Typically considered synonyms, the terms vegan and vegetarian are often used interchangeably. A common mistake that most of us have been guilty of at one point or another.

However —  as you’ll learn in this guide — there’s a fine distinction in the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian.  And you’ll be surprised to learn that it involves more than just whether a person consumes dairy or not!

You see, veganism is a subset of vegetarianism — the parent plant-based diet. So, it’s no surprise that they follow the same principles. Both diets benefit from foods like legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains to provide optimum nutrition while discouraging the use of animal-based foods, derivatives, or otherwise.

So, what exactly is the difference between the two? Let’s find out.

What is a vegan?

Truth be told, being a vegan is more than just what you eat. It is a philosophy, an idea, a lifestyle, and a person.

In dietary terms, a vegan is anyone who does not use animal-based products, especially when it comes to their diet. For instance, a vegan may refuse to drink cow’s milk, animal meat, or buy pure leather.

In short, vegans reject all products derived from animals. Instead, they prefer consuming plant-based products like almond milk, plant-based meat, or legumes to obtain protein. Moreover, ethical vegans, in particular, refuse to wear anything ripped off from a dead animal’s body.

What do vegans not eat?

What do vegans not eat? It’s a question with some pretty simple answers.

Vegans typically stick to a plant-based diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Best of all, you don't need to worry about variety or your overall calorie intake. In fact, many vegans will tell you that once they adopted a plant-based lifestyle, they were eating a larger quantity of food prepared in more ways than they ever did before going vegan.

But, what do vegans abstain from?

Vegans avoid all forms of animal-derived products, including:

  • Animal meat: lamb, pork, ham, beef, et cetera
  • Poultry: chicken, ducks, and other poultry products.
  • Dairy products: milk, eggs, yogurt, ice cream, cream, cheese, and butter.
  • Seafood: fish, clams, lobsters, oysters, et cetera.
  • Honey: many vegans believe commercial honey is created by cruelty towards bees.

And that's not all. Vegans also avoid foods that are a by-product of animal products or use any of them as their ingredient, such as mayonnaise.

What are the different types of vegetarians?

Where vegans avoid all sorts of animal-based products, vegetarians — on the flip side — have a less radical approach. Vegetarians essentially choose only to cut meat from their diet. Many people adhere to vegetarianism because they worry for the planet and mostly because they can’t stomach the thought of hurting animals.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Basically, vegetarianism is an umbrella term for different types of vegetarians. And not all of them are strictly meat-free. There are seven main kinds of vegetarians. They are:

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians

The meaning of this branch of vegetarianism is apparent from its name. ‘Lacto’ means milk, and ‘Ovo’ means eggs. Thus, lacto-ovo vegetarians include milk and eggs in their diet.

Perhaps one of the most common vegetarian diets, lacto-ovo vegetarianism is relatively easier to stick to than other diets. 

Moreover, this diet is great for reducing waist circumference, BMI, and systolic blood pressure.

However, despite its numerous benefits, this diet is not fit for pregnant women as it can cause neural tube defects in developing fetuses.

Flexitarians

The term ‘flexitarian’ is a combination of the two words, ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian.’ The term means exactly what it suggests. Flexitarians — aka flexible vegetarians — do not cut meat, poultry, and seafood completely out of their lives. Rather, flexitarians follow a flexible eating pattern.

A flexitarian diet encourages plant-based foods, such as nuts, vegetables, and legumes. But also allows its followers to have meat in moderate amounts. However, no fixed amount of meat is mentioned anywhere. Dawn Jackson Blatner suggests a maximum of 28 ounces of lean meat per week in her book The Flexitarian Diet. Moreover, she also recommends enjoying 3 ounces of lean meat servings thrice each week.


The best thing about this diet is that it helps to reduce your carbon footprint on the environment. Moreover, it is more affordable than other vegetarian types. So if you want to follow a plant-based lifestyle on a tight budget, this is for you.

Pescatarians

Pescatarian consists of two words — Pesca, Italian for fish, and vegetarian. Just as its name suggests, pescatarians include seafood in their diet. However, they inhibit the intake of all other meats (red and white).


This form of vegetarianism is not very common. 

In fact, only 1.1% of vegetarians follow this kind of vegetarianism.


You're probably wondering whether pescatarians consume eggs and milk. The quick answer is yes. Although pescatarians cut meat from their diet, they enjoy other animal-based foods like eggs, milk, cream, honey, etc.

Lacto-Vegetarians

Lacto-vegetarians consume milk while inhibiting any intake of meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Usually, individuals following this particular diet do it for ethical and environmental reasons.


So, a lacto-vegetarian will refuse to eat foods made from animal meat and eggs, however, they will enjoy milk, yogurt, cheese, etc. 

For health concerns, many lacto-vegetarians prefer to consume foods fortified with vitamin B12. This kind of diet was found to have a protective impact on metabolism and cardiovascular diseases. What's more, it is also proven to improve blood pressure, lipid profiles, and a lower CVD risk.

Ovo-Vegetarians

The word ovo is Latin for eggs. And as the name suggests, ovo-vegetarians are allowed to eat eggs. However, they cannot consume dairy products, including milk and derivatives. People adhere to this diet for various reasons, the major being their disapproval of the dairy industry.

And it's no wonder why. Dairy cows are subject to extremely cruel treatment. Therefore, many vegetarians vow not to consume milk for want of dairy cow welfare.


But that's not the only reason. Ovo-vegetarians choose to eat eggs since they are quite healthy, low in calories, and fat-free. Not only this, an ovo-vegetarian diet provides optimal protection against type 2 diabetes.

Vegans

Also, a type of vegetarianism, veganism grows stronger and more popular with every passing day. This is largely because the philosophy of veganism endeavors to end all animal exploitation. This includes stopping animal slaughter for their meat, hide, fur, etc.


There are four kinds of vegans, namely:

  • Environmental vegans

People concerned about climate change refuse to consume meat and animal products as their slaughtering leads to excessive methane gas production. 


Methane is one of the gasses responsible for global warming, by enabling the greenhouse effect. Vegans are responsible for the least amount of greenhouse gas emission standing at 2.89 kg per day. In contrast, medium meat-eaters release almost double this amount —  they are responsible for 5.63 kg per day.

  • Ethical vegans

Such vegans aim to cut animal-based products from their diet and their everyday use for ethical purposes. This philosophy has led to a dramatic shift in public opinion on pure leather and fur, with many fashion brands vowing a fur-free fashion drive.

  • Health vegans

People — including prominent celebrities — concerned about their slim waist and health tend to follow a vegan diet as it not only promises weight loss. But it also reduces the risk of numerous diseases and health risks associated with meat intake.

  • Religious vegans

Prominent in India, the religions — Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism —  avoid using animal-based products to stay true to their faith.

Raw Vegans

A subset of veganism, raw veganism subscribes to a raw and unprocessed plant-based diet. Such vegans believe that food is at its most nutritious when uncooked or minimally heated. So instead of cooking, raw vegans use a variety of other methods, including:

  • Dehydrating
  • Sprouting
  • Soaking
  • Juicing
  • Blending

What is the difference between vegan and vegetarian?

Despite being a form of vegetarianism, veganism couldn’t be more different than its parent form. The primary difference between the two lies in their strictness.

For starters, a vegan diet is more strict than a vegetarian diet as it prohibits the use of absolutely all animal products.

However, a vegetarian diet is quite flexible and leaves a lot of room for its followers to select what foods they are willing to give up. Simply put, veganism is an extreme form of vegetarianism.

Vegetarian vs. vegan - which is healthier?

It is difficult to name one diet healthier than the other, as both vegan and vegetarian diets have their respective advantages and disadvantages. However, these diets can prove efficient for different aims.

For example, a study carried out in 2014 revealed that vegans have a lower BMI than vegetarians. Not only this, another study found that vegans are less likely to gain weight than their vegetarian counterparts. So, if you’re aiming to lose weight, a vegan diet is a better option.

On the other hand, vegans are more likely to be affected by a  nutrient deficiency. Since a vegan diet severely lacks sufficient amounts of proteins, most people have to use supplements to meet their daily needs.

Is it healthy to be vegan?

It is not surprising to hear that a vegan diet can be healthier than an animal-based diet. However, how healthy is it exactly? What unique benefits are vested in a vegan diet? The following list explains the most well-researched benefits of veganism:

  • Better nutritional value

A well-planned vegan diet is more nutritious than other regular diets.

  • Reduces your overall calorie intake

Vegan diets reduce your calorie intake by a great deal. So, if you're looking for an amazing and effective way to shed some extra pounds, veganism works great for weight loss.

  • Prevents type-2 diabetes

Following a vegan diet will  dramatically reduce your risk of developing type II diabetes. And if you’re already a victim of diabetes, veganism stops it from worsening.

  • Prevents certain cancers

Did you know that veganism is an amazing way to prevent some deadly cancers? This is because the soy products in a vegan diet, removal of smoky, meaty products, and zero intakes of dairy products can naturally reduce the risk of certain cancers like breast, prostate, and colon cancers.

  • Improves heart health

A vegan diet is directly linked with improvement in heart-related conditions. Thus people following a vegan diet are 42% less likely to suffer from heart diseases and 75% less likely to develop high blood pressure.

What are the pros & cons of veganism?

Like with all things man-made, veganism is not one hundred percent ideal. It has flaws, where it has advantages. This section details both the pros and cons of a vegan diet on human health:

Pros of Veganism

  • You get to benefit from a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Thus, adding a lot of healthy nutrients to your diet.
  • It can lead to weight loss.
  • A vegan diet makes you feel fuller. So, you have increasing satiety levels, but with high food volume and low energy intake.
  • It is super rich in fiber which is good for healthy bowel movements and prevents disorders like constipation.

Cons of Veganism

  • A poorly planned vegan diet can cause a deficiency of proteins and healthy fats in the body.
  • Without adding variety to your meal, a vegan diet can cause deficiency of certain nutrients while retaining a harmful amount of others in your body.
  • A vegan diet can be expensive to adhere to and not practicable for all.
  • A vegan diet provides an inadequate amount of protein. Thus, supplements are often required. Moreover, you may have a loss in your muscle mass.
  • If not done properly, it may interferes with children's growth.

What is a vegan meal plan?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many people struggle with creating a good and healthy vegan meal plan. This is mainly because we’ve mainly been brought on a meat and potatoes diet and aren't really familiar with cooking plants. Also, the recipes out there — i.e on the internet — are super complicated.

So what ends up happening is that the meals are deficient, either taste-wise or nutrient-wise. And, this eventually forces most people to give it up altogether and go back to old unhealthy ways.

But the good news is, if organized rightly, you can have a delicious, nutritious and fulfilling vegan meal!

Here’s a wonderful one-day vegan meal plan:

Vegan Breakfast

Starting with the most important meal of the day — breakfast — you can opt for a delicious avocado toast topped with mashed garbanzo beans and tomato. You can also add a handful of nuts or peanut butter to add variety.

Vegan Lunch

For lunch, opt for rice with baked sweet potato and beans. If you’d rather go for a salad, try whipping up a quick and tasty kale salad with strawberry, almond, and a drizzle of citrus vinaigrette.

Vegan Dinner

For dinner, keep it light with a ricotta lasagna with tofu and spinach. Alternatively, you can also make quinoa and black bean chili.

Vegan Snack

Craving for some snacks, but want to keep it plant-based? Try celery with peanut butter or fresh veggies with hummus.

You can also search for well-planned 5-days plans or weekly or monthly plans. Remember, the key to benefiting from vegan and vegetarian diets lies in creating an ideal diet plan. More importantly, prepare your meals ahead of time. So, the next time you get home tired from work, there's already something healthy waiting for you in the fridge.

And that's a wrap!

There's no denying the positive impact vegetarian and vegan diets can have on your diet.


Not only are plant-based foods healthier and more nutritious, they also eliminate a lot of conscience concerns, such as our contribution towards animal cruelty and global warming.


Apart from this, following a vegetarian diet can do wonders if you are looking to get your health in line. In addition to benefiting from an abundance of nutrients, you also remove the risk of weight gaincardiovascular diseasescancersdiabetes type 2, and much more!


Therefore, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that these diets are several times more rewarding than enjoying an animal-based diet plan.

About the Author Lillian

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