Many people follow the lacto-vegetarian diet for its flexibility and health benefits.
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Like other variations of vegetarianism, a lacto-vegetarian diet can help reduce your environmental impact (1).
However, you should take several factors into account to ensure your diet is healthy and balanced.
This article looks at the benefits and downsides of a lacto-vegetarian diet, in addition to providing a list of foods to eat and sample meal plan.
The lacto-vegetarian diet is a variation of vegetarianism that excludes meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs.
Unlike some other vegetarian diets, it includes certain dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese, and milk.
People often adopt a lacto-vegetarian diet for environmental or ethical reasons.
Some also choose to follow the diet for health reasons. In fact, reducing your intake of meat and other animal products may be associated with several health benefits (2).
Other common forms of vegetarianism include the lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, ovo-vegetarian diet, and vegan diet.Summary
The lacto-vegetarian diet is a type of vegetarianism that excludes meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs, but includes dairy products. People may choose to adopt a lacto-vegetarian diet for environmental, ethical, or health reasons.
Following a nutritious, well-rounded lacto-vegetarian diet can offer impressive health benefits.
Below are a few of the potential health benefits associated with this eating pattern.
Improves heart health
Multiple studies have found that lacto-vegetarian diets may improve heart health and decrease several common risk factors for heart disease.
A review of 11 studies found that vegetarian diets like the lacto-vegetarian diet may help lower total and LDL (bad) cholesterol, both of which can contribute to heart disease (3).
Several other studies have found that vegetarian diets may be linked to reduced blood pressure. This is beneficial, as high blood pressure is a key risk factor for heart disease and stroke (4).
Promotes blood sugar control
Some research suggests that adopting a lacto-vegetarian diet could help enhance blood sugar control.
A review of 6 studies including 255 people linked vegetarian diets to significant reductions in hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), a marker of long-term blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes (5).
Another review reported that following a vegetarian diet was associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes (6).
In addition, a study including more than 156,000 adults found that those who followed a lacto-vegetarian diet were 33% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, compared with those who followed non-vegetarian diets (7).
Supports weight loss
Adopting a lacto-vegetarian diet may not only be good for your health but also your waistline.
In fact, several studies have shown that vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than those who eat meat (8, 9).
Vegetarians also tend to consume fewer calories and more fiber than meat eaters. Both of these factors may be especially beneficial for weight loss (10, 11).
A large review of 12 studies showed that people who followed a vegetarian diet for 18 weeks lost an average of 4.5 pounds (2 kg) more than non-vegetarians (12).
May reduce the risk of certain cancers
Numerous observational studies have found that following a lacto-vegetarian diet may be associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancer.
Notably, vegetarian diets have been linked to a 10–12% lower risk of developing cancer overall. They’ve likewise been linked to a reduced risk of specific types, including colorectal and breast cancer (13, 14, 15).
Keep in mind that these studies show an association, not a cause-effect relationship.
Further research is needed to evaluate whether following a lacto-vegetarian diet may help reduce your risk of cancer.Summary
Studies show that following a balanced lacto-vegetarian diet may help improve heart health, promote blood sugar control, aid weight loss, and reduce your risk of certain types of cancer.
A balanced lacto-vegetarian diet can supply all the nutrients your body needs.
However, without proper planning, it may increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Meat, poultry, and seafood supply a range of important nutrients, including protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids (16, 17).
Eggs are also rich in many micronutrients, such as vitamins A and D (18).
A deficiency in these important nutrients can cause symptoms like stunted growth, anemia, impaired immune function, and mood changes (19, 20, 21, 22).
If you’re following a lacto-vegetarian diet, make sure you’re getting these nutrients from other food sources or supplements to meet your daily needs.
Filling your diet with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, milk products, and plant-based, protein-rich foods will help ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
In some cases, a multivitamin or omega-3 supplement may also be necessary to help fill any gaps in your diet.Summary
Following a lacto-vegetarian diet requires you to pay special attention to your nutrient intake. Using supplements and following a diet rich in whole foods can help you meet your daily needs and prevent nutrient deficiencies.
A healthy lacto-vegetarian diet should include a variety of plant-based foods and dairy products.
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Here are some foods you can enjoy as part of a lacto-vegetarian diet:Fruits: apples, oranges, berries, melons, peaches, pears, bananasVegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, peppers, arugulaLegumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas, peasWhole grains: barley, buckwheat, quinoa, oats, rice, amaranthDairy products: milk, yogurt, cheese, butterProtein foods: tofu, tempeh, nutritional yeast, whey, vegetarian protein powderSeeds: chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, and sunflower seedsHerbs and spices: cumin, turmeric, basil, oregano, rosemary, pepper, thymeSummary
A lacto-vegetarian diet can include a variety of different foods, including fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, dairy products, and protein-rich foods.