vegetarianism, theory and practice of eating only fruits and vegetables, thus excluding animal flesh, fish, or fowl and often butter, eggs, and milk. In a strict vegetarian, or vegan, diet (i.e., one that excludes all animal products), the nine amino acids that must be supplied by the diet can be obtained by eating foods that include both grains and legumes (e.g., beans or tofu) at any point during the day. Vitamins B12 and D can be obtained through supplements or the addition of a cup of nonfat milk or yogurt to the daily diet. Ovolactovegetarians obtain complete proteins by including milk, cheese, and eggs in their diets.

The basis of the practice of vegetarianism may be religious or ethical, economic, or nutritional, and its followers differ as to strictness of observance. Certain Hindu and Buddhist sects are vegetarian, as are Seventh-day Adventists. As a general movement vegetarianism arose about the middle of the 19th cent.; it made considerable progress in Great Britain and in the United States. In the contemporary United States, vegetarianism has gained acceptance as a practice that lowers one's risk for the "diseases of affluence," e.g., high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

See C. Spencer, A History of Vegetarianism (1995); T. Stuart The Bloodless Revolution (2007).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Vegetarianism: Selected full-text books and articles

The Philosophy of Vegetarianism By Daniel A. Dombrowski University of Massachusetts Press, 1984
The Vegetarian Crusade: The Rise of an American Reform Movement, 1817-1921 By Adam D. Shprintzen University of North Carolina Press, 2013
Controversies in Food and Nutrition By Myrna Chandler Goldstein; Mark A. Goldstein Greenwood Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Vegetarian/Vegan Diets"
Food and Cultural Studies By Bob Ashley; Joanne Hollows; Steve Jones; Ben Taylor Routledge, 2004
Librarian's tip: "The Meanings of Vegetarianism" begins on p. 188
Sociology on the Menu: An Invitation to the Study of Food and Society By Alan Beardsworth; Teresa Keil Routledge, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. 10 "The Vegetarian Option"
Animal Rights: History and Scope of a Radical Social Movement By Harold D. Guither Southern Illinois University Press, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 9 "Vegetarianism and Animal Rights"
Cultural Encyclopedia of Vegetarianism By Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz Greenwood, 2010
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