The terms plant-based and vegan are often used interchangeably, but are they the same? No, despite similarities, veganism and a plant-based diet are two different concepts. So, what’s the difference between a plant-based and vegan diets?
A plant-based diet focuses on whole and minimally processed foods, derived from plants. However, people, following the diet may include small amounts of animal products like dairy or eggs. In contrast, vegans exclude all animal products from their lives, not just in their diet but also when it comes to what they wear.
Here is a detailed guide on veganism and the plant-based diet, where we will discuss their differences in detail, the foods that you can eat, and the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches to healthy eating.
Let’s dive in.
A plant-based diet primarily focuses on consuming foods derived from plants, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, etc.
Even though people use the terms 'vegan' and 'plant-based' interchangeably, there is a slight difference between the two. Individuals following a plant-based diet may not necessarily abstain from consuming animal products for ethical reasons. Therefore, some consider themselves plant-based even when they consume animal products like dairy or eggs.
On that note, a plant-based diet has numerous benefits for your health. Eating clean and green food improves your gut health, supports your immune system, and reduces inflammation. A plant-based diet is also high in fiber, thus it improves digestion.
Moreover, such a way of eating reduces the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer and are more environmentally sustainable.
Related: How to Become a Vegan: Take The Plant-Based Pledge
A vegan diet strictly eliminates and excludes the consumption of all animal products, including dairy, meat, eggs, honey, and anything that has animal substances.
People follow a vegan lifestyle for various reasons, which may include health issues. But the primary reason for adopting veganism is not to be part of any animal exploitation and to promote environmental sustainability.
Veganism goes beyond plain dietary choices. It's a lifestyle that seeks to exclude cruelty to animals in all its forms, including the clothing, cosmetics, and accessories we use.
Vegans consider killing or exploiting animals to satisfy our taste buds or for any other purpose to be ethically wrong. For the same reason, vegans are actively using different platforms to create awareness about the drawbacks of meat consumption, as well as to adopt a cleaner and greener lifestyle.
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Simply put, vegans are strict about not consuming or using anything derived from animals, whereas a plant-based diet does not necessarily avoid consuming some animal products, such as eggs, dairy, etc.
A person following a plant-based diet has the freedom to adjust their food intake according to their personal preference and dietary needs. Hence, plant-based does not always mean dairy-free or zero tolerance to animal-derived products.
In addition to veganism or vegetarianism, nowadays, we have different dietary concepts that give us the flexibility to adjust how we eat without feeling restricted.
One of those dietary concepts is flexitarianism. This type of diet mostly focuses on consuming plant-based food but allows for the occasional consumption of animal products.
A flexitarian diet provides nutrients from both plant-based and animal-derived foods allowing one to reap the benefit of both diet types.
While a vegan diet is good for the environment and has several health benefits, it can get a bit challenging to meet nutrient needs without proper meal planning or taking additional supplements
Therefore, a plant-based diet that includes a small amount of non-vegan products like dairy or eggs can ensure that an individual gets complete nutrition to be in their best possible health.
Related: How to Get Protein as a Vegan? Meet Your Protein Needs
If you’re still confused between the types of food that come in the two categories, here is a side-by-side comparison table:
|Fruits & vegetables||Yes||Yes|
|Nuts and seeds||Yes||Yes|
|Plant-based milk & protein powder||Yes||Yes|
|Bread and pasta||Yes||Yes|
|Herbs and spices||Yes||Yes|
|Oils and plant-based fats||Yes||Yes|
|Plant-based processed foods||Maybe||Maybe|
|Tofu and tempeh||Yes||Yes|
|Meat, poultry, fish||No||No|
When it comes to the health benefits of the vegan and plant-based diets, it’s important to understand that both diets can be healthy if they are well-planned and include a variety of nutrient-dense food.
Based on the advantages and disadvantages of each diet, you can decide for yourself which one is the right for you. After all, there's always less restictive approach of eating, i.e flexitarianism.
Related: Going Green: Vegan Vs Vegetarian Vs Pescetarian
A: Yes, vegans can eat plant-based meat. Plant-based or vegan meat is generally made from soy. Hence, it's completely vegan-friendly. Make sure to read the product label, in case there are any hidden ingredients containing animal substances.
A: No, a 100% plant-based diet may not be the same as a vegan diet because vegans go beyond food and eliminate animal-derived products from their lifestyle entirely.
A: The four types of vegans are ethical vegans, religious vegans, environmental vegans, and health vegans.
Related: What Percentage of the Population Is Vegetarian?
The growing awareness about animal cruelty, and the effects of greenhouse gas emissions have encouraged people to go vegan or plant-based. Both diets have the same motto, which is avoiding the consumption of animal products.
However, a plant-based diet is less strict than veganism and has some room for dairy, eggs, and occasional meat consumption.
Therefore, ultimately it comes down to individual preferences and your ethical beliefs, regarding which diet you want to follow. Whatever option you pick, don't forget to prioritize your health, in order to avoid the risk of any mineral and vitamin deficiencies.