You may have heard some people consider themselves vegan and others vegetarian. While there are similarities of course, differences between vegan and vegetarian also exist.

Vegetarianism is basically a diet, while veganism is a lifestyle. Lets take a look…

Vegan

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A vegan will not eat anything to do with animals, which includes: meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, honey or gelatin. Their diet consists solely of beans, grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables.

Veganism is a philosophy and compassionate lifestyle whose adherents seek to exclude the use of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.

Vegans endeavor not to use or consume animal products of any kind.

– They don’t use any animal derived products, e.g. fur, leather, wool, etc.

– They also don’t condone the use of animal testing.

Since animal products are the most convenient sources of protein and iron, vegans have a hard time getting an equal fix, which isn’t to say it’s impossible.

Vegetarian

A vegetarian is a person who will not eat meat for whatever reasons he/she chooses – health, animal protection, or for the environment.

Typically, vegetarian diets are broken into three or more groups include:

– Lacto-ovo vegetarians (whose diets include eating dairy products and eggs),

– Lacto vegetarians (who eat dairy, but avoid eggs), and…

– Vegan vegetarians (those who avoid animal products altogether).

There are a number of other more specific diets that fit into one of these categories and are typically associated with vegetarianism, including macrobiotics, raw foods diets and several others.

Vegetarian describes a diet; Vegan can be a lifestyle

Neither vegans nor vegetarians eat meat. However, while vegetarians tend to consume dairy products and eggs, a vegan avoids all animal products, including eggs and dairy.

In general, vegans have much stronger political beliefs regarding their diet, with some believing animals should be protected under many of the same laws that humans are.

vegan vs vegetarian_2A vegan does not eat meat; they also do not have anything to do with animal products in their lives. A vegan does not have household items, clothing of any kind, or cosmetics that have anything to do with animals.

Many vegans begin as vegetarians and slowly migrate to eliminating anything to do with animals.

People who become vegetarian may begin this type of diet because of health issues; some are concerned about the safety of the meats and poultry we get from the grocery stores.

Religious reasons could be the basis for someone becoming a vegetarian

Some Christian religions call for a period of a meatless diet during Lent; other religions like Jainism and Hinduism are geared towards a vegetarian diet.

While vegetarians do not eat meat, most vegetarians do not mind using other animal-derived products, e.g. fur, leather, or wool.

Therefore, the strict animal product-free vegetarian diet is only a part of being vegan. 

For most vegans the transition from a standard diet to their new lifestyle happens in stages. This can sometimes include stepping through a number of less strict vegetarian diets and then stepping up the lifestyle changes once a strict vegan diet has been achieved.

Is vegetarian labeled product OK for vegans to eat?

The answer is no.

Don’t think that because a food product is labeled “vegetarian safe” that it is “vegan safe’ too. Like vegans, vegetarians eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, leafy greens, whole grains, seeds and legumes. And vegetarians eliminate animal products too, but the dairy can stay!

vegan vs vegetarian_3

Do’s and Don’ts

Vegan and vegetarian diets are beneficial to humans, animals and the environment

They’re also nutritionally sound. Eating more fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains and legumes, generously increases a person’s daily dose of healthy vitamins, protein and fiber and might decrease the risk of different cancers.

There’s a lot to consider when mulling over either one of these diets

For one, veganism is very restrictive.

While protein and iron can be otherwise sourced, vitamin B12 – another vitamin rich in animal products is harder to get. B12 keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy, so deficiencies can lead to tiredness, weakness, nerve problems and depression.

Don’t go all-vegan or all-vegetarian at once

Gradually phase meat out of your diet, while adding more vegan and vegetarian-friendly options; Meatless Mondays are a great way to do this.

Don’t forget to note the vitamins and nutrients you’ll have to work a little harder to get without meat.

vegan vs vegetarian_4Health benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets

In general, most studies show vegans and vegetarians are as healthy, if not healthier than their meat-eating counterparts.

Veganism in particular, is very good at eliminating common food allergens, such as shellfish and dairy.

However, a notable downside to the vegan diet is that vegans often need to take B12 and amino acid supplements and sometimes other dietary supplements, such as iron or vitamin D as their diet tends to lack these essential nutritional components.

Overall, determining whether these diets directly affect long-term health outcomes is difficult.

The different types of vegetarians are rarely studied against each other, for instance, and vegans and vegetarians often tend to be more affluent or health-conscious, both of which positively affect long-term outcomes.

The key to making this diet work for you is to understand what nutrients you are missing from the foods that you are not consuming and to learn how to balance your meals without these foods.

Connect with Expert Yumna Sadiq.

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