“Plant-based” diets are becoming ever more popular in the USA and the two main options for these diets are veganism and vegetarianism but what does that mean, and which is right for you?
Let's take a look at vegan vs vegetarian.
Vegan Vs Vegetarian | What Is Vegetarianism?
Well, firstly, it’s the more popular of the two diets, we think (we’ll explain why it’s not always clear when we hit veganism) and about 5% of Americans identify as vegetarian in 2020. So, when offered a vegetarian or vegan diet many people opt for a vegetarian diet, mainly because vegan diets are often perceived as harder to follow.
The diet itself is fairly simple to adhere to. Vegetarians don’t eat meat, nor birds (poultry) or fish. Many folk say this means “you don’t eat anything with a face”.
This means that they are mainly plant-based diets consisting of plant-based foods and often there is a consideration of things like animal welfare and health benefits of that plant-based diet.
Some vegetarians will exclude other animal products from their diets, but this does not mean that they are “better vegetarians” than other vegetarians, just that they have different ethical standards from the norm for a given vegetarian diet.
There is a need, if you embark on a vegetarian diet, to carefully examine what you eat because if you don’t – you may end up eating a diet that is deficient in protein and iron (or other minerals and vitamins).
Vegan and vegetarian diets often include fortified foods for this reason as a plant-based diet can be challenging if you want to get all your nutrients. We should note that without these nutrients vegan and vegetarian diets are unlikely to deliver on the promised health benefits.
However, this doesn’t need to be the case and by carefully selecting your foods on a vegetarian diet, you should be able to eat a tasty, healthy diet and rarely, if ever, need to supplement that diet.
There are some minor variations of vegetarian diets too:
- Flexitarians. They eat mainly as a vegetarian but every now and again they eat animal products. This might be once a week or once a month or once a year. But a plant-based diet is this person's norm.
- Pollotarians. Nowhere near as vegetable oriented these folks eat chicken, fish, and other seafood but don’t eat animal products.
- Pescatarians. These folks are happy to eat fish and seafood but no poultry and no meat.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians. They won’t eat fish, meat, and poultry but do eat dairy products (cheese, milk, etc.) and eggs. Still plant-based foods make up most meals.
- Ovo-vegetarians. No fish, no milk and dairy products, no seafood, no poultry, and no meat but they do eat eggs.
All of these diets, generally speaking, are considered to be healthier than a diet with large amounts of red meat in them.
Veganism is more than a diet – its adherents say “it’s a lifestyle”. We believe that veganism is less popular than vegetarianism and that about 0.5% of Americans are currently vegans.
Vegan diets are often seen as harder to follow and if you have a choice of a vegan or vegetarian diet, it can be much easier to start out as a vegetarian and work towards taking up vegan diets further through your plant foods journey.
However, we did find one study claiming that 10% of people are now vegan (we simply don’t believe this – given that sticking to vegetarianism and veganism becomes progressively more difficult the more you give up from your diet, it seems impossible that there would be twice as many vegans as vegetarians).
Vegans do not eat, wear or use (if they can help it) any products which are made from the flesh of animals, produced by animals or which involve animal labor in their production.
This means they don’t eat meat (beef, pork, chicken, etc.), fish, eggs, dairy, seafood, poultry, honey, etc. and the also won’t buy products made of wool, leather or silk.
They don’t use makeup or other cosmetics tested on animals.
They also won’t buy glue, soap, etc. that may contain products derived from animals.
The Challenge Of Veganism
This is a very severe way to live and though it is growing in popularity, many feel that it is simply too challenging to become vegan in totality.
However, there are those that wish to pursue a vegan diet while continuing to use animal products in the rest of their lives.
It is these people who eat a “plant-based” diet.
It is vital to realize that most vegans need dietary supplements. Without Vitamin B12, you will die, and it cannot be found in any plant substance. There are quite a few dangers of a vegan diet (though they all have solutions too).
You may also need protein, Vitamin D, iron, and other minerals. It’s very hard to eat a balanced vegan diet.
Many vegans also find themselves becoming over-reliant on processed foods as plant foods may not offer the dietary variety they need to feel satisfied.
Both of these diets are growing in popularity and whether you fall into either camp of vegan vs vegetarian, they're both a positive choice for the planet.
Vegetarian and vegan diets cause less animal slaughter, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and are simply kinder than carnism.
We hope that you now feel confident that you understand what vegan vs vegetarian involves and can make a more informed decision about your own diet.