Vegan vs Vegetarian: Differences and more

Many people confuse being a vegan and a vegetarian, often dismissing the vast difference in both of these diets. This article brings you insight into what’s veganism and how it differs from a vegetarian diet.

Humans have explored abundant food options today, modifying the diet landscape in unexplainable ways, leaving no stones unturned. Though typically categorized as omnivores (can consume a variety of food from plants to animals), the spectrum of food for humans is vast, depending on their individual choices. For, e.g., while some people prefer eating meat; others don’t, some are against dairy but still consume meat while others consume neither, and so on. Two of the most popular diets, or as it is said, heavily plant-based diets are Vegetarian and Vegan. But what are these, what do they imply, and how do they differ? Let’s find out –

Vegetarian Diet

In broad terms, a vegetarian is typically someone who doesn’t consume poultry, meat, or seafood and has a heavily plant-based diet. However, eggs, dairy, and other animal products are included in a vegetarian diet. In proper categorization, there are four common types of vegetarians :

Ovo-vegetarian diets: Excludes meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy products but consumes eggs.

Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: Excludes meat, seafood, and poultry but consumes eggs and dairy products.

Lacto-vegetarian diet: Excludes meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs but consumes dairy products.

Pescetarian diet –  Excludes meat and poultry but consumes seafood and occasionally eggs and dairy products(It is important to note here that pescatarians are not generally regarded as vegetarians or a part of its core community.)

Vegan – strictly plant-based food only(while veganism is sometimes regarded as a branch of vegetarianism, veganism’s popularity and ethical stance entitle it to a particular broad diet form like vegetarian, non-vegetarian, etc.)

Benefits –  

While considering a diet, one of the most imperative factors we look at is how healthy it is for oneself. Let’s look at some of the benefits of following a vegetarian diet(typically cutting out meat, poultry, and fish, and other seafood) –

Supports weight loss – losing weight takes a lot, and switching to a veg diet is more effective and stable than one may think.

Improves mood – the harmful effects of consuming meat, etc., is not something new—a veg diet benefits by controlling mood swings and improving overall mental health.

Reduces cancer risks – though proper studies are yet to be done, various observations and research suggest a lower risk of cancer among those who follow a vegetarian diet.

Stabilize Blood sugar levels – a healthy Veg regimen prevents diabetes while also stabilizing the blood sugar level.

Heart Health – vegetarianism reduces risk factors leading to several heart diseases, therefore keeping your heart healthy and your blood pressure levels in check.

Fulfils Nutritional requirements – you can rest assured as a balanced veg diet ensures that your body’s nutritional needs are satisfied, which in turn means excellent health with no deficiencies whatsoever.

Vegan Diet:

While plant-based food is an essential part of being a vegetarian, the concept of veganism is solely based on the idea of a strict, completely plant-based diet. There is no place whatsoever for any sort of animal products, whether dairy or otherwise. As mentioned above, though veganism is seen as a form of vegetarianism, the vegans beg to differ, as it is not just about food for them. It’s a way of living.

Products like honey, gelatin, pepsin, whey, etc., which are considered normal in a vegetarian diet, are strictly prohibited in a vegan lifestyle. They only ever consume products derived from plants like fruits, vegetables, plant-based milk like almond milk, soya milk, etc., avoiding any produce from even shampoos to clothes with the slightest sense of animal exploitation. Since it is all up to individual choices of consumption, vegans can also be classified into four broad types–

Ethical – these people choose veganism to exclude any sort of animal cruelty and exploitation, at least on their sides. They are highly moral people and believe that every living being deserves a fulfilling and happy life, and no one possesses the right to eat or harm these sentient beings. The inhumane concept of zoos, aquariums, animal testing for cosmetics, silk, leather, etc., are all part of their standing.

Raw – Raw vegans do not consume cooked or heated food; they prefer the natural state of food, and their diet simply includes raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, etc.

Plant-based – many people also choose a vegan lifestyle to lose weight or to avoid ethical stress. They consume only plant-based meals but do not restrict using animal products like silk, leather, etc.

Environmentally alert – everyone knows how consumption of animal products and exploitation is harming the environment. These environment-conscious beings understand this grave harm and therefore choose veganism in their efforts to save the planet.

Benefits –

Although there’s a long list of advantages of engaging in a vegan lifestyle, some are more visible than others. Let’s have a look at some of the most fundamental health benefits of veganism –

Immunity booster – abundant phytochemicals, anti-oxidants, and nutrients in the plant-based diet strengthens an individual’s immunity.

Low cholesterol – cardiovascular diseases are prevalent today, resulting mostly from the high cholesterol dietary intake with foods like fish, eggs, dairy, etc. Vegan food is low in cholesterol levels and can effectively help prevent such diseases.

Weight loss – Saturated goods result in issues like obesity, which can further lead to several problems like diabetes, BP, etc. Plant-based food helps you cut down on this unwanted fat, speeding your weight loss process.

A Long life – vegetarians and especially vegans have a comparatively longer life span than those who consume meat due to the reduced risk of life-threatening diseases and proper nutritional intake.

Grow beautiful – what you eat directly shows up in your health and looks. Healthy plant-based habits substantially improve skin, nails, hair, and the overall glow of your body. While also reducing bad breath, odor, and blemishes.

Cost-effective – vegan food is not only sound for your health but also your wallet.

Eco-friendly – a significant percentage of toxins and harmful chemicals in America tracks back to meat and dairy. Veganism can significantly reduce this percentage, sorting out loads of such environmental issues.

State of mind – above everything, the sense of not feeling guilty for the food one has on their plate, or the consequences of their choices matter the most. There’s no better way to achieve a stable and peaceful state of mind than clearing one’s conscience.

The core difference

The fundamental difference between both diets is not necessarily based on the food consumed but on the values, beliefs, and ethics one may follow. If the benefits of both diets are similar to an extent, so are the risks. A balanced and well-planned diet is essential in any lifestyle you may choose, but the risk of deficiencies is slightly more in veg/vegan, and therefore needs one to be extra careful in what they consume and how much.

Dairy and other animal products are no less on the scale of animal exploitation than meat, poultry, etc. The harm to the environment and body is not world’s apart when we talk about a diet inclusive of animal by-products, hence carefully evaluating the consequences is the best option.

CONCLUSION

The recognition of a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle has brought about a drastic change in the food pattern worldwide. With more people growing aware of the impacts of their unwise choices on both the environment and health, food industries are shifting perspectives and rolling out alternatives to every thinkable animal product. Almost everything is now available in forms that persist the original taste while being absolutely cruelty-free, from meat to milk and even clothes.

This global effort with more people turning towards an ethical way of living by switching to a vegetarian lifestyle, if not vegan, is bound to upscale in the coming decade. Though it is easier said than done, shifting diets takes a lot more than just motivation. However, a steady pace of changes, no matter how small, and constant efforts are vital. Choice of the one on your plate matters as much as yours, if not more.