Can Vegetarians Eat Eggs?

People following a vegetarian diet abstain from the consumption of animal flesh, including meat and muscle. While this definition may seem straightforward enough, the reality is a little more complicated (via Healthline). That's because there are several different variations of the vegetarian diet, all of which vary in what foods they include and exclude.

Whether or not you eat eggs largely depends on the type of vegetarian diet you follow and adhere to, and some diets are more strict than others. While some vegetarians choose to include eggs and dairy in their diets, others completely avoid the consumption of animal products and animal-derived ingredients.

The four most common types of vegetarians include lacto-vegetarians, ovo-vegetarians, lacto-ovo vegetarians, and vegans. Ovo-vegetarians avoid meat, fish, and dairy but include eggs, lacto-vegetarians avoid eggs but include dairy, lacto-ovo vegetarians include both eggs and dairy, and vegans avoid eggs, dairy, and all other animal products and byproducts.

Why do some vegetarians eat eggs?

Since eggs are technically considered vegetarian because they don't contain animal flesh, they can be a great source of protein and nutrients for many ovo and lacto-ovo vegetarians. Eggs are packed full of important vitamins and minerals and contain around 6 to 7 grams of protein each (via Good Housekeeping). They're also considered to be a complete source of protein, which means, they contain adequate amounts of all nine essential amino acids, which your body cannot produce on its own.

Ethically speaking, commercially produced eggs are not fertilized, so there is no potential for them to develop into animals, but not all vegetarians agree with this. Many vegans, lacto-vegetarians, and others avoid eating eggs due to the conditions of factory farms and the treatment of egg-laying chickens. Whether or not you eat eggs as a vegetarian, however, is a personal decision that is ultimately up to you. Regardless of what you decide, you're still a vegetarian.