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Vegetarian versus Vegan—What’s the Difference?


More and more people are becoming aware of the benefits of shifting from an animal-based diet to a healthier and more beneficial plant-based diet. There are some who call themselves vegetarians while others opt to be identified as vegans. But what are the key differences between the two? Is being vegan better than being vegetarian? Would you get the same health benefits of having pure plant-based food in your diet? If you are still choosing which type of diet best suits you and your lifestyle, you may want to know the differences between being a vegetarian and a vegan.

Key Similarities

Before identifying how vegetarians and vegans are different from each other, it is important that we know how they are similar. First, both vegetarians and vegans avoid animal-based food and do not consume animal meat such as beef, pork, poultry, fish, insects, among others. Vegetarian and vegan diets are mostly plant-based food, which contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds. Although they do not consume animal-based food, both vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy and nutritionally adequate. Both diets are also known to provide health benefits for disease prevention.

The Two Sides of a Coin

The main factor that differentiates the two diets still rests on what they consume. Vegetarians consume animal byproducts. The inclusion of animal byproducts, such as milk and eggs, depend on the level of vegetarian diet one follows. The most common vegetarian diets are:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid all animal flesh, but consume dairy and egg products.
  • Lacto vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid animal flesh and eggs, but consume dairy products.
  • Ovo vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid all animal products except eggs.

On the other hand, vegans strictly avoid consuming any foods or beverages that contain:

  • meat
  • poultry
  • fish and shellfish
  • eggs
  • dairy products
  • honey
  • insects
  • rennet, gelatin, and other types of animal protein
  • stock or fats that derive from animals

Another thing about veganism is that it is more attributed to one’s lifestyle. More than being a plant-based diet, vegans apply the avoidance of animal and animal byproducts to all the aspects of their life. Veganism is a way of living anchored on animal protection. As much as possible, vegans avoid all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals. You may visit a friend’s home who is vegan and you won’t find animal fur clothing, beeswax, crocodile leather bag, silk, wool, or cosmetics tested on animals.

It would be difficult to say which of the two is more healthful because both diets have their advantages and disadvantages. For example, some vegetarians can get calcium and phosphorus from dairy products. Vegans who avoid these can maintain low cholesterol levels. The thing is that it is more important to find alternatives like plant-based foods that are rich in antioxidants and nutrients. Practicing a plant-based diet can help keep your total cholesterol levels down, improve your blood pressure and blood flow, maintain better blood sugar control, and many others that are beneficial to your health.

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