A lacto-vegetarian (sometimes referred to as a lactarian; from the Latin root lact-, milk) diet is a diet that includes vegetables as well as dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ghee, cream, and kefir.
In India, lacto vegetarian is considered synonymous to vegetarian, while eating eggs is considered a form of non-vegetarian diet. The concept and practice of lacto-vegetarianism among a significant number of people comes from ancient India. In other parts of the world, vegetarianism generally refers to ovo lacto vegetarianism instead, allowing eggs into the diet.
During the 19th century the diet became associated with naturopathy. German naturopaths Heinrich Lahmann and Theodor Hahn promoted lacto-vegetarian diets of raw vegetables, whole wheat bread and dairy products such as milk.
In the 20th century lacto-vegetarianism was promoted by Elmer McCollum and Mikkel Hindhede. In 1918, McCollum commented that "lacto-vegetarianism should not be confused with strict vegetarianism. The former is, when the diet is properly planned, the most highly satisfactory plan which can be adopted in the nutrition of man." Hindhede a food advisor to the Danish government during World War I was influential in introducing a lacto-vegetarian diet to the public. The system of rationing restricted meat and alcohol so the Danish population were mostly living on a diet of milk and vegetables. During the years of food restriction from 1917 to 1918, the mortality rate dropped by 34%, the lowest death rates ever reported for Denmark. Hindehede's dieting ideas were well received amongst the right-wing political spectrum in Germany.
I know we must all err. I would give up milk if I could, but I cannot. I have made that experiment times without number. I could not, after a serious illness, regain my strength, unless I went back to milk. That has been the tragedy of my life.
Lacto-vegetarian diets are popular with certain followers of the Eastern religious traditions such as Jainism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism. The core of their beliefs behind a lacto-vegetarian diet is the law of ahimsa, or non-violence.
According to the Vedas (Hindu holy scriptures), all living beings are equally valued. Also, Hindus believe that one's personality is affected by the kind of food one consumes, and eating flesh is considered bad for one's spiritual/mental well-being. It takes many more vegetables or plants to produce an equal amount of meat, many more lives are destroyed, and in this way more suffering is caused when meat is consumed. Although some suffering and pain is inevitably caused to other living beings to satisfy the human need for food, according to ahimsa, every effort should be made to minimize suffering. This is to avoid karmic consequences and show respect for living things, because all living beings are equally valued in these traditions, a vegetarian diet rooted in ahimsa is only one aspect of environmentally conscious living, relating to those beings affected by our need for food. However, this does not apply to all Hindus; some do consume meat, though usually not any form of beef.
In the case of Jainism, the vegetarian standard is strict. It allows the consumption of only fruit and leaves that can be taken from plants without causing their death. This further excludes from the diet root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions and garlic.
Lacto-vegetarians and vegans
The primary difference between a vegan and a lacto-vegetarian diet is the avoidance of dairy products. Vegans do not consume dairy products, believing that their production causes the animal suffering or a premature death, or otherwise abridges animal rights.
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