Did you know that, according to the Portuguese Vegetarian Association , around 120 thousand Portuguese people are vegetarians? But what is this eating style? And how to start having a vegetarian diet?

In this article you will learn more about what vegetarianism is, what types of vegetarianism are and some tips so you can start being vegetarian.

What is vegetarianism?

Vegetarianism is “a plant-based eating style, which excludes meat and fish and which may or may not include derivatives of animal origin (eg milk, eggs, etc.)”, according to the Portuguese Vegetarian Association (AVP). Vegetarians can be:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: can consume dairy products and eggs
  • Ovo-vegetarian: in this case they do not consume dairy products, but continue to eat eggs
  • Lacto-vegetarian: consumes dairy products but not eggs
  • Vegan: does not consume eggs, dairy products or other products of animal origin. In this case, the Portuguese Vegetarian Association states that it refers to a completely vegetarian diet, different from veganism, which is more comprehensive.

According to a 2017 Nielsen study, the number of vegetarians has quadrupled in the last decade in Portugal.

In other words, 1.2% of Portuguese people follow a vegetarian diet, with women and young people between 25 and 34 years old being the most likely to start following this style of eating.

Why choose a vegetarian diet?

Several people have changed their eating habits. Possibly in your circle of friends, either you were the one who switched to a plant-based diet or you have a friend who changed, right?

But how do you choose to start eating a vegetarian diet? There are several reasons that can help you make the decision to have a new eating style.

Defend animals

There are already some studies that indicate that animals have behaviors and emotional states, such as the search for life and freedom, that were only associated with humans.

This same study states that 60 billion land animals and more than a billion marine animals are killed to satisfy human taste preferences.

It is further argued that this is an unnecessary action when we have alternative plant-based foods.

And in Portugal, what are the numbers? In our country, around 257 million mammals and birds were killed in 2018 (data from the General Directorate of Food and Veterinary, provided by AVP). Taking these numbers into account, it is important to minimize or even end this situation.

Protect our environment

Food consumption is responsible for the majority of the ecological footprint as the production of foods of animal origin uses a greater number of resources and releases more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of foods of plant origin.

One of the solutions to respond to the need to increase production is to encourage new eating habits, such as vegetarian or vegan eating.

Graph showing the ecological footprint of what we eat

Improve your health

A vegetarian diet reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by around 40%, can prevent oncological diseases, diabetes and the risk of developing obesity.

After knowing what vegetarianism is and the reasons why you can decide to change, you may be wondering about nutritional needs. It is advisable to be monitored by a nutritionist and, if you want to know more, the General Directorate of Health has created a Guideline for a Healthy Vegetarian Diet manual that you can consult!

The Portuguese Vegetarian Association, of whom we are proud to say that we are partners, also has the Veggie Kit available: the starter kit for a vegetarian diet.

Author: Daniela Matos