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Can You Eat Eggs If You're a Vegetarian?

Whether or not you include eggs in a vegetarian diet depends on the type of vegetarianism you practice, according to the University of San Diego. If you're thinking about following a vegetarian diet, you need to understand the different types of vegetarianism and the restrictions imposed by each. Some types of vegetarians eat eggs while others do not.

Types of Vegetarians

The lacto-ovo vegetarian does not eat the flesh of animals, but does eat both eggs and dairy such as milk and cheese from cows or goats. The ovo-vegetarian eats eggs but not meat. The lacto-vegetarian is similar to the lacto-ovo-vegetarian, but excludes eggs from his diet. A vegan not only excludes meat, but also all dairy products, eggs and foods which contain any product from animals, even gelatin. Pescatarians eat eggs and fish, but no beef, pork or poultry, while a semi-vegetarian generally follows a vegetarian lifestyle, but occasionally eats animal flesh.

Nutritional Value of Eggs

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Although you can get similar nutrients from other vegetarian foods, eggs offer a great deal of nutrition in a small number of calories. One whole egg has about 70 calories, 6.29 g of protein, a trace of carbohydrates, about 5 g of fat and 212 mg of cholesterol, according to the American Egg Board. Of the fat content, 1.55 g is from saturated fats, 1.9 g from monounsaturated fats and .68 g from polyunsaturated fats. Eating just the egg whites removes the fat content, and reduces the calories to 17 per egg white, but also eliminates some of the nutrients, such as vitamins A and D and choline.

Balanced Diet Without Eggs

Although you can eat eggs as a lacto-ovo vegetarian or ovo-vegetarian, you may choose not to due to moral or health-related reasons. If you choose not to eat eggs, get your protein from either milk-based or soy dairy products, lentils, beans or nut butters. Nuts and seeds contain protein and monounsaturated fats. Avocados and certain oils such as olive and peanut oil also contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which can help improve your cholesterol levels. Eat vegetable soups, salads, rice and bean dishes as well as fruits to round out your healthy, egg-free vegetarian diet.

Vegetarian Diet With Eggs

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Although eggs contain cholesterol, a 2008 study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" involving over 20,000 participants found that occasionally eating eggs did not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in men, and may help improve mortality rates, particularly if you suffer from diabetes. A study published in the 2010 "Canadian Journal of Cardiology" disagreed, however, stating that the cholesterol in eggs is not benign and could increase the risk of developing diabetes in certain people. Talk to your doctor about eggs, especially if you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease.