While living a vegetarian lifestyle,  you’ll find that there are various terms used to describe different types of vegetarians, vegetarian foods,  and ingredients. It can be a slightly daunting task trying to decipher  what ingredients are good for you, what some terms mean, or what may be considered vegetarian friendly.  Well, fret no more! We have assembled this quick list of  common ingredients and terms that every vegetarian should get familiar with.

  1. Capric acid or decanoic acid: This is an animal fat that is often added to streets like ice cream, baked goods, gum, liquor, and is often not specified on the ingredient list.
  2. Calcium Stearate: sounds innocent enough right? Trouble is it is usually derived from cows or pigs and is often found in seasoning blends, salad dressings, and condiments.
  3. Emulsifiers: This is a big gray area on labels. Emulsifiers can be either plant or animal-based, but food labels rarely differentiate.
  4. Fruitarian: A person who only eats fruit, seeds, and nuts. They often define tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and peppers as fruit.
  5. Gelatin: This is a thickening ingredient used in many foods from marshmallows, Jello, yogurts, cream cheeses, vitamin pills and soups. Gelatin is derived from animal bones, and as such is not appropriate for most vegetarian diets.
  6. Glucose (also dextrose): Glucose can come from fruit, but it can also come from animals. Is typically found in processed foods including jam, soda, candy, and more.
  7. Glycerin or Glycerol: A derivative of fats, and a common ingredient in soaps and processed foods. Can be either plant or animal derived. Ingredient labels rarely specify.
  8. Isinglass (also Clarifying Agent): This ingredient is obtained from dried fish swim bladders. Sometimes it is used in beer or wine making to clear up the beverage. It is not required to be listed on the label, so you may want to research your favorite beers and wines see if it is used.
  9. Lard: an animal fat derived from pigs. Is most often found in beans, some baked goods, and even candies.
  10. Omnivore: a person that eats plant and animal-based foods.
  11. Raw: This means that the food is not been cooked. Cooking vegetables and fruits causes them to lose a degree of nutritional value, and as such there are lots of people out there that enjoy partial to full raw diets. Most often associated with vegan diets.
  12. Rennet (Rennin, Pepsin): Rennet is extracted from slaughtered baby animals’ stomachs. It is an ingredient used to coagulate milk protein when making cheese. Often this ingredient is simply listed as “enzymes.” However, not all rennet is animal-based. If you have questions about where the enzymes come from, contact the manufacturer or dig a little deeper to find out where they get their rennet.
  13. Suet: Animal-derived fat. Another sneaky ingredient on the labels of many processed foods. Often found in margarines and baked goods.
  14. Tallow (Oleic Acid): This animal-based fat often found in cosmetics, margarines, soaps, rubber, and more.
  15. Vegetarian: a person that eats a plant -based diet. Vegetarian is a blanket term. There are many types of vegetarians including;
    1. vegans who eat only plant-based foods
    2. ovo-vegetarians that eat eggs but no dairy
    3. lacto-vegetarians who eat dairy but no eggs
    4. ovo-lacto vegetarians that eat plant-based foods, eggs and dairy
    5. pescetarians who include fish or shellfish in their regular diet
    6. flexitarians who are primarily vegetarians but occasionally eat meat.
    7. Read more about different types of vegetarians here.
  16. Vitamin D3: vitamin D3 is typically derived from fish oils or sheep’s wool. It is most often found in milk, fortified orange juice, and margarines. For an animal free option look for vitamin D2 or just go out and get a little sun every day! Your body naturally generates vitamin D1 when it is exposed to sunshine.
  17. Vitamins A (retinol) and B12: While these vitamins can come from plant sources, they often come from animal-based sources such as eggs and fish liver oil.
  18. Whey: This is the liquid byproduct of cheese making. It is often found in ingredients that appear to be vegan. Is also difficult to tell whether it was derived from a cheese that used vegetarian rennet or animal rennet.

Know What You Eat

Knowledge is power when it comes to vegetarian terms. If you have been using or eating these ingredients, you are not alone! Well intended vegetarians find themselves using these things every day, sometimes for years before they realize exactly what the label means.  It can be shocking when you learn what ingredients really are. Buying can be especially challenging for those of us who are trying to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet because manufacturers are not required to clarify whether an ingredient is animal or plant derived.

If you want to be sure that your favorite products are animal free, try contacting the manufacturer or use a resource such as a mobile app that helps you decode labels and understand which companies use animal products and which do not.

We hope that you have found these vegetarian terms to be enlightening and we would love to hear from you! Leave us a comment or email us at info@BuddingVeg.com.

Till Next Time,

-BuddingVeg staff


Here are some great resources on vegetarian terms and food labels:




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