Vegan, Vegetarian, Plant Based, What’s the Difference? Let’s break down the differences between these and more to a level that everyone can understand.
If you have never been vegan or vegetarian, then the ideas surrounding these concepts and other similar concepts may seem confusing, even daunting. Today, we’ll break down what each of these things are at a very easy to understand level to hopefully clear up any confusion or misunderstanding.
To start, it’s important to know that there are variations of everything mentioned above and some people may do one thing and not another or pick and choose what to eat based on their own comfort level and needs.
If you are interested in veganism, but not sure where to start, get our 10 tips for going vegan.
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The biggest Difference between Veganism and Other Diets
At the root of all of these words, there is one main difference and that is, veganism is not a diet. The others, whether it’s being vegetarian or flexatarian is that they are diet based – meaning, only relating to the food that you consume.
Veganism, on the other hand, is not just about food. Veganism relates to all aspects of life. For example, what clothes and shoes you where, what your pillows and comforters are made from, whether or not your car has leather seats or your makeup is made with animal byproducts.
Veganism is a journey more than the others because the others are only food based, whereas vegans need to slowly made changes to swap out other products as needed.
Why would someone not want to include meat and other animal products?
Well, there are many reasons. Almost as many as there are variations of how to eat. Here are a few, though it’s important to know this is not an exhaustive list:
- Ethical – their morals include not wanting to harm sentient beings, meaning those that can feel farm
- Religious – this persons specific religious beliefs include not harming or not consuming some or all meats/animals products
- Allergies – most being know about dairy, egg, or fish allergies, but there are others who are allergic to any mammal flesh and byproducts
- Budget – even though meat is highly subsidized in the U.S., it it’s all over the world. Even in the US though, it can be expensive to consume meat daily, especially for large families
- Environmental Concerns – It’s no secret that mass production of factory farms are harming our environment, so sometimes people will give up meat and animal products because they want to make the world a better place.
What does animal byproducts mean?
Animal byproducts are any products that are obtained from the body of any animal whether it’s a meat producing animal (cows for example) or an insect (beetles for example). It refers to products that come from slaughtering animals but the products are not usually directly consumed by humans such as fat and bones.
Most of the time these products are turned into powders and used in various ways like bones are charred and then used in the processing of sugar.
What does meat include?
When referring to the consumption of meat and it’s exclusion from these diets, it’s important to realize what it all takes into consideration. For the most part, when people say “no meat” that refers to:
- Beef/Veal (Cows)
- Pork (Pigs)
- Poultry (Chicken, Turkey, Quail, Etc)
- Seafood (Shrimp, Crab, Lobster, etc)
- Fish (Salmond, Tilapia, Flounder, etc)
- and other less meats like lamb, bison, venison, buffalo, elk and more
The different types of plant based diets:
What is veganism?
Veganism is a lifestyle and not just a diet. It is based on morality and based on eliminating all animal harm.
Vegans not only don’t eat any animals (meat), but they also don’t eat any animal byproducts. This means that there are no eggs, milk, honey, and butter which are more known animal byproducts. But even further, vegans actively seek out to make sure things like isinglass (fish bladders) aren’t in wine or beetle secretions aren’t in their sprinkles.
Furthermore, vegans go beyond food and make sure and swap out their personal care items like toothpaste, shampoo, and makeup. They purchase beds and pillows that don’t contain feathers and purchase cars that don’t contain leather. Their clothing is not made from suede, wool, silk or leather. And more.
The biggest part about veganism is reducing animal harm and animal cruelty as much as possible.
One important thing we’d like to point out is that reducing harm as much as possible means that if a medical need arises and a medication contains animal byproducts, that medication could be consumed. It also means that the day you go vegan you don’t need to swap everything in your home and waste things because that would be harmful to the environment.
Now we’ll get into more of the food based diets and what that entails.
What is vegetarianism?
There are a few forms of vegetarianism, but the bases of it is that no meat is consumed, but animal byproducts are okay.
Lacto-ovo vegetarians – This is the most common type of vegetarian consumes bother milk and eggs.
Lacto vegetarians – consumes dairy still, but no meat or eggs.
Ovo vegetarians – consumes eggs still, but no meat or dairy.
What is whole foods plant based diet? (WFPB)
For a whole foods plant based diet, sometimes seen written as WFPB, people avoid all the same foods that vegans avoid plus processed foods. So typically nothing packaged like meat substitutes or jarred sauces. They do not follow the stricter lifestyle differences that vegan do like switching products out (thought some do).
A WFPB diet focuses on actually whole foods or plants. Any type of fruit, vegetable, gain, legume, seeds or nuts are acceptable and the focus of all meals.
What is whole foods plant based no oil diet? (WFPBNO)
For this, you may see it written out of WFPBNO – whole foods, plant based, no oil. And if you read the description above then you can likely assume what this means. Someone who follows a WFPBNO diet does everyone that someone who is WFPB does, except they also eliminate oil.
So they will saute their vegetables in water or vegetable stock instead of oil for example. Another example would be not using oil based salad dressings.
What is raw veganism?
Raw veganism is a stricter form of veganism than described above and combines whole foods plant based diet with veganism even further.
So all the same moral and diet concerns as being vegan; however, they also only consume plants and vegetables that are either eaten raw or only heated at temperatures at or below 118°F (40–48°C). Many foods are dehydrated because it stays under this temperature.
What is pescatarian?
There are some versions of plant based lifestyle that still makes consuming animals acceptable. Some people consider this to be semi-vegetarian or a form of flexatarianism. Pescatarians consume fish and other forms of seafood, but no other meats as defined above. While many do not, some may consume dairy or eggs as well.
What is flexatarian?
Flexatarian is another form of vegetarianism. While, for the most part, people who follow this stick to a vegetarian diet or some variation of it, they may still consume a burger or chicken pasta occasionally.
What about Nutritional Considerations?
If you are someone that loves fruits and vegetables, then you likely won’t have many nutritional deficiencies; however, it may take some effort or planning on your part, especially in the beginning.
Vegans diets are often much lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. Fun fact, vegan food contains no cholesterol.
Both vegans and vegetarians typically consume a lot of vitamins, fiber and minerals, along with a higher amount of nutrient-dense foods.
People that are consuming food this way though and eat a lot of processed vegan and vegetarian substitutes need to be aware that they could be deficient in B12, omegas, iron, zinc, and vitamin D.
This doesn’t mean that you need to count up the nutrient levels on every single thing you consume, but rather just make sure that you are getting nutrition from a variety of sources that are heavy on plants and less on processed foods.
Can you get enough protein without meat?
There is a huge misconception that no meat equal no protein when in fact that’s the furtherest thing from the truth. There are many plant based ingredients that are high in protein like tofu, beans, and nuts.
Summary of Vegan, Vegetarian, Plant Based, What’s the Difference?
If you’ve gotten this far, hopefully you have a better understanding and not even more thoroughly confused. We tried to use basic knowledge and understanding to make this as simple as possible.
Still there are even more subsets of these various diets like low-carb whole foods plant based or fruitarian diets for example.
Many people will start with a very broad overview – eliminating one meat for example (say beef or pork) and then work their way up to consume enough less animal products. Sometimes this journey takes a few days or weeks, sometimes years. Everyone has to respect each other while others do what’s best for themselves.
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