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What Is the Difference Between Vegan & Vegetarian?

For people not following a vegetarian or vegan diet, the difference between the two can seem a little confusing. Everyone knows that neither diet includes meat sourced from animals, but what about brownies, yogurt, or pizza? And how many people know about all the different variations of vegetarianism? Or even what it means to follow a plant-based diet? Following these diets takes plenty of research and careful planning, but understanding their differences is pretty straightforward.

The Core Difference

Vegans consume no animal products at all, while vegetarians don’t eat animal flesh. However, vegetarians may eat products that animals produce (such as dairy and eggs). People typically choose these diets due to health concerns, religious restrictions, or moral or ethical concerns about harming animals. Although all vegans tend to follow the same set of clear-cut guidelines—eat nothing that came from or harmed an animal—there are a few different types of vegetarian diets.

woman eating vegetable salad at restaurant

What Is a Vegetarian Diet?

According to the Vegetarian Society, “Vegetarians don’t eat any fish, meat or chicken” and also “don’t eat products or by-products of slaughter.” Vegetarian diets may contain variable amounts of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. Dairy and eggs may be included, depending on the type of diet you follow. The most common types of vegetarians include:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: Avoid all animal flesh, but do consume dairy and egg products.
  • Lacto vegetarians: Avoid animal flesh and eggs, but do consume dairy products.
  • Ovo vegetarians: Avoid all animal products except eggs.
  • Vegans: Avoid all animal and animal-derived products.
  • Pesco: Pescatarians, while not technically meeting the common definition of vegetarian, follow a semi-vegetarian diet that includes fish and other seafood but no poultry or meat.
  • Flexitarians: Part-time vegetarians do eat animal flesh and, although primarily plant-based, they technically do not fall under the definition of vegetarianism

In some literature you might come across these as well:

  • Demi Vegetarian: Consumes fish, eggs, and dairy products but not meat.
  • Semi Vegetarian: Another group of vegetarians who sometimes voluntarily control their meat intake and who may be viewed as flexitarians.

What Is a Vegan Diet?

Veganism is currently defined by the Vegan Society as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” Since this is the strictest form of vegetarianism, a vegan or plant based diet not only excludes animal flesh but also any animal-derived ingredients, as well as dairy and eggs.

These products include gelatin, , carmine, pepsin, shellac, albumin, whey, casein, among others. Vegans consciously choose to avoid all animal by-products because they believe not only that this has the largest impact on their health and the environment but also because they seek to avoid all forms of animal exploitation and harm.

Types of Vegans

Vegans may be categorized into different types:

  • Ethical Vegans are the most common and put their ethics first. They respect and care for animals and the environment. Ethical vegans do not consume any dairy product, whether it is animal milk or cheese made from animal milk. They also avoid eggs and honey, as well as the use of any product made from animal skin or parts.
  • Plant-Based Vegans follow diets based on plant foods only.
  • Raw-Food Vegans do not eat any animal by-product or anything cooked above the temperature of 115-degree Fahrenheit. It is believed that this causes food to lose its nutrients and enzymes.

Nutrition Considerations for Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

Research shows vegetarian and vegan diets tend to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol. For vegetarians, scientists have found that well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes. Even excluding the animal food sources cited in the literature, vegan and vegetarian diets both tend to contain adequately high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, as well as healthy plant compounds and nutrient-dense foods.

On the other hand, poorly planned diets of both vegetarians and vegans (as well as anyone) could result in low intakes of some nutrients, particularly iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin D. Both diets also tend to contain limited amounts of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12,  although levels of these nutrients are generally lower in vegans than vegetarians. This makes it necessary to take vitamin B12 either as a supplement or through fortified foods.

Which Is Healthier?

Both vegetarian and vegan diets can be considered appropriate for everyone, as long as the diet is well planned. However, as mentioned above, following either diet could result in deficiencies, and this can negatively impact various aspects of health, not only physical health but also mental health. Because they may consume animal products, studies show that vegetarians tend to consume slightly more calcium and vitamin B12 than vegans.

Nonetheless, both vegetarians and vegans should pay special attention to nutrition strategies meant to increase the absorption of nutrients from plant foods. Vegetarians and vegans should strongly consider analyzing their daily nutrient intake, getting their blood nutrient levels measured and taking supplements accordingly. It may also be necessary for both groups to consume fortified foods and supplements, especially for nutrients such as iron, calcium, omega-3, and vitamins D and B12.

Winston Craig, Professor of Nutrition at Andrews University, states: “Unless vegans regularly consume foods that are fortified with these nutrients, appropriate supplements should be consumed. In some cases, iron and zinc status of vegans may also be of concern because of the limited bioavailability of these minerals.” In the few studies directly comparing vegetarian to vegan diets, it is reported that vegans may have a somewhat lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and various types of cancer than vegetarians. Also, vegans tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than vegetarians and seem to gain less weight as they age.

Veganism Is About More Than What You Eat

Although vegetarians and vegans may choose to avoid animal products for similar reasons, for vegans this choice often extends beyond diet. As a result, veganism is often considered a lifestyle strongly anchored in animal rights. For this reason, many vegans may also:

  • Avoid purchasing clothing items containing silk, wool, leather, or suede.
  • Boycott companies that test on animals and only purchase cosmetics that are free of animal by-products.
  • Steer clear of circuses, zoos, rodeos, horse races, and any other activities involving the use of animals for entertainment.

Finally, many environmentalists adopt a vegan diet for its reduced impact on the earth’s resources (especially due to cattle farming), as well the benefits this lifestyle has on climate change.

avocado toasts

Bottom Line

While several types of vegetarians exist, vegans are at the strictest end of the vegetarian spectrum. Both types of diet can be considered safe for all stages of life, but vegan diets may even offer additional health benefits. Regardless of their individual preference, it’s important for both vegetarians and vegans to plan their diets well in order to avoid health problems over the long term.

Where Does Hallelujah Diet Stand?

At Hallelujah Diet we are more interested in the health aspects of the diet rather than the ethical concerns.  We are not for the exploitation of animals or the destruction of our environment either, but that is not our focus.  We do source our vitamin D3 from lanolin, technically an animal source.  Also, we advocate the use of clean, pure fish oil for an effective omega 3 fat source.  We believe that God created us and gave us a plan in Genesis 1:29 that is still our blueprint today for what we should eat—fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, organic whole grains and legumes—and that when we get close to this pattern, taking into account our deviations from the Garden of Eden, we gain the excellent health He designed to experience.

Comments

  1. George Knittel May 2, 2019

    In Genesis 1:29, “God said, ‘See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are upon the whole earth, and all the trees with seed-bearing fruit; this shall be your food.'” (Jerusalem Bible)

    Are there any plants or trees which are not seed-bearing and which are therefore outside of the specified food?

  2. Annette May 2, 2019

    This was such a great blog! I learned alot from reading this. My daughter is a Pescatarians, she have been now for almost 2 years and she loves it. We have started to excluded the meat from our eating habits. I take supplements like B12 and it seems to be working for us. I like this statement from above… it’s important for both vegetarians and vegans to plan their diets well in order to avoid health problems over the long term. This is so true.

  3. Bryana-Christine May 2, 2019

    thank you for sharing this information

  4. Angela M Solomon May 7, 2019

    Great article and clarification on the differences between Vegan and vegetarians.

  5. Cornelious Cromwell October 10, 2020

    Jesus also fed 4000 with fish and loaves of bread. If it’s good enough for Him, it’s good enough for me. Told the men where to catch fish too.

  6. Jim Fsawe October 10, 2020

    Jesus himself fed 5000 with fish and bread.

  7. Thx for the info. I knew a little about the differences between the two, but I learned a little more, and so glad I did.

  8. Jennifer March 26, 2021

    Great article! Thank you for the information.

  9. DON DONOVAN March 30, 2021

    Addressing the fish and bread comments-true! but our environment is a lot different today than it was back then. Pollution in our water’s, both inland and ocean is atrocious. Plus you have to read carefully the labels to determine wether the fish is truly wild caught from the ocean at large, or an enclosed barrier of a bay which in that case the fish or shrimp are humanly fed and God only knows with what! A lot of our fish are farm produced these days and fed a lot of manmade products! So with that said, one has to be attentive to your purchase. And again, take into consideration where the fish is harvested! I like Salmon, so when I do buy I get wild caught from Alaska and Norway region. You have to do your research on this. Same with Sardines!…once you realize how polluted our ocean is becoming, the day will come when eating fish may no longer be a desire! A lot of our garbage is chewed up into very small pieces and dumped into the ocean, so one has to wonder how much plastic, among other things, is consumed by sea life and therefore ends up in the consumer. OK! I’m stopping-

    • Melody Hord March 30, 2021

      Hi Don,
      I really feel so sorry for wildlife! They are having our toxins put on them. It is wrong. Our environment is so filthy! Last time I went to the beach, people were spraying bug spray and sun screen to the point I couldn’t even walk on the beach without it smelling like chemicals. Many people were smoking cigarettes, too.
      When I go play tennis, I smell those fake fragrances from houses all around washing and drying their clothes. It stinks to me. I would rather smell green grass and beautiful flowers when I am outside, Not to mention all the car and truck fumes.

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