fish, or the like.
  • Lacto-vegetarian diets include dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt in their nutrition spectrum. Some lacto-vegetarians eat eggs, though this is technically not dairy food.
  • Probably the healthiest of all vegetarian diets is the pesco-vegetarian diet. This allows you to eat fish, dairy and eggs along with the usual plant cacophony.

The confinement of animals in battery farms is the reason many turn to 'Free-Range' eggs.
The confinement of animals in battery farms is the reason many turn to 'Free-Range' eggs. | Source

Why Become an Ovo-Vegetarian?

The main motivation for becoming an ovo-vegetarian can be divided into three main categories, religious, ethical, and environmental:

Ethical Concerns:

Many people first decide to become a vegetarian of some variety after researching the conditions under which their food is prepared. PETA is an extreme example of the lengths some people will go to ensure animals are treated fairly.

In some situations, cattle can be kept constantly pregnant to allow them to produce milk throughout the year and male calves are culled in large industrial conditions, because they do not produce milk. Pigs and hens can be kept in cage farms, with little personal freedoms in filthy conditions, similar to the photo above.

In response to these ethical concerns, many people are now provided the option of ethically produced foods, in an effort to stop cruel industrial practices.

Environmental Concerns:

Some people become ovo-vegetarians in response to the rising environmental cost of meat production. As we saw in my article on the Safety of Soy Milk, the cultivation of plants such as soybeans uses less water and smaller amounts of land than the production of cattle. This reduces the need for deforestation, and lightens the effect of agriculture upon local biodiversity.

Because chickens have a smaller impact than cattle and pigs, the consumption of eggs is permitted for ovo-vegetarians.

Religious Concerns:

There are several religions that either partially or entirely restrict the consumption of meat. Seventh-day adventists and Muslims are of the group that entirely restrict meat consumption.

Ovo-vegetarianism can be followed by devout Hindus and some Buddhists, often as part of their daily lives. Due to their upbringing, Hindus regard cows as a sacred animal, and therefore the consumption of beef is restricted.

Following in the example of Siddhartha Guatama, the man recognised as the original Buddha in Western society, devout Buddhists do not consume animal flesh.

Why would you become a vegetarian?

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But wait, it is safe to eat like an ovo-vegetarian?
But wait, it is safe to eat like an ovo-vegetarian? | Source

How Safe is Ovo-Vegetarianism?

Vegetarianism is a practice good for the environment as well as for your conscience. Fortunately, it can be very safe if undertaken properly.

Due to the relative obscurity of ovo-vegetarianism, there is little medical concern surrounding people who choose to eat this way. However, as with the average vegan or vegetarian, there is always a risk of nutritional deficiencies.

Many of the health concerns associated with many restrictive diets lies not with the diet itself, but with the people who don't truly understand what they should eat, or what their body requires.

Many professionals disagree with vegetarian diets being undertaken by children, even if this is endorsed by their parents. As a vegetarian, there is significant difficulty receiving the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals required for the body to properly function. In children, these deficiencies can cause significant health problems later in life.

Did You Know?

Per 441 gallons of water, one pound of beef is produced on average. Comparatively, it takes 14 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat.

What Are the Benefits of Ovo-Vegetarianism

Following a vegetarian diet is known to improve overall health and wellbeing. There is evidence to suggest that vegan diets in particular can reduce or even heal diabetes and cancer. However, despite all other claims, it is known that:

  • Plant foods contain little or no cholesterol or saturated fats, so foregoing red meat in favour of a greener diet can improve overall heart health.
  • Plant foods contain lots of fiber, which reduces the risk of colon and intestinal cancers.
  • Because fruits, nuts and legumes are very nutritionally-dense, vegetarians tend to eat fewer total calories. Recently, studies by the National Geographic magazine have connected a calorie-restricted diet with longevity.
  • Plants tend to carry less food-borne diseases than meat.

Even better, there are definite links between vegetarian diets, and a lower incidence of cancers and heart-related diseases, (which are some of the biggest killers in first-world countries).

As a vegetarian, it can be hard to get all the vitamins and nutrients needed for optimal health.
As a vegetarian, it can be hard to get all the vitamins and nutrients needed for optimal health. | Source

How to Eat Safely

I've given you lots of information, so now I can give you some recommendations. Without due consideration, ovo-vegetarians can be deficient in the following nutrients. Therefore it's important to include the foods listed below in a vegetarian diet.

Vitamin B12

Soy milk, particularly if fortified, can be a great source of vitamin B12. For the same reason, vegetarians can get their daily B12 dose from most breakfast cereals, and other fortified foods.

Ovo-vegetarians are particularly lucky in this case: Nearly 10% of your B12 intake for the day can be found in one egg yolk. If you really wanted to stretch the definition of ovo-vegetarian however, you could expand into goose eggs; they contain 120% of your recommended daily intake of B12.


If you haven't already, feel free to check out my article on the health benefits of soy milk, which can be found here. Once again, soy and soy milk prove to be a great source of vegetarian nutrients such as zinc.

Other sources of zinc include:

  • Nuts,
  • Mushrooms,
  • Dairy products (for the lacto-vegetarians only, of course).


Vegetarians rejoice! Aside from being present in plentiful amounts in milk and cheese, calcium can be easily sourced from many different vegetarian-approved foods. If you want a bigger list, you should check out this article: 25 Vegan Sources for Calcium.

  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges
  • Blackstrap Molasses!


Among the healthy as well as the vegetarian, there is a growing concern related to an individual's intake of iron. The World Health Organization has placed iron deficiency as the number one nutritional disorder in the world!

As a vegetarian however, you can get your intake of iron from spirulina, pumpkin seeds and peaches. With a food selection so tasty, it's a wonder anyone's iron deficient!


Thank you for taking the time to read my article on ovo-vegetarianism. Please feel free to comment below, your feedback is welcome and certainly appreciated. Also, if you enjoyed reading this article, check out my others at My Homepage


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub with some interesting information about ovo-vegetarianism. Voted up for useful!


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