Vegetarian vs Vegan – Similarities and Differences

  • Usman 

Vegetarian diet has been known to have positive effects on health. Research has shown that those following plant based diet have lower BMI, lower cholesterol and lower risk of dying of heart disease. (1)

At the same time it has also been shown that vegan diet helps lose weight. But still there is a little confusion whether vegetarian and vegan mean same things or there are any differences too between the two diets. So we are going to see in detail the vegetarian vs vegan similarities and differences.

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Vegetarianism

Both the diets fall in the broader vegetarianism definition. When people decide to completely remove animal food, mainly meat, from their diet, they are said to be following a vegetarian lifestyle.

So why people turn vegetarians. It is mainly because they consider that animals are not to used as commodities. They are living beings and feel pain and should be treated with compassion. What further convinces them is the harsh treatment of animals in the animal farms for meat, dairy and eggs production.

Vegetarians are convinced that cows are treated very poorly in very poor living conditions. They are tortured. Their lifespans are very reduced. A normal cow that would go on to live for 20 years, has average lifespan of 4 years in dairy industry.

Similarly, those vegetarians who forego dairy products hold that milk is produced by cows for their calves. However, the baby calves are separated from their mothers for good between one and three days of their birth. The male babies go on to live less than a year and end up as veal.

The female cows go the same route as their mothers and artificially inseminated every year. A cow is forced to produce 4.5 times more milk than it would normally do for its baby. You can read more about vegetarian case at PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

However, there is no single universal type of vegetarians.

Types of Vegetarian

Mainly there are four different types of this lifestyle:

Lacto-Ovo vegetarians: There are the most common type. They simply do not eat animal flesh but are comfortable eating eggs and consuming dairy products.

Lacto vegetarians: They do not eat animal meat and eggs but consider consumption of dairy as normal.

Ovo vegetarians: They completely avoid all animal sourced food except eggs.

Vegan vegetarians: This is the most extreme type. They simply avoid anything that has been produced or sourced from animals. Therefore, they do not eat meat and eggs and dairy products are off their dining tables as well.

As you can see that there are different types of vegetarians. In fact, there are two more people who try to follow a vegetarian cause. There are flexitarians who occasionally follow vegetarian diet. And then there are people who avoid all meat except fish. They are called pescetarians.

Vegan Definition

We have seen above that vegans are the strictest of the vegetarians. If we try to define vegans we would say that they do not eat any type of animal flesh (including fish and sea food), dairy and its derivatives like cheese, butter etc and eggs. In brief any animal sourced food is off the tables of a vegan. So not even honey, whey, pepsin, carmin etc are allowed on a vegan diet.

So what do vegans eat then? Well they are free to eat anything apart from the above. So their diet is typically rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lentils and plant based fats.

Similarities between Vegans and Vegetarians

Here are the similiarities between the two:

  • Both do not eat meat/animal flesh because of animals health and environment impact
  • Both believe that animals are mistreated in farms. Animals deserve a better and natural life.
  • Both types of vegetarians consider killing of animals for food not acceptable

What is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

The main difference between the two is that vegans believe that animals are not in this world for use by the humans in any form, be it food, clothing, entertainment or science experiments.

Therefore, vegans also make it taboo to eat eggs and dairy products. Partly also because they believe that living conditions for animals in these two industries are also pathetic and partly because they consider it totally unacceptable to use animal sourced products.

However, other vegetarians find it acceptable to eat eggs and consume dairy products. Their only condition is that animals should be kept in reasonable conditions for sourcing eggs and dairy.

Another key difference is that vegan is more of a lifestyle than a food choice. Therefore, they would not accept any animal or its products being used for clothing, entertainment or science experiments by humans.

It is for these reasons that vegan do not buy products that have wool, leather, silk or suede. In addition, they also avoid any cosmetics products from companies that are free from any animal sourced byproducts.

Vegans also stay away from all animal use for entertainment. So they avoid zoos, circuses, dolphin shows and horse races.

In brief vegans stand against exploitation of animals in any form and for any use.

Which is Better

Both types of diets have health benefits and weight loss benefits. But it is clearly visible that vegan diet is an extreme lifestyle when we compare vegan vs vegetarian.

So if you just want to switch to a vegetarian diet for its health reasons and for losing weight, then you may not need to go vegan. However, if you would like to switch to a vegan diet as a cause because of animal health and environment concerns, then you should be ready for a strict lifestyle change.

Vegetarian diets have higher adherence rates compared with other diets. Therefore, it is likely that once you are in, you will stick.

Since you will not eat animal protein, which is the best protein source, therefore you will need to ensure that you get enough protein in your diet. Also, you may need to take vitamin supplements because vegetarian diets are known to be deficient in Vitamin D, Vitamin B12 an omega 3 fatty acids.

The Bottom Line

Both vegans and vegetarians forego animal products from their, based on similar concerns mostly. But the key difference comes from the degree of strictness in their commitment to the cause. This is where vegans take an extreme approach.

Both diets have health benefits and high diet adherence rates. Both diets are safe, as long as you keep eating according to the vegetarian diet pyramid which includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and plant based fats.

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Muhammad Usman

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