Vegan vs Vegetarian: Same or Different?
There has been a major shift in the global food basket over the last decade. And with that, two dietary regimes have been constantly confused with one another. Is vegetarianism and veganism the same? Or do they have any striking differences?
Well, to understand this, let’s go back to basics and try to unfold the theory behind these two.
What is a Vegetarian Diet?
A vegetarian diet includes a wide diversity of plant-based foods. However, a vegetarian may eat some animal products like–dairy (milk, eggs, cheese) and honey as no strict restriction remains on the consumption of these.
The motivation behind choosing a vegetarian diet can often go beyond health and well-being to being an economical and sustainable lifestyle of living.
The Vegan Diet
A vegan diet is strictly restricted to using a wide array of plant-based food. Any form of meat consumption, or consumption of animal food products like dairy, eggs, meat, seafood, honey, etc. is strictly refrained from.
Veganism has its roots more in a lifestyle raising from the concerns for environmental welfare, animal welfare and clean living altogether put into action.
Are these similar?
Although both vegetarians and vegans avoid animal products for comparable reasons, vegans' choice typically extends beyond their diet. In fact, veganism is frequently regarded as a deeply rooted lifestyle in animal rights and environmental welfare.
As a result, many vegans refrain from purchasing garments made of silk, wool, leather, or suede. Furthermore, many vegans avoid buying cosmetics that contain animal by-products and boycott corporations that test on animals.
People who identify as "ethical vegans" avoid circuses, zoos, rodeos, horse races, and other activities that involve the use of animals for entertainment.
This might be interesting to know that many environmentalists follow a vegan diet since it has a lower impact on the earth's resources and has anti-climate change benefits.
This makes the two dietary regimes i.e. vegetarianism and veganism similar and yet different.
Food selection for Vegan and Vegetarian diets
Often people on a vegan diet face difficulties in finding the right shelf of products that is in line with their beliefs and practices. However, sourcing the right plant-based food or preparing a plant-based meal is not as difficult as you thought it to be.
Be assured that plant-based food sources provide us with every nutrient we require. A well-balanced vegan diet or a vegetarian diet rich in whole grains, legumes, fruits, proteins, and healthy fats won't leave us hungry for sure.
Well, mindfully crafted nutritionally adequate plant-based meal plans by vegans can provide sufficient energy, and an appropriate range of carbohydrates, fat and protein intakes to support the performance and health of an individual.
A careful selection of high amounts of nutrient-dense foods from all food groups by vegetarians who also consume other animal foods like milk, dairy and eggs can be the easiest way out.
Nutritional fueling in a Vegan and vegetarian diet
Both diets tend to be critical in nutritional adequacy, however, vegans' levels of these nutrients in vegans are often lower than vegetarians. This makes the use of fortified goods or supplementation, necessary in some cases.
Having said that, published data shows vegetarian and vegan diets tend to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol. High amounts of vitamins, minerals, fibre, and healthy plant compounds are an added benefit.
On the other hand, a poorly planned diet may result in low intakes of some nutrients, such as iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
Protein: The first question the vegans face is where do you get your protein?
But, do we know that protein is in almost every single food we eat. It is easy to reach the recommended daily intake as a vegan or vegetarian.
Some of the best sources of plant-based protein include tofu, tempeh, lentils, chickpeas, black beans, baked beans, seeds, nuts and nut butters, quinoa, oats, and rice.
A suitably planned combination of these can do wonders to your diet.
Just like meat does not have copyright over protein likewise, milk does not have it over calcium! Kidney beans, soya beans, kale, watercress, okra, and broccoli are all high in calcium, so consume plenty of these.
Calcium can also be found in sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and tofu, as well as dried figs and almonds. Plant-based milk, including milkshakes, and yogurts are usually fortified with calcium.
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, and many people lack it regardless of their diet. So, spend as much time as possible in the sun, and look for dairy-free margarine, breakfast cereals, and breads that are fortified with it or vitamin D supplements can also be included.
Iron-deficiency anaemia is known to all and research suggests that those who eat a plant-based diet are no more at risk than those having an animal-based diet.
Starting your day with a bowl of oats (or another fortified cereal) topped with some seeds and dried fruit can help boost your iron intake.
Other foods that may help boost iron intake include lentils, beans, tofu, quinoa, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
Vitamin C aids in absorbing iron, make sure you consume loads of it and avoid drinking coffee or tea with your meal.
It's difficult to acquire the appropriate amount of iodine since too much or too little might create thyroid disorders. Small amounts can be found in nuts, bread, fruit, vegetables, and beans, but iodized salt is by far the most accessible source.
Omega-3 & Omega-6:
Our bodies can make almost all of the fats needed for good tissue function. However, two of them i.e. Omega-3 and Omega-6, known as Essential Fatty Acids, must come from our diet.
Omega-6 is found in a variety of foods, including leafy green vegetables, seeds, nuts, cereals, and most vegetable oils. It's simple to get enough omega-6 in a well-balanced plant-based vegan or vegetarian diet.
Omega-3 can be found in leafy green vegetables, walnuts, rapeseed oil, ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil, soya beans, and tofu.
As a vegan, this is the one vitamin that is more difficult to come by. It's found in animal products and is produced by bacteria within the animals, not by the animals themselves. B12 can be obtained through eating yeast extract, nutritional yeast, morning cereals, and fortified foods like plant-based milk or by taking vitamin B12 supplements.
While vegetarian and vegan diets tend to focus on plant-based foods like fruits, legumes, and vegetables. Nevertheless, certain products that are dairy and meat-free; are still highly processed, heavy in added sugars, and prepared in ways that might add excess fat.
Even while cookies, french fries, sweets, and nut-based ice creams are vegan and vegetarian, they can still contain refined carbs. These are highly processed, have a lot of added sugar, and are deep-fried. Consumption of these things should be done in moderation.
Vegan vs Vegetarian: Is there a difference?
Both vegetarian and vegan diets can be regarded as appropriate for all phases of life, as long as the diet is well-planned.
Inadequate consumption of nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamins D and B12 can have a negative impact on many facets of one's health. This can hinder mental and physical well-being as well.
These nutrients may be deficient in both vegetarians and vegans. According to studies, vegetarians ingest somewhat more calcium and vitamin B12 than vegans.
Nonetheless, both vegetarians and vegans should pay special attention to nutrition practices and the right choice of cooking methods that help plant meals absorb more nutrients.
Both diets have shown to be effective in weight management (weight loss), controlling blood sugar levels (diabetes), lowering the risk of heart diseases, etc.
As such, vegetarian and vegan diets have not been proved to have any negative health impacts. Nevertheless, a restricted and monotonous vegetarian or vegan diet may cause nutrient shortages, which can be harmful to one's health.
How can you maintain your health?
Examining daily vitamin consumption, having blood nutrient levels checked, and taking supplements as needed can be a regular practice in order to maintain healthy living.
As a result, proper guidance is necessary to guarantee that these diets are nutritionally adequate and well-planned, particularly for vulnerable groups (children, pregnant women, senior citizens, etc.).
Often, a semi-vegetarian diet or flexitarian diet is recommended. Also, opted by many as it becomes much easier to sustain and offers a variety of plant-based foods and still has a scope to introduce animal-based products occasionally.
To begin with, you can start with a flexitarian diet and gradually find out what works best for you!!
The Bottom Line:
Vegans and vegetarians both avoid eating animal products for comparable reasons, but to varying degrees. Vegetarians come in a variety of forms, with vegans being at the extreme end of the vegetarian spectrum.
Both diets are regarded as safe for people of all ages, however, vegetarian diets come with much more flexibility. Vegetarians and vegans must carefully plan their diets to avoid long-term health problems.
What matters most is the overall quality of your diet and mastering the principles of eating a healthy diet. Without having to completely abandon animal products, most of us would benefit from eating more plant foods and less processed foods.