Vegan vs Vegetarian Diet | What’s The Real Difference?

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The world is shifting towards a ‘plant-based’ one. Many people are actively moving towards a vegetarian or vegan diet. But with this comes a dilemma. Are vegetarian diet and vegan diet the same? How are they different? Which one should I follow? Well, I’m here with all the answers.

Vegan vs Vegetarian diet

People have been following vegetarianism 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. Still, veganism is stricter because they attempt to exclude dairy, poultry, honey, and other items derived from animals (for example, leather and silk).

Let’s have a look at some differences and similarities between vegan and vegetarian diets. We’ll also discuss the health impact of the two. Let’s get straight to it.

What Is A Vegetarian Diet?

Lacto Ovo Vegetarian

Let’s start with the elder sibling of the two; vegetarianism. Vegetarianism, as I said, is an old practice. It has been around since 700 B.C. (yup! That old). Many people worldwide have accepted vegetarianism as a part of their ethical or religious practices.

I can also tell you the book definition of it. According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian does not consume meat, poultry, fish, or other by-products that involve animal slaughter.

Their diet mainly comprises fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, nuts, and seeds. However, many vegetarians eat animal by-products that don’t involve slaughtering animals like eggs and dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt.

Vegetarianism is actually a fluid concept. Thus, there are many types of vegetarians. The types of vegetarians are cleanly listed below.

  • Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians – Lacto-Ovo vegetarians do not consume animal products but eat dairy products and eggs.
  • 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, including dairy, eggs, honey, gelatin, etc.
  • Pescatarians- Pescatarians do not eat meat and poultry products but consume fish and seafood. They prefer to add fish to their diet to prevent heart diseases while they get the health benefits of a plant-based diet. Although some people consider it a part of vegetarianism, others argue that it isn’t (as fish is still meat).

So, this was a brief introduction to vegetarianism. Now that we are done with this let’s move to the younger sibling of the two; veganism.

What Is A Vegan Diet?

Vegan Diet

Veganism is a relatively new concept but is taking the world by storm. Veganism extends more than just a diet; it refers to a complete lifestyle. People who follow veganism advocate for animal rights and believe no living thing should be exploited for meat or products.

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. This is veganism’s book definition.

A vegan diet strictly avoids 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. To keep yourself updated in the vegan world, check out Get Vegan.

Vegan vs. Vegetarian Diet | Key Differences and Similarities

Similarities and differences between vegan and vegetarian diet

Both vegetarians and vegans shun animal products for similar reasons, but the difference is the degree to which they consider animal products acceptable. Both 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, or 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.

Vegan vs. Vegetarian | Which Is Healthier?

Health impact of plant based diets

Regarding health impact, both vegan and vegetarian diets are low in saturated fats (bad fats) and cholesterol (the bad kind). These diets are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But this is the case for a well-panned plant-based diet.

According to a report from the ‘Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ (and other scientific studies), both vegan and vegetarian diets can be considered suitable for all phases of life.

The diets include nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and soy products. So, we can say that both these diets are healthier.

Health benefits of following plant-based diets are mentioned in a clean list below;

  • 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 pros and cons. For instance, Lacto vegetarians get calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D from dairy products. But avoiding dairy products might help vegans keep their cholesterol level down. 

Vegans are also at 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 to 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 gain less weight as they age. 


So, the verdict is that it’s preferential which diet you choose. I have listed the upside and the downside of both. Now it is for you to decide which side you lean on more.

It is recommended that both vegetarians and vegans pay special attention to nutrition strategies that increase the absorption of nutrients from plant foods. They should consider analyzing their daily nutrient intake.

They should also get their blood nutrient levels checked and consume food and additives that contain high amounts of iron, calcium, omega-3, and vitamins. 

Tell me in the comments which diet do you think is better? I will see you with another article soon. Until then, happy eating!

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