Plant-Based Vs. Vegan: What Is The difference?

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September 27, 2017
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A plant-based diet is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes animal products, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil

Forks Over Knives

 
Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose

Vegan Society

This could have been a very short post: veganism is an ideology with wider implications on morality, ethics, and values, and their impact on consumption habits. Plant based is a specific dietary framework / structure. However, the two are being used interchangeably as both garner popularity, and thus it is important to understand these terms and their use in labeling of food products. This is to ensure you are actually making a positive consumption choice for your personal health and are not just being sold a bogus "health" product.

Veganism is too broad

Veganism and vegan diets are rapidly gaining popularity for numerous reasons. Vegans are a passionate breed who wish to protect the livelihoods of all living creatures, but must not forget that they too are living creatures who need self care. Supermarket chains are stocking more and more vegan products to keep up with rising consumer demand and ultimately capitalize financially on this trend. Unfortunately, the terms "Vegan" and "Plant-Based" are considered the same, which has sparked a new issue that must be addressed: a vegan product contains no animal derived ingredients; This does not automatically make it healthy.

Defining Plant-Based

Veganism as a trend has outstripped plant-based eating. You will see the "V" vegan label on all related supermarket products. To use this label, enterprises must ensure their products strictly contain no animal products to meet the vegan criteria. However, there is no independent body, defined criteria, or authority that labels / audits the plant-based claims of products. In fact, the fruit and vegetable aisles are the only truly whole food plant based sections in a Supermarket, with the exception of rice, beans, nuts, and a few others. To counteract this, you must educate yourself to qualify your own food purchases.

Does this mean vegan products are not healthy?

Not necessarily. If you are starting out or thinking of altering your dietary habits in this direction, vegan products such as meat substitutes are a great transitional way to eliminate animal products from your diet and are overall less harmful to your body. Simply swapping your existing meat for vegan substitutes will even cause you to lose weight, as you are no longer consuming animal protein, and animal protein causes weight gain.

The key is to eat products that are both vegan and minimally processed. The health benefits of a Plant-Based diet lie in the vitamin, mineral, fiber, water, and phytonutrient content of the plants themselves. Processing eliminates or greatly diminishes these. For example, sweet corn in a jar or can has been minimally processed: it has been picked in its natural state, the kernels have been removed from the ear, and it has been sealed in a jar or can for transport and preservation. On the other hand, high fructose corn syrup has been heavily processed through mechanical and chemical means. Yes, while corn syrup contains no animal derived ingredients, originates from a plant and is technically plant based, it is not healthy for you to consume. Quorn Mince is stocked in most mainstream supermarkets nowadays. It is an ideal transitional replacement for traditional cow muscle mince, but is a heavily processed product (It also contains egg, fyi). A healthier alternative in this situation and all others, is to make your own. In this case, mushroom based mince is quick and easy to prepare, minimally processed, and is closer to its natural state than processed meat free mince.

Key Take-Away

Aim to consume as much of your food as possible from Whole Food Plant Based sources, with minimal processing involved. Avoid animal products outright and anything that is heavily processed. If you are new to this way of eating, the vegan products such as meat and cheese substitutes do play a role as transitional products; You may feel more comfortable with this as your brain perceives these changes as less of a radical shift in behavior. Try to choose the products that are as close to their natural state as possible, as they will still retain the vitamin, mineral, fiber, water, and phytonutrient content which are the main building blocks of the Plant-Based diet benefits.

A vegan product contains no animal derived ingredients; This does not automatically make it healthy

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