Subsequent research has consistently found that vegetarians are more likely to be female than male. In 2019 the female-to-male ratio of vegetarians was similar to what was found in the 1992 study. Multiple causes may explain this, including gendered differences in values, attitudes towards dieting, gender roles and socialisation and differences in health concerns. Women are more likely than men to be vegetarian for prosocial and values-based reasons. They are also more likely to adhere to their vegetarian diets than men.
Some followers of Islam, or Muslims, chose to be vegetarian for health, ethical, or personal reasons. However, the choice to become vegetarian for non-medical reasons can sometimes be controversial due to conflicting fatwas and differing interpretations of the Quran. Though some more traditional Muslims may keep quiet about their vegetarian diet, the number of vegetarian Muslims is increasing. The International Vegetarian Union, an association of the national societies, was founded in 1908.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians can obtain B12 from dairy products and eggs, and vegans can obtain it from manufactured fortified foods (including plant-based products and breakfast cereals) and dietary supplements. The recommended daily dietary intake of B12 in the United States and Canada is 0.4 mcg (ages 0–6 months), rising to 1.8 mcg (9–13 years), 2.4 mcg (14+ years), and 2.8 mcg . While the body’s daily requirement for vitamin B12 is in microgram amounts, deficiency of the vitamin through strict practice of a vegetarian diet without supplementation can increase the risk of several chronic diseases. Vegetarian diets typically contain similar levels of iron to non-vegetarian diets, but this has lower bioavailability than iron from meat sources, and its absorption can sometimes be inhibited by other dietary constituents. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group, consuming food that contains vitamin C, such as citrus fruit or juices, tomatoes, or broccoli, is a good way to increase the amount of iron absorbed at a meal. The related vegan diets can often be higher in iron than vegetarian diets, because dairy products are low in iron.
Vegetarians are more likely to have lower iron stores than meat eaters. During pregnancy and when breastfeeding, vegetarians need to make sure they get enough vitamins and minerals for their child to develop healthily. Contrary to popular belief, most vegetarians usually have enough protein and calcium in their diet. Unsaturated fats, including vegetable, rapeseed, olive and sunflower oils, are healthier than saturated fats, such as butter, lard and ghee. But all types of fat are high in energy and should be eaten sparingly.
The term was popularized with the foundation of the Vegetarian Society in Manchester in 1847, although it may have appeared in print before 1847. The earliest occurrences of the term seem to be related to Alcott House—a school on the north side of Ham Common, London—which was opened in July 1838 by James Pierrepont Greaves. From 1841, it was known as A Concordium, or Industry Harmony College, from which time the institution began to publish its own pamphlet entitled The Healthian, which provides some of the earliest appearances of the term “vegetarian”.
Plant foods can provide alpha-linolenic acid which the human body uses to synthesize the long-chain n-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA can be obtained directly in high amounts from oily fish or fish oils. Vegetarians, and particularly vegans, have lower levels of EPA and DHA than meat-eaters. While the health effects of low levels of EPA and DHA are unknown, it is unlikely that supplementation with alpha-linolenic acid will significantly increase levels. Recently, some companies have begun to market vegetarian DHA supplements containing seaweed extracts.
The dietary recommendation for omega-3 fatty acids is 1.1 to 1.6 grams for most healthy adults. Pregnant and breastfeeding women need between 1.3 and 1.4 grams each day. If you’re considering a vegetarian diet, you’ll want to consider what type of vegetarian you’ll be. Once you’ve decided which foods you’ll avoid, you’ll also want to come up with a plan to ensure that you’re able to get all the nutrients your body needs.