Vegetarian, Vegan, Plant Based. What’s The Difference?
The media use the words Vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based interchangeably, but the reality is quite different! We will demystify these terms and help you understand the key differences and why it matters.
Vegetarianism is probably the best known and longest-running 'plant-based diet. Until the 1990's it was probably the only 'plant-based diet that 99% of people had even heard of. Vegetarians eat everything that isn’t meat (or meat derived, e.g., gelatine). Traditionally, when very few plant-based processed foods were available, this meant following a pretty healthy diet. These days, as we gain more knowledge, we are learning more about the negative impacts of dairy and eggs (on our health, the environment, and animal welfare). These make up the primary source of protein for many vegetarians. Pescatarianism is a subset of vegetarianism; it is a diet that also includes seafood.
- Easy to get started. Some people use vegetarianism as a stepping stone to an entirely plant- based diet.
- Easy to get B12 and Vitamin D from animal products without needing a supplement
- Dairy and eggs still contain high levels of cholesterol and saturated fat
- In terms of environment and animal welfare, it’s nowhere near as beneficial as a fully plant- based diet
Veganism is a philosophy of compassion rather than a diet. Veganism centres on the concept of animal welfare and so includes both diet and lifestyle factors. Vegans do not use products derived from animals (such as meat, honey, dairy, leather, wool, beeswax etc.). As such, it isn't a way of eating, but rather a way of living. These days people may become vegan for health, environmental or animal welfare issues. For many people, it is a combination of all three.
Twenty years ago, being vegan meant following a healthy diet simply because few options besides beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu were available. With an abundance of plant-based junk food available nowadays, many vegans will identify as vegan for the animals, a.k.a. junk food vegans.
- Adopting a vegan lifestyle is the most environmentally ethical way to live
- Animal welfare is at the forefront of veganism
- Going vegan takes a significant commitment and takes a while to adjust fully.
- The 'vegan' label carries a lot of baggage these days. Many people associate veganism with the loudest members of the community.
Plant-based eating, sometimes called a plant-based whole food diet, focuses on eating whole foods with an emphasis on health. It is the only one of the ‘plant-based diets’ that can actually be called a ‘diet’ – because it does advocate one particular way of eating. A plant-based diet doesn’t include animal-based products and puts health at the forefront of dietary choices.
As we learn more about human nutrition, it is becoming apparent that an entirely plant-based diet is one of, if not the healthiest, ways to eat. Plant-based nutrition doesn't exclude vegan comfort food. Still, it emphasises consuming most calories from nutrient-dense, plant-based whole foods. You can choose to live a vegan lifestyle or not and still be plant-based.
- Emphasis on health above all else
- Highly beneficial way of eating for the environment and animal welfare
- Going fully plant-based takes some time and is not just a diet to jump straight into without some forelearning.
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