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The Big Number: 5 percent of American adults consider themselves vegetarians

Are the many stories about the health risks of eating meat making you think of going vegetarian? You are not alone. About 5 percent of U.S. adults these days — which would mean roughly 16.4 million people — consider themselves vegetarians, according to a Gallup poll conducted in July 2018. Another 3 percent say they already follow a vegan diet, up from 2 percent in 2012. But the pollsters say that the percentage of vegetarians has stayed essentially the same since 1999. Vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry or seafood, but some vegetarians follow more specific eating patterns. For instance, besides abstaining from meat, poultry and seafood, lacto vegetarians also do not eat eggs but do consume dairy products. Ovo vegetarians eat eggs but do not consume dairy products. And lacto-ovo vegetarians eat both eggs and dairy products. Some people consider themselves partial vegetarians, meaning they do not eat meat but they may eat poultry or seafood. Others describe themselves as flexitarians, meaning they follow a semi-vegetarian diet that is mostly plant-based but may occasionally include a small portion of meat, poultry, fish, eggs or dairy. People who identify as vegans focus on a purely plant-based diet and do not eat any products derived from animals. Gallup found that younger adults, those 18 to 49, are more apt to be vegetarian than those 50 and older (7 to 8 percent vs. 2 to 3 percent). Vegans, however, are as common among those 18 to 29 as among people 65 and older (3 percent of both age groups). From a health perspective, eating more fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains may help lower risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers, among other health benefits. But many of those benefits can be found without going all the way, experts say, consuming meat only sparingly while moving toward fish and plant-based foods.

— Linda Searing

The U.S. adult sits 6.5 hours a day. It’s even more for teens.

Like meat too much to give it up? Semi-vegetarian is good for your health