What’s The Difference Between Vegan And Vegetarian?

For most of us, the difference between vegan and vegetarian diets isn’t very distinguishable. Most of us are not aware that there is a wide variety of differences between the two lifestyles. In this article, we discuss the common questions about these lifestyles.

The Reasons Behind the Lifestyle

graphic illustrating the reasons why one should go vegan
Photo by Mittmac from Pixabay

Most people start a vegan or vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons. Health is the most common reason. Religion is another possible reason why somebody decides to go plant-based. Most people in India, for example, do not eat meat because the country’s dominant religions enforce or promote vegetarianism.

Concerns for animal welfare is another reason for going plant-based. Those who go plant-based also oppose animal treatment in testing labs, circuses, and any other individual or organization that exploits animals. Preservation of environmental resources is another common reason. This is why a significant percentage of environmental activists lean toward the vegetarian profile, in order to minimize the consumption of environmental resources as much as possible.

Most vegetarians and vegans adhere to the lifestyle by choice. A small percentage, however, are vegetarians and vegans by chance. Some just cannot afford to eat meat and have no choice but to resort to plant-based nutrition.

In recent years, fresh produce is becoming more accessible and cheaper than meat. Therefore, we can expect a rising number of plant-based advocates in the years to come. With this dietary evolution, more cultures have been adopting plant-based cooking in the mainstream culinary scene. Becoming a vegetarian or vegan in the modern world is now getting easier than ever.

Vegan vs Vegetarian: What’s the difference?

For most, vegetarianism and veganism are seen as almost interchangeable terms. For those that are living the lifestyle, these two diets are slightly different. The key difference between vegan and vegetarian diets is that vegans tend to be stricter with what they can and can’t eat than vegetarians are.

a spread of fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts
Some typical vegan foods. Photo by Keith Weller from USDA ARA on freestockphotos.biz

The main commonality is that vegetarians and vegans both abstain from eating meat and seafood. Vegans, in addition to not eating animals, do not consume animal byproducts. Examples of these are dairy, honey, and eggs. Vegetarians, on the other hand, may eat animal byproducts.

a spread of fruits, vegetables, dairy and beans
Some typical vegetarian foods. Photo by FotoshopTofs from Pixabay

The difference between vegan and vegetarian lifestyles also lies in a vegan’s view toward unethical animal treatment and farming. The core belief of some vegans is that animals are not here to be capitalized on by man. This might lead to some vegans choosing not to have any animal products in their lifestyle at all, from wearing clothing not made from animals to not purchasing products or supporting brands that carry out animal testing.

The Types of Vegans

Even though there is a general definition of the vegan diet, the types of vegans can exist on a spectrum. There are different ways each vegan interprets the diet and incorporates that into their lifestyle. These are four types of vegans out there:

Whole-food Vegans

man's hand holding grains
Photo by icon0.com from Pexels

Those that belong in this group go for a diet of plant-based, whole-foods. The diet normally includes fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Whole foods refer to foods that are not processed or are minimally processed.

Junk-food Vegans

meatless vegan burger
Photo by lysindamond from Pixabay

These are the types of vegans that depend mostly on heavily-processed vegan meals. Their diet also includes fries, frozen vegan dinners, snacks, and desserts. This is one of the vegan diets which proves that the vegan diet can also be unhealthy if you don’t make the right food choices.

Raw Food Vegans

a salad bowl of leafy greens surrounded by other smaller bowls of fruit, other vegetables and nuts
Photo by silviarita from Pixabay

As the name itself suggests, this vegan group only eats raw food, like grains, seeds, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. In some cases, this group chooses to eat food cooked at temperatures below 118ºF.

Fruitarians

apples hanging on a tree
Photo by Elizabeth Tr. Armstrong from Pexels

Also known as low-fat, raw-food vegans, this type of vegan relies mostly on fruits. In some very rare cases, nuts, seeds, and other plants may be eaten. This diet also restricts the consumption of high-fat foods like avocados and coconuts.

The Types of Vegetarians

Just like vegans, there are different types of vegetarians as well. Some of these vegetarians might eat certain types of meat or animal products while still maintaining a largely plant-based diet.

Lacto-ovo, Lacto and Ovo Vegetarians

a jug of milk, cottage cheese and eggs on a burlap sack
Photo by @wuestenigel from Flickr

These three vegetarian types are similar as they do not eat meat but all include dairy products and/or eggs in their diets.

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Eat both eggs and dairy
  • Lacto vegetarians: Okay with consuming dairy products but no eggs
  • Ovo vegetarians: Allow themselves to consume eggs but not dairy.

Pescetarians

fresh seafood in shaved ice
Photo by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Pescetarians are those that do not eat land animals but are good with consuming fish and other seafood like crustaceans and shellfish.

Pollotarians

a roasted chicken with a onion salad and a pair of kitchen scissorson the side
Photo by RitaE from Pixabay

Pollotarians eat chicken and other poultry as their only source of meat. Some might include dairy and eggs in their diet as well.

There are numerous debates that surround the inclusion of these last two vegetarian types into the vegetarianism umbrella. Some consider them as vegetarians because they still have mostly plant-based diets. However, others will argue that they don’t fit the conventional definition of vegetarianism by eating animals.

The Pros and Cons of Veganism and Vegetarianism

Just like any diet, both have their own risks and benefits. Here is a comparison of the pros and cons of veganism and vegetarianism.

The Benefits

It’s healthier for you

As discussed earlier, health is one of the top reasons why people go plant-based. Nutritionists from all over the world vouch for the lifestyle to significantly minimize the risk of a variety of major illnesses.

The difference between vegan and vegetarian diets is that a vegan diet is more effective in reducing the risk of hypertension. It is also known to be effective protection against type-2 diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases. In some cases, a vegan diet can also reduce your risk of certain kinds of cancers.

Promotes weight loss

A vegan’s diet consists mostly of plants and food low in saturated fats. The difference between vegan and vegetarian is that vegans are less prone to obesity. The diet, in turn, results in lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol levels. Weight loss as a result of veganism has also been one of the main reasons that attract most people to the diet.

As compared to vegetarians, the difference between vegan and vegetarian is the high-fat content found in dairy products. While both promote weight loss, veganism is more effective than vegetarianism.

Better for the environment

We all know from decades past that it takes 1,600 gallons of water to produce a pound of beef. As the human population grows, mankind’s continuous consumption of beef may not be sustainable in the long run. Going plant-based presents a solution to this as plants are easier to grow. Plants do not require as many resources to produce and going plant-based can help reduce carbon emissions.

The Risks and Considerations

Unhealthy food choices

While weight loss is one of the benefits of veganism, this could sometimes backfire. Because of the many limitations in vegan food choices, some first-timers may find themselves hungrier than usual. This, in turn, leads to first-time vegans to reach out for food that is high in sugar and carbs to satiate themselves.

Limited food choices and options

As mentioned earlier, one key difference between vegan and vegetarian diets is that the latter has fewer limitations on what can be eaten so vegetarians often have a wider variety of food choices. That said, both diets are restrictive in some way so it can be harder to find vegan or vegetarian food options, especially when eating out with friends.

Lack of certain nutrients

Some nutrients like Vitamins D3 and B12 are more commonly found in meat and dairy from animals. For Vitamin B12 in particular, it does not generally occur in plant foods. The deficiency in Vitamin B12 is a major concern for most nutritionists as it could lead to weakness, fatigue, and even constipation.

Excessive consumption of eggs and dairy products can lead to high cholesterol levels and obesity as well. This is a risk a vegetarian might be susceptible to as well.

Summary:

Veganism Vegetarianism
Pros Cons            Pros Cons
1. Minimizes risk of major illnesses and certain kinds of cancers
2. Promotes weight loss
3. Environmentally-friendly
1. First-timers tend to be hungrier
2. Fewer food options than vegetarians
3. A deficit in some nutrients
1. It lowers the risk of certain diseases.
2. The diet promotes weight loss.
3. Vegetarianism is good for the environment.
4. Food choices are more abundant than that of a vegan.
5. More nutrients from eggs and dairy consumption
1. Overconsumption of dairy and eggs can lead to spikes in cholesterol levels
2. Higher risk of obesity than veganism

Vegan vs Vegetarian: Which is healthier?

The debate on vegan vs vegetarian is still ongoing. Which is healthier? Which is more ideal? Both vegetarians and vegans present a wide array of benefits. These benefits generally attract more people to shift to this eating lifestyle. With more antioxidant-rich and nutrient-packed whole foods in both diets, vegetarians and vegans are generally healthier than meat-eaters.

As such, it would be difficult to declare which of the two is healthier. Both have equal shares of pros and cons. Your body might benefit well from one diet and not react as well to another. Results vary across individuals as well; what works for you might not work for someone else.

Conclusion

Vegetarianism and veganism, while both healthy diets, entail risks and considerations. While it is understandable to aim for a healthy diet, going plant-based is a change one must think through before adopting it to your lifestyles.

When weighing the difference between vegan and vegetarian diets, don’t focus so much on which is “healthier” or better. You should consider which of the two suits your dietary needs and lifestyle. Make sure you do thorough planning and research before making your choice. If needed, consult a professional or nutritionist to get advice on which diet is better for you.

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