The popularity of plant-based and vegan diets has skyrocketed in recent years.
From 2014 to 2017 alone, consumers in the U.S. who identified as vegan grew exponentially by a 600% increase.
However, although often grouped together, there are important differences to explore between plant-based and vegan eating.
What does it mean to be plant-based?
Where most diets refer to what they exclude, a plant-based diet goes by what it includes.
A plant-based diet can be customizable, but it usually means predominantly eating whole foods made from plants with little to no refinement or processing.
Many times, the term “plant-based” is used interchangeably with vegan, however, there are distinctions.
For example, plant-based means eating whole foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, herbs, plant-based oils, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Unlike veganism, plant-based diets don’t automatically exclude meat, honey, some eggs and dairy products.
This diet also tends to stay away from processed foods such as vegan meat and cheese substitutes as they are not usually whole foods.
Avoiding these types of foods (processed, canned, snack food, and dairy) maintains a healthy digestion and levels of sodium which can contribute to lower blood pressure.
What does it mean to be vegan?
Vegan first sprouted from the term vegetarian. Many people adopted this diet out of concern for animal welfare, health, and environmental impact.
Those who adopt a vegan diet seek to strictly eliminate all types of animal products from their diet: meats, dairy, eggs, butter, honey, seafood, gelatin, etc.
Therefore, a vegan diet mostly includes foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, plant protein, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds.
There are a few differences between being vegan and plant-based. The biggest one being that vegans typically extend their name past what they eat.
Many times, being vegan is seen as a lifestyle or a way of living.
This lifestyle can include practices like removing harmful products and clothes. For example, not buying beeswax, leather, wool, fur, and cosmetics tested on animals. Some might even go as far as avoiding places like aquariums, zoos, and circuses as they use animals for entertainment.
In addition, unlike plant-based eating, vegans don’t solely stick to unprocessed plant-based whole foods.
As long as it doesn’t contain animal products, a vegan diet can still include foods like french fries, vegan cheese, meat substitutes, and vegan desserts, whereas a plant-based diet would eliminate them.
There are many proven health benefits to a diet free from meat including — but not limited to — weight loss, lower rates of type 2 diabetes, and reduced total cholesterol levels leading to a lower risk of heart disease.
There is no “one way” to be vegan or plant-based, what matters is trying your best and doing what works for you.