Which food is purely vegetarian?

Vegetarian diet - eat a meat-free and balanced diet

Vegetarianism goes back to the Greek philosopher Pythagoras from the sixth century BC. He wrote the quote: "Everything that humans do to animals comes back to humans." The term vegetarianism comes from the Latin "vegetare" and means "to live" or "to grow".

The numerous scandals surrounding animal products and feed contamination confirm many vegetarians in their decision to eat a meatless diet. Today, many people choose a meat-free or low-meat diet less for philosophical or religious reasons than for concerns about health and the environment. Most vegetarians are also ecologically conscious and prefer organically grown foods.

Forms of vegetarianism

You can live a vegetarian life in different ways. The three most important are:

  • vegan: Vegans only eat plant-based food. They reject any animal-derived substances or products in their food, even honey.
  • Lacto-vegetable: plant-based food supplemented with milk and dairy products
  • ovo-lacto-vegetable: vegetable food with milk, dairy products and eggs

There are also other names. The "pudding vegetarians", for example, do not eat meat, but do not eat health-consciously - they also include white flour products, sweets and industrially produced foods on their daily menu. In addition to eggs and milk, pisco vegetarians also eat fish. Raw food enthusiasts mainly eat vegetable food in raw form. You don't have to be a vegetarian, though.

Benefits of the vegetarian diet

Vegetarians take in a maximum of 30 percent of the food energy they consume daily from fats. For a person who eats a lot of meat on average, this proportion is around 50 percent. The low-fat vegetarian diet is therefore often used as a therapy, for example in the case of lifestyle diseases such as obesity or arteriosclerosis, in which diet plays an important role.

The low proportion of cholesterol in vegetable fats also lowers the risk of arteriosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases. Obesity and heart disease are rare among vegetarians. Most vegetarians, however, are generally very health-conscious - they exercise a lot, smoke little and hardly drink any alcohol.

The carbohydrates contained in cereal products, fruits and vegetables are the main sources of energy for vegetarians. They provide 60 percent of the daily intake. The German Nutrition Society (DGE) recommends that non-vegetarians also consume fat and carbohydrates in a ratio similar to that of the vegetable dieters.


A vegetarian diet can lead to an undersupply of vitamin B12. Because this vitamin is almost exclusively contained in animal products.

Meeting iron needs can be problematic without meat as the main supplier, since iron from plant-based foods is less well absorbed by humans than from meat products. Vegetarian women of childbearing age should pay particular attention to an adequate supply of iron.

Iodine, calcium, zinc, vitamin D, riboflavin and certain fatty acids may also be ingested in insufficient amounts.

Vegans have an even higher risk of developing one or more nutrient deficiencies. A purely vegan diet for the mother during pregnancy can lead to blood formation disorders and severe growth disorders in the child and, among other things, trigger mental retardation. Therefore, as a precaution, the German Nutrition Society advises against a purely vegan diet - especially pregnant women, breastfeeding women and children.

If you want to eat vegan, you should deal intensively with your diet and put your food together consciously. If necessary, it can also be useful to find out about dietary supplements (especially vitamin B12, iron, iodine and others) from your doctor and to have your nutritional requirements checked regularly.

That's what science says

Ovo-lacto- or lacto-vegetarians who eat a varied and balanced diet and are well informed about the optimal composition of plant-based foods are usually adequately supplied with all the important nutrients. A vegan - i.e. purely plant-based - diet, on the other hand, can lead to a lack of calcium, iodine and other essential minerals; this is especially dangerous in times of increased nutritional needs and for adolescents. For this reason, the German Nutrition Society advises against a purely vegan diet.

Tips for a balanced vegetarian diet

For a balanced vegetarian lifestyle, it is not enough to omit meat and sausages. Vegetarians should know how to put their food together in such a way that the ingredients are optimally utilized and complement each other.

  • Variety in the menu protects against an overly one-sided diet.
  • Without meat, the combination of different proteins is important. Vegetable protein from bread, cereal flakes, vegetables, legumes or potatoes combined with animal protein from milk or eggs is particularly valuable for our body. Experts also speak of a high biological value. Useful combinations include potatoes with eggs or milk, for example as a farmer's breakfast or jacket potatoes with quark, cereals with legumes such as lentil stew with bread or cereals and milk such as muesli.
  • Even if the fairy tale about iron-containing spinach still holds true, it is correct: iron from meat-containing foods is particularly well absorbed by our body. But even without meat, you can get your necessary iron ration if you make a sensible choice. Whole grain bread, millet, or certain vegetables, such as beetroot or green leafy vegetables, are iron-rich, meatless alternatives. Important: Consuming foods containing vitamin C such as orange juice at the same time improves iron absorption.
  • The food should be fresh and as wholesome as possible. Processed products often contain less valuable nutrients.
  • Milk, dairy products and eggs provide our bodies with nutrients that plant-based foods cannot adequately supply.
  • Pregnant women should supply their bodies with sufficient folic acid. Good sources of this vitamin include kale, spinach, fennel and mung beans.
  • Vitamin B12 is mainly found in meat. Our body needs it, for example, for blood formation. Alternatively, fortified foods such as soy milk are suitable.
  • Women with heavy menstrual bleeding should pay particular attention to their iron balance.
  • The supply of critical nutrients - such as vitamin B12 or vitamin D - should be checked regularly by a doctor.