There are various reasons why people choose to be vegetarians or vegans. The most popular reason to opt a vegetarian diet would be health concerns. A rich diet pattern incorporates fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains, which in turn keep your heart and body healthy. In contrast, there are people who are strict vegans for ethical, health, environmental, and many more reasons. Many people, including myself for a long time, are under the impression that there is no concept as “vegan vs vegetarian”. Being a vegan or a vegetarian is a choice of lifestyle, as you are considered in two separate food groups. To help understand the actual contrast and significance between the two, first let’s shed some light on vegan vs vegetarian definition.
Vegan vs Vegetarian Definition
To help clarify the sometimes “unnoticeable” blur of vegan vs vegetarian diet, the following definitions between both the food classes is illustrated.
By definition, people who are vegetarian do not eat any kind of meat products (red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, animal slaughter products) but at times will consume dairy and egg products. The diet also includes of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. Besides the health reasons that drive people to adopt such type of living, vegetarianism is also provoked (in people) due to ethical, religious, political, cultural, and/or aesthetic grounds. Although, the concept of vegetarianism is pretty clear across the world, there are however, subcategories that divide it further on. Read more on vegetarianism pros and cons
- Pescatarian – A pescatarian is someone who abstains himself from eating all kinds of meat and animal flesh foods. This distinction does not include consumption of fish. Although, the term “pescatarian” isn’t utilized so openly, and is unknown to most, many “meat-eating” people are adopting the diet in hopes of turning vegetarians.
- Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian – A new term for “almost” vegetarians, describes those who are under a mostly vegetarian diet and sometimes eat meat as well. A semi-vegetarian occasionally eats only fish and chicken (no red meat).
- Lacto-Vegetarian – This type of vegetarianism describes people who don’t eat eggs, beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish, and other animal flesh products. As the name suggests, “lacto” means milk in Latin, so the basic consumption comes from eating dairy products.
- Ovo-Vegetarian – “Ovo” means egg in Latin; hence the diet consists of eggs while excluding meat and dairy products.
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian – When you combine the lacto-vegetarian and ovo-vegetarian diets, you get lacto-ovo vegetarianism diet of milk, butter, cheese, eggs, and other dairy products, while excluding meat products.
A misunderstood fact, vegan is by far the most strictest vegetarian subcategory. Apart from veganism being a way of living, it covers the philosophical grounds as well. Vegan diet, also known as pure and complete vegetarian diet, strictly stays away from the usage of animals for food, clothes, and other functions. Also, dairy and egg products with processed foods such as gelatin is also excluded from the diet. Any type of raw vegan diet will consist of unprocessed vegan food(s) which then are heated above 115º F before consumption. The most common influences for becoming a vegan are health, ethical, moral, environmental, spiritual and religious values, along with animals rights and welfare issues. Read more on vegan food pyramid.
- Macrobiotic – Although, another sub-group or category of vegetarianism, macrobiotic can be considered as a sub-level or “cheat veganism” diet. This means, that you are a vegan as you consume unprocessed vegan foods, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, but your diet also includes (occasionally) fish.
Vegan vs Vegetarian Health
Now if you’re wondering on how to make a decision between being a vegan or a vegetarian, then perhaps the health benefits mentioned for both can help make things simpler. Apart from the classifications of food and diet, there are differences in health benefits as well.
- Helps lower blood cholesterol
- Less risk of heart diseases, strokes, and attacks
- Longer lifespan as compared to those who consume meat products
- Helps lose weight
- Less likely to get diabetes, gall bladder and gallstones issues
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- Improves cardiovascular health
- Healthy heart due to less fat and cholesterol in diet
- Lowers high blood pressure
- Helps fight Type 2 diabetes (according to American Diabetic Association)
- Prevents breast cancer, age-related macular degeneration, arthritis, cataracts, and osteoporosis
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With understanding the difference of vegan vs vegetarian, you can too opt to change or alter your current way of living. No matter which type of diet regime you go for, be sure to consult your doctor and research before becoming a vegan or vegetarian.