Vegan and vegetarian diets have been around for a long time and are the lifestyle of choice for many people world-wide. Both of these diets are plant-based, meaning the primary food source is plants. Some plant-based diets also include meat, but vegan and vegetarian diets do not.
A vegan diet is made of only plant-based foods and excludes eggs, poultry, fish, meat, and dairy. Many vegans will also include lifestyle habits that avoid animal-derived products like leather or fur.
A vegetarian diet can mean many things depending on what type of vegetarian you are. A lacto-ovo vegetarian is the formal term for what is commonly known as vegetarian. This diet excludes fish, meat, and poultry. The main difference between this and vegan diets is that a lacto-ovo vegetarian will eat dairy and eggs. There is also lacto-vegetarians that eat dairy but not eggs. The opposite of this is the last type of vegetarian diet, called ovo-vegetarian. This diet includes eggs and excludes dairy products.
Why do people go vegan or vegetarian?
There are a variety of reasons why someone would choose a plant-based diet. The most common reason is to improve health. Vegan and vegetarian diets tend to have higher life expectancies, higher fiber intakes, and lower cholesterol. They can also lower the risk for hypertension, cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
Another reason many people choose vegan or vegetarian is for environmental reasons. The production of food has a big impact on the planet. Both diets are shown to have lower greenhouse gas emissions. They also improve air quality, soil quality, and water-use efficiency. These are all important considerations of helping the planet.
Which one is better?
There’s a lot of debate around whether a vegan or vegetarian diet is better. Although, research shows they are just about the same when it comes to their benefits.
Both diets reduce the risk of chronic illness. But, a vegan diet is more restrictive and has a few more nutritional concerns than a vegetarian diet.
The main health concern for vegans is b-vitamins, particularly B12.
Research examined the cost differences between a flexitarian, pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan diet. Vegetarian and vegan diets were estimated to cost 6-11% less than the typical diet.
The vegetarian diet was shown to have the lowest costs, but the difference between a vegan and vegetarian was less than $1.
The two diets have similar impacts in the other two categories. But, environmental impact is where a vegan diet takes the crown. A study showed that a vegan diet has lower greenhouse gas emissions than a vegetarian diet.