From the beginning of human existence, food meant survival. But, like all other processes, the simpler forms of foods got complex as human civilization progressed. As evolution met civilization, faith, belief, religion, and scarcity started impacting daily diets. As a result, vegetarian diets and foods started becoming popular and widespread around 700 B.C. in ancient India and other regions of Asia.
In 1944, the term veganism got coined. Diets similar to vegan diets were prevalent in several communities and certain Asian countries. However, it may not have been a replica of the current vegan popular diet. Therefore, one can call a vegan diet the new kid on the block.
These diets are a stricter form of vegetarian diets. They exclude animal flesh, eggs, seafood, honey and dairy products like milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt, etc. Also, the followers do not use any accessories, clothing items, or additives derived from animals. That includes many commodities, from pearls to furs to gelatin.
Vegan and vegetarian diets have their unique health benefits and limitations. Besides their health benefits, myths about these diets also became a topic of discussion.
Vegetarian Diet: An Introduction to the Diet and its Types
A vegetarian diet is an eating pattern inclined towards plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, seeds, and nuts. It does not include any slaughtered animal-like meat, such as pork, game, beef, or poultry such as chicken, turkey, duck, fish, insects, animal protein like rennet or gelatin, and fats derived from animals.
However, some vegetarian diets allow you to eat animal products like eggs, milk, and honey, foods that do not require killing or harming animals. Experts and civilisations categorised these diets into several types with more knowledge and study around these diets.
Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian Diet
In Latin, Lacto means milk, and Ovo means eggs. Therefore, a Lacto-Ovo vegetarian or also referred to as Ovo-Lacto vegetarian, is someone who eats plant-based foods. It excludes meat, poultry, and seafood in their diet but includes eggs and dairy.
It is a prevalent type of vegetarian diet as it allows you to get nutrition from eggs and dairy without slaughtering animals and not straying away from the idea of vegetarianism.
Lacto Vegetarian Diet
A Lacto vegetarian diet allows the consumption of plant-based foods, milk, and milk products like cheese, butter, yoghurt, etc. However, it abstains from eating meat, fish, and eggs.
Ovo Vegetarian Diet
An ovo vegetarian diet comprises plant foods and eggs but excludes all types of meat, fish, and dairy products.
A pescatarian diet is primarily plant-based. However, it includes seafood such as fish and shellfish. The goal is to consume more protein, which is perfect for those who don’t want to exclude seafood from their diet entirely.
This diet is quite popular in the coastal regions as the availability of seafood is abundant, and sometimes it is challenging to cultivate enough vegetables in those areas. So, the vegetarians in those areas who consume seafood are pescatarians.
A proletarian diet majorly focuses on eating plant-based foods. But, it also allows meat consumption from poultry sources like chicken, turkey and game. So, someone on a proletarian diet can eat eggs, chicken etc. But, like the pescatarian diet, the idea is to not compromise on protein intake from animal sources.
As the name suggests, a Pesco-Pollo vegetarian diet includes plant-based foods with poultry meat and seafood. However, it does not allow red meat consumption.
In most societies, pescatarian, Pollotarian and Pesco-Pollo Vegetarian forms of diet are not considered vegetarian. Instead, people believe it is semi-vegetarian or flexitarian. Therefore, it does not fit into traditional vegetarian practices.
Vegan Diet: An Introduction
The vegan diet is an extended version of the standard vegetarian diet. It restricts every food type that a vegetarian diet does. But, besides limiting the consumption of animal meat, fish, eggs etc., it also restricts eating any food from an animal source.
A vegan diet, for instance, prohibits the consumption of milk and dairy products. Additionally, vegans don’t even eat honey. So, a vegan diet only allows vegetables, fruits, grains, seeds, and nuts. It is the most restrictive and strictest type of vegetarianism.
Veganism: The Principles
A vegan diet is a kind of vegetarian diet but a stricter version. Donald Watson coined the word ‘vegan’ in November 1944. Veganism is the practice of avoiding animal products in one’s diet as well as in one’s daily life. But most believe that veganism is beyond just a diet form. It is an ethical stance, too, as it recognises animal rights at the forefront. Hence, people who follow the principles of veganism abstain from even using goods like:
- Goods made from leather, wool, silk and soaps that use animal fat for their synthesis
- Beeswax, casein, and whey protein that comes from milk
- Cosmetics and substances that go through animal testing
Usually, a vegan diet has a lot of uncooked, raw and unprocessed foods. Hence, people consume fresh and natural food. Soy is a significant ingredient in vegan diets. Soy milk replaces dairy milk, and tofu replaces cottage cheese (paneer).
In the past few years, veganism has turned itself into a movement. It has superimposed itself on the environment and climate change movements.
There are also many pieces of evidence found worldwide that prove veganism is politically motivated. Unfortunately, the conspiracy theories go on to be more bizarre. It has created hostility towards vegans as a notion of a cult that urges others to join them no matter what.
Meat-Based vs Vegetarian and Vegan Diets
Many surveys organised in different parts of the world prove that non-vegetarians are the majority compared to vegetarians and vegans. Each place in the world has its meat-based delicacy, and one could do the reasoning for this by citing the history of people consuming meat-based foods.
It is essential to understand that non-vegetarians who follow meat-based diets primarily do not necessarily consume meat, fish, or other animal products. Most vegetarians are flexitarians misunderstood to be non-vegetarians.
The difference between a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet is pretty apparent. Meat-based diets usually have meat or poultry items like pork, beef, chicken, lamb, game, etc. In contrast, plant-based diets only comprise vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, etc. Vegetarian diets are primarily plant-based concerning the philosophical aspect of not slaughtering animals but do use animal products like milk and eggs.
Meat-based foods are relatively higher in nutrition than plant-based foods on some scores. For example, they have a higher protein content, iron, riboflavin, thiamin, and niacin. However, it is essential to note that plant-based foods can also obtain these nutrients. On the other hand, meat-based foods are high in calories and promote the risk of cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer in both men and women, as per an NCBI study.
Vegan vs Vegetarian Diets: Similarities and Differences
The similarities between vegan and vegetarian diets are that both majorly consist of plant-based foods, especially the ones without the involvement of milk.
For example, vegans and vegetarians replace ground beef or chicken with plant-based protein substitutes such as crumbled tempeh and shredded jackfruit. Both of these diet plans also offer several health benefits to the ones that follow them.
The HealthifyMe Note
Both diets have a nutritional-rich profile, but vegetarian diets have an edge with the potential for more protein-dense options. Additionally, vegetarians seem to have lower blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, and risk of type 2 diabetes and hypertension compared to meat-eaters. These diet plans can even lower BMI and reduce the chances of cancer development, ischemic heart disease and chronic disease in people.
Vegan vs Vegetarian Diets: Health Benefits
Which of the two diet plans is better health benefits-wise? It may be difficult to correctly answer the same as vegetarian and vegan diets have their share of advantages and disadvantages.
For example, unlike vegans who avoid animal products, including dairy, vegetarians get calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus from milk products. But on the other hand, vegans will have a better chance of keeping their cholesterol levels down by avoiding eggs and dairy, unlike vegetarians.
Similarly, vegans may lack omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA, even if they are to consume plant sources that provide them. The case for vegetarians is not the same: they will get EPA and DHA from eggs and dairy products.
While these differences stand, a study on adults from Argentina found that those who followed a healthy vegan lifestyle were healthier than vegetarians and non-vegetarians. The study also listed the healthy vegan lifestyle as
- Exercising Daily
- Drinking eight or more glasses of water daily
- Following a strict plant-based diet with whole foods
- Good sunlight exposure
Vegan vs Vegetarian Diets: Weight Loss
Now, if your key aim is to lose some of your weight, you may have to find out which diet plan is better for weight loss. According to a 2006 study with around 21,966 individuals, vegans have a lower BMI than vegetarians and non-vegetarians. This finding probably turned out this way because vegans do not consume eggs or any dairy products but just plant-based items that are lower in calories and fat.
The same study mentioned above also noted that vegans gained less weight when compared to vegetarians and non-vegetarians over five years. In addition, those who switched their diet plan to consume fewer animal products gained the least weight.
Another study conducted in 2018 also found similar results as other studies. They experimented by:
- Separating 75 participants by making some follow a low-fat diet,
- Some follow a vegan diet,
- The rest followed the diet plan they were already following, including animal protein.
After 16 weeks, the vegan group lost more fat than the other groups, especially in the abdomen group. These studies show that a vegan diet is far more effective if your primary aim is to reduce body weight.
Risks and Adverse Effects
Nutritional deficits are in danger with any diet that restricts dietary types. Both vegan and vegetarian diets lack higher quantities of essential nutrients like proteins, iron, calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12, which are exclusive to animal products and dairy.
According to research, vegans hardly get calcium in their diet because they abstain from dairy products. Instead, vegans rely on soy for most of their protein intake, but it has its share of problems. Soy contains a compound called phytoestrogen.
Phytoestrogen is a female sex hormone which mimics the hormone estrogen. The accumulation of this hormone in males can cause fat secretion and breast tissue development, leading to gynecomastia, erectile dysfunction, and other reproductive effects.
A study from Switzerland noted that some vegetarians might be deficient in Vitamin B6 and niacin, and vegans may lack Omega-3 fatty acids and zinc more than those who consume animal products. Another study contradicted the usual belief that plant-based diets are healthy. It found that following such a diet and consuming junk foods may increase the risk of coronary heart disease.
The HealthifyMe Note
Overall, both vegan and vegetarian diets lack macronutrients. However, vegetarians may be less at risk than vegans for deficiency in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B12. Furthermore, most vegetarians consume dairy and eggs, giving them access to these nutrients.
It depends on an individual which foods they choose to eat. However, it is essential to have a balanced diet regardless of dietary choices and restrictions. The diet is acceptable if all the required nutrients are obtained and sufficiently absorbed. So, one should consider all the factors of a specific type of diet and decide if it is appropriate for them or not.
You have to follow a diet plan depending on your body requirements and your motive for following a diet. Moreover, people considering themselves to be associated with any group should not bother or force others who do not agree with their opinions and ideology to agree with them. In addition to a healthy, nutritious diet, peace and harmony among people are paramount in society.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Is it healthier to be a vegetarian or vegan?
A. The health effects of vegetarian and vegan diets differ for different individuals. However, these diets can benefit people as they have unique benefits. For example, according to one study, plant-based foods can help decrease cholesterol levels. Another study found that a vegan diet offers fewer calories than a non-vegetarian diet of the same quantity. At the same time, vegetarian foods are full of essential nutrients and minerals that can benefit an individual.
Q. Do you lose more weight being vegan or vegetarian?
A. You can lose weight on any of these diets. Vegan and vegetarian diets offer various weight loss benefits. However, weight loss also depends on other factors like lifestyle habits, sleep schedules, stress levels and physical activities.
Q. Do vegans live longer?
A. Yes, some vegans live longer owing to the nutritional benefits of the plant-based foods they majorly consume. One can back it with research too. Vegans eat more fruits and vegetables, and that gives a health-conscious lifestyle. However, this does not apply to all vegans as other factors affecting life expectancy (like genetics) come into play.
Q. Can a vegan eat eggs?
A. No, a vegan cannot consume eggs. Vegans are supposed to avoid using or eating animal products and byproducts. This idea of veganism comes from the pro-animal rights values that restrict vegans from consuming and using anything that is animal-derived. Since eggs are poultry and derived from chickens, vegans avoid them too.
Q. What happens when you go vegan for a week?
A. Going vegan here means not having meat and junk foods. Going vegan for a week helps as you include more salads, fruits, fresh vegetables, seeds, etc. As a result, your palate feels refreshed. Also, including more fruit and vegetables has a cooling effect on the system. However, whether to stay vegan is a personal choice.
Q. Is Pescatarian healthier than vegan?
A. A Pescatarian diet includes plant-based foods and seafood. Compared to vegan food, this diet does not lack Vitamin B12, Omega-3, iron, and zinc levels, which are very important for health. Consuming healthy fish without any diseases or infections is ideal. However, in this diet, the ethical aspects are disregarded as it involves fishing and cooking them.
Q. Do doctors recommend a vegan diet?
A. Doctors ensure their patients get all the necessary nutrients and minerals to lead a healthy life. Patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity, are advised to eat a plant-based diet by their doctors.
Q. Why do vegans look old?
A. It might be because they are malnourished due to improper guidance. Also, vegan diets are not for everybody as some people have health conditions. As a result, they regularly need to consume certain foods that may not fall into the diet of vegans. Clinically, eating a vegan diet can lead to zinc, calcium, and protein deficiencies. People might appear older than they should.
Q. Do vegans look younger?
A. Vegans do not look significantly younger than meat-eaters of the same age. However, the vegan diet is rich in nutrients that might help reduce ageing. Also, they can look younger if the person is well-nourished and getting all vitamins and minerals from their diet.