What is a Vegan diet?
How does it differ from a Vegetarian diet?
Are they the same thing as a plant based diet?
Often people have no understanding of what the difference is between plant based diet vs vegan.
Both don’t eat meat and that is as far as many people go.
So what are the differences between plant based diet vs vegan, and are they the same thing as vegetarian?
Plant based diet
Plant based diet is exactly that, based on food that grows in plant form.
The diet includes whole plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Its focus is on plant products, as opposed to processed foods or meat.
There is no legal grounding for the term of plant based diet, so it can included diets that are 100% plant based, or diets that have a lot of plant based food but also include small amounts of animal products.
Plant based diet sound very similar to veganism and vegetarianism in that they are based on not eating animal products.
However, there is a marked difference depending on how you use the term plant based diet vs vegan.
Being vegan is abstaining from animal products and rejecting that animals are merely commodities.
Though this in practice leads to a diet that can be wholly plant based, it also leads to a lifestyle change as well.
In other words, to be vegan is to have a plant based diet, but to follow a plant based diet is not to necessarily be vegan.
A vegan does not only abstain from eating meat, but from wearing any clothing that is an animal product, using any products that are tested on animals, and even products such as honey and beeswax are considered to be against the vegan stance.
This means being plant based and being vegan is less about what is eaten and more about the philosophical nature of the person who is pursuing the diet.
So where does Vegetarianism fit?
Being a vegetarian is again different from a plant based diet and vegan diet.
Vegetarians usually abstain from eating the flesh of an animal.
But they allow for products that are produced by animals.
So products such as eggs, milk, and cheese, which are not allowed in either vegan or plant based diet, are perfectly acceptable in a vegetarian diet.
In fact, there are some vegetarians who don’t eat the flesh of mammals but will happily eat fish.
These are called pesco-vegetarians.
Confused? Let me explain.
It is understandable to be confused about the range of diets that are out there that all have plants as a major aspect of their food requirements.
It can get overwhelming trying to decide which diet or lifestyle you feel is best for you.
So let me help you understand it further.
Take for example a chocolate chip cookie.
To the plant based dieter, the chocolate chip cookie would not be allowed on the menu.
Its use of refined sugars and processed foods means that it is outside the realm of what a plant based dieter should be eating.
A vegan would also refuse the chocolate chip cookie on the grounds that it has (most probably) been made with milk, butter, and perhaps eggs.
The chocolate itself would not be allowed for the vegan because it uses milk.
So they would refuses it like the plant based dieter, but for very different reasons.
The vegetarian on the other hand may very well accept the chocolate chip cookie.
As it cookie has no meat products involved in its production, the vegetarian may see it as a legitimate food source for their preferred diet.
Again, the same test can be done using an Oreo cookie.
The plant based dieter would refuse the Oreo on the grounds the same grounds as they refused the chocolate chip cookie.
The vegan however, may very well accept the cookie as it is not made with any animal products whatsoever.
In this test the vegan and the vegetarian would accept the Oreo, whereas the plant based dieter would not.
Technically, you could live on French fries, Oreo’s, and soda and still be a vegan, though you couldn’t do this and be a plant based dieter.
Being one does not denote being the other.
It is more about philosophy than diet.
What must be understood is that veganism and vegetarianism are more about philosophies than diets.
While the plant based dieter may be eating in their particular way for health reasons alone, it may well be that the vegan and vegetarian are basing their dieting decisions on far more than health and well being.
It is a lifestyle choice that encompasses ethics and politics.
To be a vegan is much more than eating plant based food.
It is a stance against oppressive use of sentient animals as commodities for our consumption.
The diet may actually be an afterthought of the stance the individual has taken against what they perceive to be a societal injustice.
Vegetarians may very well agree with this stance, but are not as concerned with the products produced by animals as they are with the over-consumption of meat in today’s society.
It is very important to understand the distinction between plant based diets, vegetarianism and veganism.
To understand that there is a philosophical difference between them is to fully grasp the motivations of why people eat what they do.
Many vegans do not agree with the plant based diet as it is not one that is focused on the well being of the animals, whereas many plant based dieters do not like that veganism is not focused on the well being of the person.
Understanding this difference between plant based diet vs vegan is critical when making a decision about a lifestyle change in your eating.
What a person eats comes from much more than what they like.
It is often about beliefs, ethics, politics and philosophies.
To ignore these is to misunderstand what many of these movements are advocating and standing for.
Choose to eat better and healthier, but do so in a way that is true to who you are and what you stand for.