Difference Between Vegan And Vegetarian Chart The Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet: Why Going Vegetarian or Vegan Is Good for You

Difference Between Vegan And Vegetarian Chart

There’s no debating the science. A diet packed with plant foods does wonders for your health. But what exactly is a plant-based diet, and how does it compare to a vegan or vegetarian diet? Should we be ditching meat and dairy?

‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants’ – Michael Pollen.

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet is a way of eating where the focus is on filling up your plate with plant foods.

Some examples of plant foods include:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Legumes (like lentils and chickpeas)
  • Whole grains
  • Nuts
  • Seeds.

The closer these foods resemble how they’re found in nature (i.e., the less processing) and the more of them on your plate – the better for your body.

This way of eating isn’t about being restrictive. People who eat a mainly plant-based diet may still choose to eat small amounts of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and dairy (also known as semi-vegetarian, flexitarian, or pescatarian). The beauty is that there is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach.

What’s the difference between a vegan and vegetarian diet?

Some people eating a plant-based diet may choose not to eat meat and animal products for various reasons. A vegan diet excludes all meat and animal products (meat, poultry, fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs), whereas a vegetarian diet excludes meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. However, a few variations of a vegetarian diet depend on whether you eat or exclude eggs, dairy, and fish (see table below).

Different styles of plant-based eating, the difference between vegan and vegetarian chart

Name of diet description

  • Semi-vegetarian or flexitarian includes eggs and dairy
  • may include small amounts of meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
  • Pescatarian includes eggs, dairy, fish, and seafood
  • excludes meat and poultry
  • Ovo-vegetarian includes eggs
  • excludes meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and dairy
  • Lacto-vegetarian includes dairy
  • excludes meat, poultry, fish, seafood, and eggs
  • Vegetarian
  • (a.k.a. lacto-ovo vegetarian) includes eggs and dairy
  • excludes meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
  • Vegan
  • excludes all meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy 

What are the benefits of a plant-based diet?

A diet centered on plenty of whole, minimally processed plant foods lowers your risk of heart disease and benefits your overall health1.

Vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are low in saturated fat, contain heart-healthy fats, and are an excellent source of fiber. They give our bodies vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals, which offer protection against disease2.

Our research on dietary patterns shows that vegan and vegetarian diets are associated with a lower risk of heart disease3. People that follow a vegan or vegetarian diet generally have lower blood pressure and Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol than non-vegetarians3. Some studies have shown that well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets help people to control their blood sugar levels and may reduce inflammation in the body, too2,4.

The key thing to note when looking at the evidence is that vegans and vegetarians tend to lead a healthier life overall, explaining some, but not all, of the lower risk in these groups. For example, people who follow a vegetarian diet may be more physically active and drink less alcohol.

Should I switch to a vegan diet?

To eat more plant foods, you don’t necessarily need to adopt a vegan or vegetarian diet. For many of us, just making an effort to eat less processed foods and more plant foods daily will do wonders for your health and the risk of heart disease.

A high intake of vegetables and fruit (regardless of whether meat or dairy is eaten) is associated with a lower risk of heart disease and early death5-6.

Around the world, we see various ways of eating, which include varying amounts of meat and dairy that support a long and healthy life. Well-known examples from the ‘Blue Zones‘ include:

  • The traditional Mediterranean diet.
  • The Seventh-Day Adventists’ vegetarian diet.
  • The Okinawans’ largely plant-based diet in Japan.

One thing that all of these populations have in common is that their diet is primarily plant-based.

How can I eat more plant-based foods?

A good place to start is to think about a realistic approach for you and your family. Consider taking small steps towards getting more plant foods on your plate.

Here are some vegetable and legume recipe ideas to get you started.

Is a plant-based diet healthy?

A plant-based diet isn’t automatically healthy. Hot chips, biscuits, and soft drinks can all be vegan/vegetarian foods. Too much saturated fat, sugar, and salt from any source isn’t good for your health. An increasing number of processed plant foods are on supermarket shelves, from vegetarian hotdogs to vegan sweet treats. Some of these foods contain more salt and sugar than regular products.

Remember, any foods that have been highly processed should be eaten mindfully – whether they are plant-based or not. Learn how to read food labels to help you to choose products that are right for you.

Nutrients for vegan and vegetarian diets

If you choose a vegan or vegetarian diet, be mindful that it can take careful planning to get all the essential nutrients you need, especially for pregnant/breastfeeding women, infants, and young children. Alternative protein sources (like tofu, tempeh, legumes, nuts, and seeds), omega-3 fats, iron, zinc, and calcium may be needed. You also need to consider vitamin B12 if excluding all animal products. Fortified foods or supplements may be needed (particularly for B12).

If you’re thinking about switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet, talk to your GP or practice nurse and get help from a dietitian or registered nutritionist.

What does the Heart Foundation recommend?

There are plenty of ways to eat for a healthy heart, and a range of diets can be heart-healthy – those with small amounts of meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy and those without.

Whatever diet you choose, we recommend loading your plate with plant foods like vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, making them the hero of your meals and snacks.

Most important is the quality of your overall diet and getting the fundamentals of eating a healthy diet right. Most of us would benefit from eating more plant and less processed foods without avoiding animal products altogether. A ‘flexitarian’ approach may be the most realistic and sustainable way for many of us to adopt a plant-based diet.

Vegan vs. Vegetarian

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, and often inedible animal-based products, such as leather, wool, and silk. Vegetarianism is usually a diet, while veganism is a lifestyle. Vegetarians often choose their diet based on its reported health benefits or for religious or political reasons. In general, vegans have much stronger political beliefs regarding their diet, with some believing animals should be protected under many of the same laws as humans.

Comparison chart, the difference between vegan and vegetarian chart

Introduction 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. Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that excludes meat (including game and slaughter by-products; fish, shellfish, and other sea animals; and poultry). There are several variants of the diet, some of which also exclude eggs.

DietVegans do not consume meat, eggs, milk, honey, or any food that is derived from animals. Do not eat meat or fish. Some do consume dairy, and some vegetarians consume eggs. Lacto-vegetarian: eating dairy products. Ovo-vegetarian: eating eggs. Do not eat gelatin or other animal by-products.

Products do not use animal-derived products, e.g. fur, leather, wool, etc. Do not condone the use of animal testing. While vegetarians do not eat meat, most do not mind using other animal-derived products, e.g., fur, leather, or wool.

Introduction 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. Vegetarianism is the practice of a diet that excludes meat (including game and slaughter by-products; fish, shellfish, and other sea animals; and poultry). There are several variants of the diet, some of which also exclude eggs.

DietVegans do not consume meat, eggs, milk, honey, or any food that is derived from animals. Do not eat meat or fish. Some do consume dairy, and some vegetarians consume eggs. Lacto-vegetarian: eating dairy products. Ovo-vegetarian: eating eggs. Do not eat gelatin or other animal by-products.

Products do not use animal-derived products, e.g., fur, leather, wool, etc. Do not condone the use of animal testing. While vegetarians do not eat meat, most do not mind using other animal-derived products, e.g., fur, leather, or wool.

What Vegans and Vegetarians Eat

Most vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry but consume dairy products (especially vegetarians in India) and eggs. Many vegetarians also do not eat products that contain gelatin or other animal-based products. Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products but not eggs; Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs, but not dairy products; and lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products. There is also pescetarianism, a vegetarian-like diet that avoids meat and poultry but does include fish.

The vegan diet tends to be much stricter than most vegetarians’ diets. Meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, and all other animal-based products, like honey, are entirely avoided. Moreover, any food or other (sometimes inedible) product that uses animals is avoided. This often extends to clothing, medicines, and anything else using animals or animal products. For example, a vegan would not use leather shoes or belts, cosmetics tested on animals, down comforters, gelatin medicine capsules, woolen sweaters, or fur coats.

Fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts are staples of vegan and vegetarian diets. Sometimes tofu is used as a replacement for meat-based products.

Reasons for Veganism vs. Vegetarianism

“There is no meaningful distinction between eating flesh and eating dairy or other animal products. Animals exploited in the dairy industry live longer than those used for meat, but they are treated worse during their lives, and they end up in the same slaughterhouse after which we consume their flesh anyway. There is probably more suffering in a glass of milk or an ice cream cone than there is in a steak.” —Gary L. Francione, vegan American legal scholar and animal rights advocate, in Veganism: The Fundamental Principle of the Abolitionist Movement.

While some vegans may cite nutritional concerns or food allergies as the primary reason for adhering to their diet (dietary vegans), most adopt a vegan lifestyle for moral and political reasons (ethical vegans). The vegan point of view tends to be that animals are not here to be exploited by man and that the commercialization of animals involves a fundamental, inhumane component and a lack of respect for basic life.

There are many reasons one might be vegetarian. A prominent reason is health concerns, as the vegetarian diet is often high in fiber and low in sugar and saturated fats. Similarly, some adopt vegetarianism due to growing concerns about food safety regarding meat. Moral and political reasons are also common; for example, some have embraced vegetarianism (and veganism) for environmental reasons. [1] Some religions, like Hinduism and Jainism, prescribe or encourage vegetarianism. Like some Christian sects, others practice abstinence from animal products during Lent.

Health Benefits of Vegan and Vegetarian Diets

Most studies show vegans and vegetarians are as healthy, if not healthier than their meat-eating counterparts. Veganism is particularly good at eliminating common food allergens, such as shellfish and dairy. A plant-based diet is high in complex carbs from whole grains and root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, parsnips, rutabaga, etc.

There is an ongoing study of the advantages and disadvantages of vegan and vegetarian diets. Many studies have found cardiovascular benefits to both diets, and some suggest a lower cancer risk among vegans and vegetarians.

An extensive study published in June 2013 shows that vegetarians live longer than meat eaters and are 19% less likely to die from heart disease. The Wall Street Journal covered the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, a Journal of the American Medical Association. Other key findings from the study include the following:

  • Vegetarians experienced 12% fewer deaths throughout the study (six years), during which 73,308 people were tracked.
  • There appeared to be fewer deaths in the vegetarian group from diabetes and kidney failure.
  • Caloric intake didn’t matter. The different participant groups generally ate around the same amount of calories daily.
  • The vegetarian advantage appeared stronger in men than women.
  • Cancer struck both vegetarians and non-vegetarians in roughly equal measure.

rebuttal of the media reports of this study argues that correlation does not imply causation and that the longer life span of vegetarians found in the study could also be attributed to the fact that the vegetarian group tended to exercise more, be married, and consume less alcohol. Smokeless compared with the meat-eating group.

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, vegans and vegetarians often tend to be more affluent or health-conscious, both of which positively affect long-term outcomes.

Risks of a Vegan Diet,

A notable downside to the vegan diet is that vegans often need to take B12 supplements — and sometimes (depending upon how thoughtful you are to craft a well-balanced diet) other dietary supplements, such as amino acids, iron, or vitamin D — as their diet tends to lack these essential nutritional components.[2] There is also a risk that a meatless diet does not contain enough protein, which is especially concerning for growing children.

Environmental Impact

There are varying results of studies on the environmental impact of diets. While no two studies arrive at the same conclusions, it is widely accepted that cutting down on meats and moving to a more plant-based diet would be more environmentally friendly.

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