National Vegetarian Week is an annual awareness-raising campaign in the U.K. that, according to its website, promotes “inspirational vegetarian food and the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle.” The week goes from Monday, May 21 until Sunday, May 27 2012.
Running almost parallel to this is World Vegetarian Week, which goes from Saturday, May 19 until Saturday, May 26.
The Mayo Clinic states that there are three main types of vegetarians: vegans, lacto-vegetarians and lacto-ovo vegetarians. Vegan diets exclude meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products, as well as any food that contains these products. Lacto-vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs or any foods that contain them. Other dairy products are allowed. The lacto-ovo vegetarian diet excludes meat, fish and poultry, but allows eggs and dairy products.
The clinic also pointed out that there are some people who follow a semivegetarian diet, which is a plant-based diet that only includes meat, dairy, eggs, poultry and fish on occasion or in small quantities.
Many people become vegetarian because they do not condone killing animals for food, but others use the diet for its many health benefits. Web MD states that vegetarian lifestyles are associated with a reduced risk of many chronic illnesses, including heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. The World Vegetarian Week’s website also said that vegetarians are on average 10 to 20 pounds lighter than meat eaters, and many people have reported getting clearer skin and more energy after cutting meat from their diets.
The German Cancer Research Center studied 1,904 vegetarians over 21 years and found that vegetarian men reduced their risk of early death by 50 percent, which women vegetarians saw a 30 percent risk reduction.
According to Web MD approximately 6 to 8 million Americans follow some sort of vegetarian diet.