Six to eight percent of Germans make exceptions in their diet: They forego meat, do not eat anything cooked or only what nature gives them voluntarily. We wanted to know: How do vegetarians, vegans, fruitarians or raw foodists really eat? In the first part of our series, HEALTH BAS introduces the vegetarian.
Who is actually a vegetarian today?
“Vegetarians are eating away the animals’ food!” The idea of the vegetarian as a pale, bloodless, eternally bad-tempered meat lover is not that old. But in recent years in particular it has wavered. According to the German Vegetarian Association, six million people in Germany are now giving up meat.
They are young, urban and educated: According to a study by the University of Jena, 30 percent have a university degree, almost one in five is currently studying, 16 percent have a secondary school diploma and 2.5 percent are secondary school students. Most vegetarians live in large cities and are between 20 and 28 years old.
How do vegetarians eat?
One of them is the student Debbie Wieber (25) from Cologne. She has not eaten anything from dead animals for five years. Since then, sausages, fish fingers and chicken wings have been a thing of the past. In addition to meat and fish, vegetarians also do without lard or gelatine. Because these products also come from animals. The only exceptions are drugs, which also require gelatine to be produced.
Do vegetarians eat differently?
But some have a stricter diet: Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products, but no eggs. Ovo vegetarians, on the other hand, eat eggs but not dairy products.
Why do vegetarians avoid meat?
Steak fans are also familiar with the reasons for not eating meat: cattle that never see the light of day until they are transported to the slaughterhouse, chickens that are given antibiotics for 20 of their 32 days of life, pigs that are still conscious during slaughter. Many vegetarians no longer want to support this.
It was the same with Debbie Wieber. She was 20 when she pondered whether animals were allowed to be eaten. One evening she watched the documentary “Earthlings”. She saw people abuse animals, fought back tears, turned off the television and stopped eating meat. “I no longer wanted animals to be killed for my food.”
In addition to ethical reasons, many vegetarians also cite ecological ones. After all, according to the World Food Organization(FAO), the livestock industry causes 18 percent of greenhouse gases. And 30 percent of the ice-free surface of the earth is used for animal husbandry.
Do vegetarians live healthier?
Not eating meat also has health benefits: red meat is suspected of increasing the risk of diabetes, gout, arteriosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and cancer. Meat eaters oppose this: steaks provide proteins, the blood-forming vitamin B12 as well as iron and zinc.
But vegetarians can also provide themselves with it. “We now know that you can also do without meat,” says nutrition expert Prof. Ursel Wahrburg from Munster. Eggs and dairy products provide the vegetarian with zinc and protein, peas provide the body with iron and vitamin B12, vegetarians can for example ingest through fortified foods such as breakfast cereals.
Prof. Claus Leitzmann, long-time director of the Giessen Institute for Nutritional Research and a vegetarian himself for 30 years, can still remember the jokes about the pale vegetarian. “But we vegetarians didn’t go pale,” laughs Leitzmann, instead it became clear that vegetarians are less affected by diet-related diseases. However, Leitzmann recommends that, as a vegetarian, continue to eat eggs and dairy products.