Vegan vs. Vegetarian – What’s The Difference?
According to the Plant-Based Foods Association, US retail sales of plant-based foods increased by 27% in 2020 alone and are expected to skyrocket as more shoppers adopt a meat-free lifestyle. With so many new approaches to what we eat, how do you distinguish between the different meat-free diets of today? Join us as we explore how consumers are steering their diets away from animal products and the reasoning and health benefits behind this plant-eating craze.
3 Types of Vegetarian Diets Explained
The term vegetarian can be loosely defined as a person who does not eat meat, including poultry and seafood. Many vegetarians still enjoy other animal products, such as eggs and dairy. Although the dietary restrictions of vegetarianism often come down to personal preference, three main variations of the diet have emerged over time:
- Lacto-ovo vegetarians only eliminate meat itself and will still consume both dairy and eggs.
- Lacto vegetarians eat neither meat nor eggs but keep dairy in their diets.
- Ovo vegetarians avoid meat and dairy, with eggs being the only animal product they consume.
What Foods Can You Eat on a Vegan Diet?
Vegan diets are more restrictive than their vegetarian counterparts, eliminating all products derived from animals, including animal flesh, dairy, eggs, honey, and gelatin.
Processed foods that contain flavorings, preservatives, and other additives are often challenging to navigate for strict vegans. You may need to inspect ingredient lists to ensure that your food is free from any animal-derived products before adding it to your shopping cart. Common food label ingredients to avoid on a vegan diet include:
- Natural red 4 (also called carmine) – a bright red coloring derived from Cochineal insects.
- Shellac – a glazing ingredient secreted by Lac beetles.
- Lanolin – a wax found in sheepskin and wool.
- Lactose or lactitol – milk products produced with whey.
Vegans and Vegetarians May Share Common Goals
Vegans and vegetarians are often similar in their shared ethical reasoning for adopting plant-based diets. The most popular reason for these dietary preferences is protecting animal welfare.
The Vegan Society suggests that veganism is more than just a dietary choice. It is a philosophy and a lifestyle that aims to eliminate cruelty and exploitation of animals for any purpose. Vegans often also reject clothing, cosmetics, cleaning products, and any items that cause harm to living beings at any stage of their production.
Lowering your environmental impact or improving your physical health are the two other mainstream reasons for adopting a plant-based diet.
Vegan vs. Vegetarian: What’s Healthier?
There is currently no academic consensus for which of the two plant-based diets is the healthier option, but both may be healthier than consuming animal products in excess. Vegans and vegetarians consume significantly less saturated fats and cholesterol than meat-eaters, potentially lowering their risk of developing numerous lifestyle diseases.
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