What Is the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian? – Telehealth Functional Medicine Serving California

What Is the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian? – Telehealth Functional Medicine Serving California

New diet trends seem to circulate the internet every day. Should I go keto? What about pescatarian? As a consumer, it can be challenging to navigate all of the options and choose one that works best for you and your body. When we break it down and look at lifestyle choices, vegan and vegetarian diets are quite popular among the different age groups. So, what is the difference between vegan and vegetarian ?

New diet trends seem to circulate the internet every day. Should I go keto? What about pescatarian? As a consumer, it can be challenging to navigate all of the options and choose one that works best for you and your body. When we break it down and look at lifestyle choices, vegan and vegetarian diets are quite popular among the different age groups. So, what is the difference between vegan and vegetarian ?

According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or by-products of animal slaughter. Some vegetarians also exclude dairy, some don’t, and some may consume eggs. Vegetarians can be classified into different categories based on their choices.

Veganism is currently defined by the Vegan Society as a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty as much as possible. In turn, a vegan diet not only excludes animal flesh, but also dairy, eggs and animal-derived ingredients such as gelatin, honey , whey, casein and some forms of vitamin D3. Another difference between vegan and vegetarian is that many vegans also avoid household products, clothing, or other items made from animal products or tested on animals.

Dietary Differences Between Vegan and Vegetarian

Given the restrictive nature of some vegan and vegetarian diets, eating well-balanced meals that contain an adequate amount of vitamins, minerals and protein can be tricky. It may be worth it to work with a dietician or a doctor to ensure you are mapping out meals that include plenty of healthy fats, complete protein and vegetables.

According to the Mayo Clinic , calcium is one vitamin that is essential for building and maintaining strong teeth and bones. Calcium tends to be highest in milk and cheese products. Due to the fact that vegan diets do not include dairy products, finding other sources of calcium is key to a balanced diet.

Thankfully, dark green vegetables such as turnip and collard greens, kale and broccoli are all good plant sources of calcium when eaten in sufficient quantities. Vegan and vegetarian diets should both include nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables. According to registered dieticians, a balanced diet for a vegan could look something like this:

  • Whole grains such as brown rice, oats, barley, millet
  • Legumes, dried beans and peas, including lentils, black beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans and split peas
  • All fruits and vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole soy foods such as edamame and soy nuts.

If you decide to stick to vegetarian choices, a balanced diet would look different depending on which type of vegetarian diet you follow. According to Healthline , a balanced vegetarian diet includes a variety of nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats and plant-based proteins. It could also include foods such as:

  • Yogurt and kefir
  • Low sodium cheeses
  • Pasture-raised eggs
  • Tempeh and tofu

Do I Need to Be Supplementing With Vitamins If I Choose to Go Vegan or Vegetarian?

When it comes to incorporating enough vitamins and minerals into your meals, you may wonder if you need to be supplementing on vegan and vegetarian diets. It all boils down to what’s making its way onto your plate. If the majority of your plate consists of fiber-rich vegetables and healthy fats, you may not need to be supplementing with vitamins. However, if you are consuming more processed foods or not eating enough nutrient-dense meals, supplementation may be necessary.

So, what is the difference between vegan and vegetarian when it comes to supplementation? Studies confirm that vegetarians tend to consume slightly more calcium than vegans. Both diets also contain limited amounts of vitamin B12 and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, although levels of these nutrients are generally lower in vegans than vegetarians.

These findings suggest that the main difference between vegan and vegetarian is that vegans may need to supplement with a good-quality B12 vitamin and/or omega 3 to ensure they are meeting their nutritional needs.

Health Benefits

Although it may take time and effort to meet your nutritional needs on plant-based or vegetarian meals, studies are showing that vegan and vegetarian diets have plenty of advantages over diets containing meat and poultry.

Either Diet Can Lower the Risk of Diabetes

Studies are now showing that individuals who adopt a plant-based diet rich in whole foods, leafy greens, and high-fiber fruits and vegetables tend to have a lower incidence of certain chronic diseases.

A randomized control study of people with type 2 diabetes compared the effects of two eating plans: a low-fat vegan plan, and a meat-eating plan low in carbohydrates. Those following the vegan plan revealed greater improvement in glycemic control, lipid levels and weight loss. Additionally, almost half of the participants on the vegan plan were able to reduce their type 2 medications as a result.

The same can be said for vegetarian diets. In one study, in particular , individuals who adhered to any type of vegetarian diet had statistically significant lower odds of diabetes than those who consumed red meat. Vegetarians living in North America also had lower odds of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, according to results from the Adventist Health Study .

Both Diets Contain Adequate Amounts of Fiber (When Meals Are Balanced)

In America today, only five percent of citizens are achieving the adequate intake of recommended fiber. On average, adolescents and adults are only consuming about 50 percent of their needs. The difference between vegan and vegetarian diets and the standard American diet is that the former have both been shown to contain the highest amounts of fiber-rich foods. Think berries, dark leafy greens, lentils and avocado.

In another study , the effects of plant-based diets on gut-microbiota were observed. The study showed that vegan and vegetarian dietary choices were higher in prebiotics, resulting in microbiomes that were more diverse.

New research has also shown that diverse gut microbiota supports immunity and the overall health of the gastrointestinal, brain, and cardiovascular systems. In the same study , a plant-based diet appeared to be beneficial for human health by promoting the development of more diverse and stable microbiomes.

Both Dietary Choices May Assist in Healthy Weight Management

So, what is the difference between vegan and vegetarian when it comes to body mass index (BMI) and metabolic rates?

One study showed that those who choose to go vegetarian not only lose weight more effectively than those on conventional low-calorie diets but also improve their metabolism by reducing body fat. The loss of fat actually improves glucose and lipid metabolism, something that is particularly important for people with metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.

Choosing to adopt a vegan lifestyle may also assist in healthy weight management . Compared with vegetarian diets, vegan diets tend to contain less saturated fat and cholesterol and more dietary fiber. The result is that those who adopt vegan diets also have lower serum cholesterol and lower blood pressure, further reducing their risk of heart disease.

As always, consulting with a doctor before you choose to make any radical lifestyle changes is imperative. A trained professional can help guide your choices to ensure you are eating balanced meals with plenty of vitamins and minerals.

Additionally, a vegan or vegetarian diet may not work for you, and that’s okay too. Always listen to your body and adopt a diet and lifestyle that helps you feel vibrant, healthy and nourished.

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