The vegan diet consists of avoiding all animal products and by-products of animals. Not only should you stop eating meat and fish, but also eggs and dairy products. However, the vegan diet is not the only aspect of veganism. It reaches far more widely than that. Animal welfare and environmental commitments are usually considered part of such a lifestyle, and many vegans adopt this lifestyle as they are already very compassionate beings caring about the planet, and all its inhabitants. Some people also confuse vegetarianism with veganism and with plant-based but below we can look at the differences. This information might help you get started with a vegan diet if you’re not sure how to do it.
So, Plant-Based Diets, Vegetarian and Vegan Diets: What’s the Difference?
Most of us have heard of vegetarians where people abstain from eating meat and fish (as do vegans) but will still eat eggs and dairy. Some only add eggs, and refuse to consume dairy, these are Ovo-vegetarians, those who only add dairy and not eggs are Lacto-vegetarians, and those who continue to add both eggs and dairy are Ovo-lacto-vegetarians. Another term you may have heard of is that of the ‘plant-based diet’. Despite the similarities, with a vegan diet, the two are quite different.
Plants and plant proteins are the foundation or basis of a plant-based diet. Several people cut out all animal products, including meat, fish and dairy. Although not essential, it is a nice addition. There may still be some meat and dairy in many plant-based diets, is just that, as it sounds the base of the diet is plants but not necessarily wholly plants.
In contrast with the vegan diet, animal products are excluded from every aspect of the vegan lifestyle, not just food and drink. In addition to not consuming animal foods, vegans avoid using animal-tested products or products which contain animals or any by-product of an animal. Vegans do not consume honey or usually wear leather, wool or silk. The incidences where these items may still be worn is if someone had these items before they became vegan and do not wish to dispose of them due to creating more landfills, so continue to make use of them but refuse to buy new things made of animals. I personally gifted my things to a charity shop, at least I know they would be used by someone and not cast into landfill. It also helps to raise money for that charity, so I chose a charity that supported animals to gift them to.
So I guess you could say that, often, the main point of distinction between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet is that a vegan diet usually involves ethical considerations as well, while a plant-based diet generally involves health considerations. Sometimes people ask whether a vegan diet is for everyone and while the world health organisation have stated that a vegan diet is suitable for all people at all stages of life, it is still a very personal choice and therefore important to consider various factors before becoming vegan. Whilst I became vegan because of animal suffering, one of the first things many people ask is “What benefits will there be for my health?” Let’s look at that below.
Can Veganism Provide Health Benefits?
According to the National Health Service, and many plant-based doctors and studies, certain health problems, such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and obesity, may be prevented via a vegan or vegetarian diet. Additionally, they have been linked to lower rates of certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. It has also been reported to improve, mood, skin, energy, weight loss, fertility, sperm quality and libido, amongst other things.
There is no doubt that veganism has many health benefits, but one is particularly important and without question: going vegan encourages you to consume lots more fruits, vegetables, and other foods that are nutrient-dense like nuts and grains and have been proven to improve health. So that has to be good right?
Is There Anything Wrong With a Vegan Diet?
Funny how when you mention that you’re vegan people think of lettuce, and carrots and you’re suddenly likened to a rabbit. Now who knows, the reproductive prowess of rabbits could be down to their vegan diet eh? So probably not a terrible thing. But in all seriousness, veganism is associated with deprivation by many people, as they think being vegan is such a major change and that we vegans only eat salad, which in fact couldn’t be less than true.
In fact, today more than ever, you don’t have to miss out on anything at all, just because you’re vegan. Vegetarian and vegan food and ingredients have become more accessible as popularity has risen and risen it has, exponentially. There are vegan versions of everything, mock meats, ice cream, cakes, biscuits, even vegan versions of fried chicken, Sunday joints, tuna, cheese and more. In addition, it grows by the day.
Though there do seem to be two distinct categories of the vegan diet, what may be affectionately termed as ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ vegan foods. The former being more whole-food, clean, maybe raw, healthy foods and the latter being more fast foods, processed, junk foods, though even those may be considered by some to be more healthy than meats and the associated saturated fats, so do not just assume that plant foods are all entirely healthy, you still need to be mindful of what you eat and how much, but do not deprive yourself and above all enjoy yourself and the delights of being vegan.
You may also need to take some supplements but that we will talk about in another article. Till then, have fun exploring the vegan diet, and I hope this article helped.