Vegetarian vs Plant-Based vs Vegan: What’s the Difference?
With plant-based diets becoming more mainstream, you may be wondering what’s the difference between a vegetarian, vegan and plant-based diet? While each diet is powered by plants, there are key differences that make each one unique. Here’s what you need to know!
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If you’re looking to dip your toe into the world of plant-based eating, a vegetarian diet is a great start. A vegetarian diet eliminates red or white meat, poultry and seafood. Or, to sum it up one word: meatless.
There are several variations of vegetarianism. Here are the most common types:
- Ovo: “Ovo” is the Latin word egg. Ovo-vegetarians consume eggs but not dairy products.
- Lacto: The word “lacto” comes from the Latin word for milk. Because they don’t consider them to be vegetarian, lacto-vegetarians don’t eat eggs but do eat dairy products.
- Ovo-lacto: This is the most common type of vegetarian and what many think of when they hear the word. Ovo-lacto vegetarians consume both eggs and dairy products.
- Pescatarian: These vegetarians eat fish, and they may or may not eat dairy or eggs.
While the word “plant-based” has surged in popularity over the last 5-10 years, Dr. T. Colin Campbell introduced the word in the health science community in the early 1980s. The plant-based icon and author behind the groundbreaking book, The China Study, coined the term to discuss the health benefits rather than ethics.
A whole-food, plant-based diet (or WFPB for short) is just what it sounds like: a diet consisting of whole, unrefined and/or minimally processed plant foods. This includes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts. But what foods do people avoid with this diet? A plant-based diet excludes highly refined and processed foods such as bleached flour (e.g., all purpose flour), refined sugar, and oil.
I know what you’re thinking: What about meat? Most doctors in the plant-based community will tell you to avoid meat and animal products, because they can lead to chronic disease—however, the term plant-based doesn’t mean never eating meat. Some people who label themselves as plant-based may choose to eat small amounts of meat, fish and dairy products as well. But for the most part, their diet is mostly plants.
Note that “plant-based” does not always mean vegan! More products are being labelled plant-based but still have animal products, which can be frustrating. It can be confusing, but the best advice is to always check labels.
The word “vegan” was coined in 1944 by British woodworker Donald Watson. He wanted a word that would differentiate between people who eat eggs and dairy (vegetarians) and those who don’t (vegans).
Vegans eat all foods that are derived from plants, including processed foods and oils. The main difference between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet is that a vegan diet eliminates meat and animal products at all times. This includes food products derived from animals such as honey, gelatin and other additives.
For many, veganism is more than just a way of eating—it’s about compassion. According to the official definition from the Vegan Society: “Veganism is a philosophy and 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.”
Those who follow a vegan lifestyle may not wear leather or fur, support zoos, refrain from hunting and avoid purchasing products that were tested on animals, like makeup. Some also practice veganism for personal health/environmental reasons.
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At Beyond Sushi, our mission is to be the best vegan restaurant in NYC, serving high-quality and accessible plant-based food. We make healthy food choices effortless and compassionate—one plate at a time. Dine in with us, or place your order for takeout or delivery!