People have been following a vegetarian diet for decades. Vegetarian diets are practiced for reasons like health, ethics, and environmentalism. However, vegan diets have been introduced recently and are gaining popularity. Both vegans and vegetarians do not consume meat but veganism is stricter because they attempt to exclude dairy, poultry, honey, and other items that are derived from animals (for example, leather and silk).
Let’s take a look at some of the differences and similarities between veganism and vegetarianism diet, and also which diet is healthy.
What is Vegetarianism?
According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is someone who does not consume meat, poultry, fish, or other by-products that involves animal slaughter. Their diet mainly comprises fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds. However, many vegetarians eat by-products that do not involve the slaughter of animals like eggs, dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt.
The most common types of vegetarians are listed below.
● Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians: Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians do not consume animal products but eats dairy products.
● Lacto vegetarians: Lacto vegetarians avoid animal products and eggs but eat dairy items.
● Ovo vegetarians: Ovo vegetarians avoids all kind of animal products other than eggs.
● Vegans: Vegans avoid all kinds of animal-derived products.
● Pescatarian: Pescatarians are those individuals who do not eat meat and poultry products but consumes fish and seafood. Some individuals prefer to add fish to a vegetarian diet because fish prevents heart diseases plus they also get the health benefits of a plant-based diet.
What is a Vegan Diet?
According to the Vegan Society, Veganism is defined as a way of living that attempts to ban all kinds of exploitation and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or other purposes.
Vegan diet strictly avoid consuming foods and beverages that contain meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, dairy products, honey, insects, rennet, gelatin, and other types of animal protein or fats.
Key Differences and Similarities between Vegetarians and Vegans
● Vegetarians and vegans avoid consuming animal products for similar reasons but the difference is the degree to which they consider animal products acceptable. Vegans and vegetarians exclude meat from their diets for health or ethical reasons. However, vegans avoid all kinds of animal by-products as they believe that these products will have adverse effects on their health as well as on the environment.
● Vegetarians oppose the killing of animals for food but do not mind consuming animal by-products like milk and eggs if the animals are kept in appropriate conditions. However, vegans believe that animals have the right to be free of human use, be it for food, clothing, entertainment, and other purposes. Hence the vegans choose to avoid eggs and dairy products that vegetarians have no problem eating.
● Strict vegans avoid products that directly or indirectly involve the human use of animals like leather goods, wool, silk, beeswax, cosmetics, or other products that manufacturers test on animals.
Which is Healthier?
According to a report from the ‘Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ as well as other scientific studies, both vegan and vegetarian diets can be considered suitable for all phases of life if the diet is planned well. Both diets contain high amounts of minerals, vitamins, fiber, and nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
Health benefits of following plant-based diets include:
● lower cholesterol levels
● improved blood pressure and blood flow
● lower risk of atherosclerosis
● better blood sugar control
● reduced oxidative stress and inflammation.
However, it is difficult to say which diet is healthier as both diets have advantages and disadvantages. For instance, unlike vegans, Lacto vegetarians get calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D from dairy products. But avoiding dairy products might help the vegans keep their cholesterol level down.
Vegans are also at the risk for a vital omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, especially in EPA and DHA even if they consume the plant sources of these nutrients. DHA is essential for brain functions and cognition. Vegetarians and pescatarians do not have this risk as they can obtain these nutrients via eggs and seafood.
Some studies suggest that vegans have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and several types of cancer because they do not consume egg and dairy products. Also, vegans tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than vegetarians and gains less weight as they age.
Hence, it is recommended that both vegetarians and vegans should pay special attention to nutrition strategies that increase the absorption of nutrients from plant foods. They should consider analyzing their daily nutrient intake, get their blood nutrient levels checked, and consume food and additives that contain high amounts of iron, calcium, omega-3, and vitamins.