Diet & Nutrition

Eggs: are they vegetarian?


Many vegetarians include eggs in their diet, but are eggs truly a vegetarian product?

The answer to that question depends on what definition of ‘vegetarian’ you’re working with. Turns out, there are five different kinds of vegos (yep, five!) – and they don’t all have a uniform stance on eggs. Here’s what you need to know.

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What’s all the fuss about eggs in the first place?

The general premise of vegetarian diets is they don’t include animal flesh (think: beef, lamb, chicken, pork, turkey). Although eggs aren’t a type of meat, they are an animal product, so some vegetarians choose to avoid them.

If you’re sitting on the fence, I’d encourage you to include eggs in your diet based on their nutritional merit. They’re inexpensive, incredibly versatile and are *so* good for you.

Most people know that eggs are a good source of protein, and indeed, that is true. Two humble eggs provide almost 13 grams of this muscle-building nutrient. In fact, eggs are considered a top-quality protein because they contain all of the essential amino acids (read: the 13 building blocks of protein that your body cannot produce, so must come from food).

Eggs also provide a dose of healthy fats, and in particular offer beneficial omega-3 fats. This is a type of healthy fat that plays a key role in the health of your brain and eyes.

In terms of micronutrients, eggs are akin to a real food multivitamin. One of the most impressive nutritional qualities of eggs is their Vitamin D content – a nutrient produced when skin is exposed to sunlight and is essential for healthy bones. Just two eggs provides over 80 per cent of your daily vitamin D needs, so when you’re cooped up inside in the middle of winter (or during a #covid-19lockdown *eyeroll*), they can really come in handy.

Eggs also contain a raft of energising b-group vitamins, iron for oxygen transport and vitamin A for healthy eyes. Plus, they contain several antioxidants, including vitamin E which supports heart health as well as the impressive duo lutein and zeaxanthin, which play a key role in healthy eyes. And that’s all wrapped up in one little bundle of just 310 kilojoules (74 calories) per egg. I told you they were impressive.

So, what are the different types of vegetarianism? And which ones include eggs?

The different kinds of vegetarianism are:

  1. Lacto-ovo vegetarian – this diet does not include meat or seafood, but includes dairy and eggs.
  2. Lacto-vegetarian – this diet does not include meat, seafood or eggs, but includes dairy.
  3. Ovo-vegetarian – this diet does not include meat, seafood or dairy, but includes eggs.
  4. Pescatarian – this diet does not include meat, but includes seafood, dairy foods and eggs.
  5. Vegan – this diet does not include meat, seafood, dairy or eggs. It completely eliminates all products of animal origin.

At the end of the day, whether or not you eat eggs is your personal preference based on your own beliefs, values, tastes and preferences. Some vegetarians eat them, and some do not.

If you’re a stickler for labels, lacto-ovo vegetarians, ovo-vegetarians and pescatarians have an egg-inclusive diet, while lacto-vegetarians and vegans do not. Happy cracking!

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based accredited practising dietitian. You can connect with her on Instagram @honest_nutrition.