Differences Between a Vegan and a Vegetarian

Differences Between a Vegan and a Vegetarian

Are you a vegan or vegetarian? If yes, then congratulations! You’re already ahead of the game.

The number of vegans and vegetarians has increased dramatically over the past decade. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), nearly 16 percent of Americans now identify themselves as either vegan or vegetarian.

However, being a vegan or vegetarian isn’t always easy. There are some challenges that come along with it. For example, finding good food options can be challenging. Also, certain foods aren’t readily available at restaurants or grocery stores.

What exactly is a vegan diet? How is it different from a vegetarian diet? Read along to find answers.

What is a Vegan Diet?

The term 'vegan' refers to someone who does not eat or use animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, or honey. This means they don't consume any animal products at all. Veganism is not a diet. It is an ethical way of living without hurting the animals.

What is a Vegetarian Diet?

A vegetarian eats vegetables and fruits, but also consumes grains, millets, pulses, fruits, vegetables, roots, green leaves, nuts, seeds, and other plant foods. They may also drink milk and eat eggs. In Bengal and in Kerala, vegetarians also consume fish.

Types of Vegetarian Diet

Lacto-ovo vegetarians

Those who avoid all animal flesh, but consume dairy and egg products.

Lacto vegetarians

Those who avoid animal flesh and eggs, but eat dairy products.

Ovo vegetarians

Those who avoid all animal products except eggs.


Vegetarians who avoid all animal and animal-derived products including meat, fish, eggs, dairy products and even honey.

What is the Difference Between a Vegan and a Vegetarian?

Vegetarian diets have reportedly been around since as early as 700 B.C.

Vegan diets appeared a little more recently, but have been getting a good amount of press.

A vegan diet excludes animal flesh, dairy, eggs, and any other animal product such as:

  • gelatin
  • honey
  • carmine
  • pepsin
  • shellac
  • albumin
  • whey
  • casein
  • some forms of vitamin D3

Vegans are strict Vegetarians who also do not consume eggs, honey, dairy products and any other derivatives and byproducts of animals.

Vegetarians consider eggs, honey, and dairy products and a certain other animal derivatives and byproducts as non-animal products as long as the animals are not killed for the purpose of their food.

Vegans consider that animal foods are meant for their own species and not meant for human consumption. They care for animal welfare far more than vegetarians. Their choice of avoiding animal-based foods is also based on environmental reasons.

Vegetarians consider some animal derivatives and byproducts as god's gifts to humankind. For instance, they worship cows and consider milk products as holy and healthy. Ayurveda consider ghee as highly medicinal in nature. They use it in many of their medicines. Butter is a celebrated ingredient in Indian tradition often based on Lord Krishna tales of Mahabharatha.

Vegans stay away from using any animal product for food, clothing, fashion accessories such as footwear, bags, belts, shoes, purses, and scientific experiments.

Vegetarians have no issue in wearing leather goods or silk. Vegans will strictly avoid leather and silk as they are made from animal sources.

Finding vegetarian food is easy as streets and gullies in India are filled in vegetarian outlets. Being a vegan isn't always easy. Finding good vegan food options can be challenging

Health Benefits of Vegan & Vegetarian Diets

There are several benefits associated with eating both diets. Some of these include:

  1. Low on Cholesterol
  2. Low on Saturated Fat
  3. Vitamin Rich
  4. Fiber Rich
  5. Healthy Plant Components
  6. Nutrient Dense Foods

Side Effects of Vegetarian & Vegan Diets

  1. They may contain high oil
  2. Sometimes deep fried destroying the nutrients of the plant based ingredients
  3. Sometimes highly processed
  4. Not a Whole Food Plant Based diet
  5. Sugar and Jaggery are considered ok to consume leading to health problems due to sugar spikes
  6. Animal products in vegetarian such as eggs, dairy products and honey have been found to be causing lifestyle diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic diseases
  7. Increase risk of heart disease
  8. Increase in body mass leading to obesity
  9. Not good for weight loss
  10. Not a well-balanced diet
  11. Not wholesome nutritious diets

Vegetarian vs Vegan which is healthier?

Vegan is healthier than Vegetarian comparatively. Whole Food Plant Based Diet is far superior healthy diet than Vegan variety of foods.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a plant-based diet?

A plant-based diet is one where you eat only plants (vegetables) and exclude all animal products. This includes meat, fish, poultry, seafood, eggs, cheese, butter, yogurt, milk, ice cream, etc. A Vegan diet is an example of a plant-based diet.

What is a whole-food plant-based diet (WFPB)?

Whole-Food Plant-Based Diet is a diet that consists of 100% plant-based foods and is a whole-food diet. It excludes all animal products including meat, fish, poultry and seafood. Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter and eggs are included. Whole-Food diet means nothing bad is added to the plant-based foods and something good is not removed from them.

What are the examples of plant-based foods that are not considered WFPB?

Some examples of foods that are NOT considered whole-foods are: refined grains, refined sugars, refined vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, additives, colors, flavors, salt, MSG, hydrogenated fats, trans fats, hormones, growth promoters, genetically modified organisms, irradiated foods, and non-organic produce.

Should I switch to a vegan diet?

If you are consuming animal products such as meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products, switching to a vegan lifestyle is a good first step towards nurturing your health. Your final destination should be switching over to a whole food plant based diet which is considered the healthiest food on planet earth since it preserves the essential nutrients and micronutrients in plant source foods.

Is it safe to be a vegetarian or vegan during pregnancy?

It is safe and healthy to avoid animal products and processed foods at all times especially during pregnancy.

How can I get enough iron?

There are a number plant-based sources that are iron rich.

Iron-rich foods include beans, lentils, green leafy vegetables, soybeans, tofu, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, alfalfa sprouts, peas, apricots, dates, raisins, prunes, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, and pistachios.

How can I get enough calcium?

Calcium is abundant in many plant-based foods such as legumes, greens, nuts, seeds, tofu, soybeans, and some cereals. You will not suffer from calcium deficiency when you follow a WFPB diet.

How can I get enough vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is found naturally in animal products and animal byproducts, however, there are several plant-based sources of Vitamin B12. You will need to supplement with vitamins if you follow a plant-based diet. You can also try Vitamin B12 fortified foods if you eat a meatless diet.

What are good vegetarian and vegan sources of omega-3 fatty acids?

Omega 3’s are important for brain development, vision, heart function, immune system, skin, hair, and nails. Omega 3’s are found in flaxseed, chia seed, hemp seed, and walnuts.

What are good sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans?

Protein is an essential nutrient for building muscle mass and maintaining bone density. Protein comes from plants and animals. Some great sources of protein include beans, lentils, chickpeas, millets, tofu, tempeh, seitan, quinoa, and nuts. You certainly do not require animal proteins as the only protein source. Meat and dairy industry campaign that consumption of meat gives you adequate protein per day. This is not true. You can get your daily grams of protein from plant sources.

Do vegetarians eat eggs?

Yes. Vegetarians consider eggs as good to eat since usually the animal laying eggs is not killed for the purpose and eggs do not contain any animal flesh.

What is the difference between being a vegetarian and an herbivore?

A vegetarian eats no meat, poultry, seafood, or but may eat eggs, honey and dairy products. An herbivore eats only plants.

Should I take Vitamin D supplement as a vegetarian?

Vitamin D is produced by the body when exposed to sunlight. It is recommended that vegetarians take a daily dose of 10 micrograms (mcg) of Vitamin D per day.

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Further Reading

Vegan Jowar Roti Recipe

Vegan Protein for the Indian Kitchen

Vegan Calcium Sources for the Indian Kitchen

Vegan vs Whole Food Plant Based Diet

Pros and Cons of Vegan and Whole Food Plant Based Diet

External References

Vegetarian Diets and Weight Reduction: a Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial

Beyond meatless, the health effects of vegan diets: findings from the Adventist cohorts

Vegetarian dietary patterns and the risk of colorectal cancers

A low-fat vegan diet improves glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomized clinical trial in individuals with type 2 diabetes

Vegetarian diets and the incidence of cancer in a low-risk population

Environmental Impact of Vegan Fashion: Pros and Cons

9 Foods You Think Are Vegetarian—But Definitely Aren't

Definition of veganism

Vegetarians Live Longer Than Meat-Eaters, Study Finds

Be Blessed,

Dr. Achyuthan Eswar

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