Vegetarian Vs. Vegan Diet: Which Is Better?
Plant-based diets are on the rise. It’s not new for us to see a carton of ‘non-dairy milk’ or some ‘plant-based chicken’ on the shelves of a grocery store. However, in the last decade, people have become much aware of the environmental and ethical effects of eating meat.
People tend to quit eating meat for a variety of reasons. It could be to lose weight and get healthier. Or maybe they want to do their part in saving the animals. Whatever the reason is, the global population of nonvegetarians is dropping.
However, the fact that many people still don’t know what veganism means is not uncommon. From all these technical terms and similarities, it can be hard to differentiate between a vegetarian diet and a vegan diet. So, let’s break them down.
What Is A Vegetarian Diet?
Vegetarians are the ones who check for the green dot while buying groceries. They do not consume any meat, poultry, or seafood- anything that directly results from animal slaughter. In simple words, if it costs an animal its life, vegetarians won’t eat it.
However, vegetarian people generally like to consume animal by-products. That may include eggs, honey, or dairy products.
There are many sub-divisions into which we can classify vegetarianism. These are:
- Lacto-vegetarians: They are vegetarians who do not consume any animal flesh but consume dairy products.
- Ovo-vegetarians: Vegetarians who avoid all animal products except eggs fall under this category.
- Lacto-Ovo-vegetarians: They avoid eating animal flesh but consume dairy products and eggs.
We also have pescatarians and flexitarians. Pescatarians are vegetarians who eat fish but no other animal flesh. Flexitarians are part-time vegetarians. Although sometimes they are considered vegetarian, they technically do not fall under the true definition of vegetarianism.
What Is A Vegan Diet?
A vegan diet is almost like a vegetarian diet but stricter. Vegans do not consume any animal product, animal flesh, or by-product. This diet includes even avoiding the consumption of honey or milk, whose production does not even directly kill animals. Don’t worry about it, though- there are tonnes of vegan alternatives for almost everything vegans want to enjoy. Jackfruit, tofu, and soya milk are to name a few.
Vegans believe that we do not only exploit animals by killing them for flesh. The conditions in which breeders keep them for dairy products, honey, etc., are awful, and they deserve freedom like humans. Vegans like to do their part by making their diet entirely plant-based. Some people follow a planned vegan diet for health reasons because it is low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Usually, veganism extends to your entire lifestyle rather than just diet. That means buying certified vegan cosmetics, household products, and clothes. Now, you may ask, how can clothes be vegan? We derive materials like fur, leather, wool, and silk from animals. A hardcore vegan will avoid them and use alternatives.
Types Of Vegans
We can classify vegans into many types. They follow different diets according to their nutritional requirements and taste preferences. These are:
- Dietary vegans: They are the vegans who avoid animal-based products in their diets but continue to use them in their cosmetics and other products.
- Whole food vegans: Vegans under this category follow a diet full of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
- Junk food vegans: Not all vegan foods are healthy. Vegan meats, non-dairy ice cream, frozen dinners, fries, desserts, and many other food items are heavily processed and, thus, not suitable for health. People who rely heavily on these items fall under this category.
- Raw food vegans: These people only consume food either uncooked or cooked below the temperature of 48°C. They believe that cooking food at high temperatures loses its nutritional value. There is also a diet called ‘Raw till 4’ in which people eat uncooked food before 4 pm. After that, there is no restriction on cooking food.
- Fruitarian vegans follow a diet that only includes fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Years ago, we thought it almost impossible to be vegan due to the lack of alternatives. We have come a long way now.
So, now you know the essential difference between a vegetarian and a vegan diet. To summarize, vegetarians do consume animal by-products while vegans do not. So, let us now discuss their nutritional values and compare which diet is better.
Both vegetarians and vegans consume almost the same amount of nutrients. They both contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals, fibers, and other healthy plant compounds. We also see low doses of saturated fat and cholesterol. This nutritional value is high because fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds load the vegan and vegetarian diets with nutrients.
However, poorly planned diets do have setbacks. They can be deficient in iron, calcium, zinc, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12. That is why you must plan your diet. Some good sources of iron can be dark green vegetables, pulses, dry fruits, nuts, and whole grains. Since you can find Vitamin B12 naturally in foods from animal sources only, vegans always have the option to take supplements.
Critics have always blamed vegan and vegetarian diets for being low in protein. But that is a myth. A well-planned diet will have enough proteins. These are through soya products, nuts, pulses, beans, seeds, and cereals. A variety of proteins from different sources are essential for the right mixture of amino acids that aid in building and repairing the body’s cells.
There are many cookies, ice creams, French fries, candies, etc., that are vegan. But, of course, make sure that you consume them in moderation.
So, Which Is Better?
This question has no direct universal answer. Both vegetarianism and veganism are equally appropriate for all stages of life. So, the choice is yours on which is the better option for you. You will have to consider your health issues, budget, easy availability of food items in your area, etc. Of course, you can always consult a dietician in case of confusion. The crucial thing is that you plan your diet so that it is rich in nutrients- so you can give your body exactly what it needs and deserves.