What is Vegetarian? Vegan? Macrobiotics? Learn About Vegetarianism

Hearing words like vegetarian, vegan and macrobiotics is becoming more and more common. Many restaurants, cafes and packaged products have adopted these concepts.
They all sound green and healthy, but do you know what exactly these words mean?
This article explains the differences between various types of vegetarianism, as well as some of the reasons why people become vegetarian.


First of All, Why Do People Go Vegetarian?

People practice a vegetarian diet for different reasons. The most popular reasons are:

  • Religion
    Some of the religions in the world recommend vegetarianism. The reason varies by religion. Examples include Hinduism and some sects of Christianity and Buddhism.
  • Ideology
    Others become vegetarian for other ideologies and beliefs. Some people try to avoid killing and hurting animals, while others stop eating meat in order to protect the environment.
  • Health
    Some people believe that eating animal products is harmful to our health. Sometimes, meat and animal products simply do not agree with you, like when you have lactose intolerance. Read Is Vegetarian Diet Really Healthy? Advantages and Disadvantages for more details.

Being Vegetarian Doesn't Mean You Only Eat Vegetables

Vegetarianism generally means avoiding animal meat and mainly eating vegetables, fruits, and grains. But what exactly a vegetarian eats and doesn't eat depends on the person's culture, religion, family etc. Also, believing in a particular religion doesn't mean they all follow the same diet.

Vegetarians in the West

People from outside of the West tend to think Western people are meat eaters, but there are a lot of vegetarians too. Some branches of Christianity require their followers to be vegetarian. These days, more and more people are going vegetarian for animal welfare, environmentalism, and health reasons.

According to the International Vegetarian Union, vegetarians are commonly classified into the following categories:

  • Lacto-Vegetarian
    Does not eat meat, fish or egg, but eats dairy.
  • Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian
    Does not eat meat or fish, but eats egg and dairy. This is the most common type of vegetarian in the West.
  • Vegan
    Also called pure vegetarian or total vegetarian, vegans avoid all kinds of animal products - not only in foods, but also everything they use. It is a way of living that avoids harming and abusing animals.

Generally, "vegetarian" means food that doesn't contain meat or fish but contains egg and/or dairy (= ovo-lacto vegetarian), and "vegan" means plant only.

Vegetarians in Asia


India has a large number of vegetarians due to Hinduism and Jainism. Hindu people's eating habits vary by region, caste and other factors. Some people eat meat except beef, while others avoid all meat and fish, and even some plants like onions. Beef is rarely eaten, but they eat a lot of dairy like paneer cheese and ghee (butter oil).


In the Greater China, especially Taiwan, a vegetarian diet called Su vegetarianism is common. It not only prohibits meat, fish, egg and dairy, it also discourages eating "fetid" vegetables - garlic, scallion, onion, shallot and leek.
You might think "that's too strict!" but when you look at Taiwanese vegetarian food, it's actually very flavorful and satisfying. They use soy, mushrooms and other ingredients to make them look like meat or fish.
It will probably make meat eaters feel like they can become vegetarian! Make sure to try it out when you go to Taiwan!


Japan also has an established culture of vegetarianism, called Shojin. It avoids meat, fish and egg, as well as vegetables and spices with strong smell or taste. It is known as the diet of monks. They eat vegetarian food in order to avoid unnecessary killing and be grateful to all lives (including lives of plants).
Also similarly to the West, people in Asia are becoming vegetarian in order to protect animal lives and the environment.


Macrobiotic diet first became popular in the United States. However, the idea was originally proposed by a Japanese.
Unlike other vegetarianism, avoiding meat is not the basis of macrobiotic diet. It only recommends reducing the amount of animal products consumed as one of the ways to live a healthy life.
It doesn't completely prohibit them, and sometimes allows foods like small fish.

Is "Organic" Vegetarian?

"Organic" is another buzzword now. Organic means growing plants in an environment as natural as possible, without relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Organic foods don't necessarily mean vegetarian foods.
There are animal products grown on organic feed.


There are many different types of vegetarian diet. It's good to know the differences!

At Samurai Kitchen's Bento Delivery, a selection of "VEGAN" bento are available, which do not contain any animal-derived products like meat, fish, egg, dairy and honey. We can accommodate to your needs for Taiwanese vegetarian and other diet by taking out onions and garlic. Feel free to talk to us about your vegetarian meal delivery!

Samurai Kitchen's Vegan Bento
vegan bento

International Vegetarian Union: Definitions(https://ivu.org/definitions.html)
LIVESTRONG.com The Hindu Diet by Angela Brady(https://www.livestrong.com/article/509567-the-hindu-diet/)
一般社団法人日本素食振興協会 素食とは(https://soshoku.jp/what/)
こんぴら奥の院 箸蔵寺 「精進料理」のお話(http://www.hashikura.or.jp/syoujinfrm.htm)
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries: Japanese Agricultural Standard(JAS)(http://www.maff.go.jp/e/policies/standard/jas/index.html)
Japan Organic & Natural Foods Association: Organic Certification by JONA(http://www.jona-japan.org/english/)
株式会社オーガニックス オーガニックポーク(http://organixinc.jp/contents/beckerlane.html)