Vegan or Plant-Based: The Big Difference You Need to Know
By Scott Burgett | 3.21.18 [Updated January 21, 2019]
Are you confused on whether to label yourself vegan vs plant-based? If so, you’re not alone. Veganism and plant-based eating are exploding and it’s important to clarify where you stand.
You’ll not only be able to openly define your stance, but also learn what is and is not acceptable between the two labels.
Let’s start by clearly defining the two terms.
The definition of Veganism is “to seek an end to the use of animals by man for food, commodities, work, hunting, vivisection, and by all other uses involving exploitation of animal life by man.”
In other words, going vegan is removing yourself from as many forms as animal cruelty as possible.
It’s much more than food. Vegan is a philosophy of living.
Vegans go out of their way to avoid items like leather and fur, along with household products that get tested on animals. They don’t participate in attractions like visiting the zoo or going for a fishing excursion.
Anything that contributes to animal suffering is off-limits.
Also, just being vegan does not equate to being healthy. Someone that claims themselves vegan could technically live off of Oreos and soda pop.
So while being vegan aligns very well with reducing animal cruelty, it can vary widely in diet.
Plant-based is defined as a diet based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits, but with few or no animal products.
Unlike vegan, plant-based only refers to the food you eat.
Additionally, calling yourself plant-based could mean you do eat a few animal products. There is no defined intake of the term few, however it never includes meat, pork, or poultry.
So only foods like eggs, milk, cheese, fish, and the alike could be included.
However, there are other terms that are most commonly accepted that help specify plant-based diets that include animal products. Use this list below:
- Vegetarian – plant-based with dairy, cheese, and eggs
- Lacto-vegetarian – plant-based with dairy and cheese
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian – plant-based with dairy, cheese, and eggs
- Pesco-vegetarian – plant-based with seafood
Lastly, the term plant-based has evolved one more step to further separate it from the word vegan. It’s called a whole food plant-based diet.
Unlike a plant-based diet that can still include a large amount of processed plant foods, a whole food plant-based diet centers around whole, minimally processed foods.
So highly processed foods like sugar, flour, chips, plant-based desserts, and the alike are highly discouraged.
Motivation to Choose Vegan or Plant Based
Everyone has different motivations and reasons for their decisions. Some may choose vegan to save the animals and others may eat a plant-based diet to live a longer and healthier life.
When choosing the term best for your lifestyle, figure out your why and decide.
Is your main driver to end animal suffering and better the environment? Go vegan and work to cut out the things in your life that may contribute to animal suffering.
You’d be surprised to learn what everyday household items contain animal products.
Some common household products that are not vegan include:
- Wool clothing
- Leather goods
- Beeswax candles
- Some vitamin capsules
- Some mascara and lipstick
- Plastic bags
- Some fabric softener
Many of these items contain specific parts of animals or insects that help with the bonding, adhesion, and other characteristics that make the products unique.
However, if you just care about health, eat plant-based. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using that as your single source of motivation.
In fact, the popular Netflix documentary What The Health, shocked the nation after investigating the negative affects of meat to our health.
Thousands of people ditched meat and went plant-based strictly for the sake of eating healthier.
As a result, their way of eating dramatically shifted too. They then had to discover what foods they can and can’t eat.
What You Can and Can’t Eat on a Vegan or Plant-Based Diet
Planning this new diet may sound daunting at first, but it’s in fact very simple. Determine your philosophy of eating, then shop accordingly.
Purchase the foods that align with your diet choice. To help decipher what you can and can’t eat on your new diet, use the list below:
Though it may sound restrictive at first, shortly after switching your diet you’ll begin to experience the many health benefits that make the trade-offs worth it.
Losing weight, feeling energized, and appreciating the positive impact your making on the planet are common occurrences.
Benefits of Eating a Plant-Based Diet or Going Vegan
Now that you understand the difference between eating plant-based and going vegan, it’s equally exciting to know what you can gain from plant foods.
As you may suspect, going vegan and eating a plant-based diet have several concurrent benefits, as well as individual benefits too.
Since a vegan diet can include highly processed junk foods, weight loss benefits are best achieved when following a plant-based diet.
Many times, people switch to a plant-based diet and notice weight loss within the first several weeks.
This study in particular showed an average weight loss of 22 pounds in just one year eating plant-based.
Scientists suspect that since a plant-based diet is higher in nutrients and lower in calories than most other diets, weight loss becomes natural. You can eat less without having to try.
On the other hand, a nutrient poor vegan diet laden with packaged snacks, rich desserts, and faux meats are higher in calories and lower in nutrients than a plant-based. The very same reason the Standard American Diet (or SAD diet) makes us fat and sick.
We don’t receive enough vitamins and minerals through the food we consume, therefore tricking our brain to search for more food. This leads to overeating because we never satisfy that itch for nutrients.
However, once your body adapts to the foods from a plant-based diet, your body literally starts to heal itself and crave the foods that are healthy. You unconsciously begin to choose whole foods instead of packaged foods.
This incredible shift leads to better food choices, which makes the diet easier to follow.
Lowering your environmental footprint has benefits from both going vegan and eating plant-based.
In fact, eating plant-based (or vegan) for one month helps save:
- 33,000 gallons of water
- 1,200 pounds of grain
- 900 square feet of forest
- 600 pounds of CO2
- 30 animal lives
Additionally, by going vegan and choosing to forgo purchasing animal-based consumable goods, it creates a market for alternatives. The more often this happens, the larger the demand grows.
As stated above, eating vegan for just one month saves the lives of 30 animals. While that’s a small fraction of the 56 billion farmed animals killed each year, it’s still progress.
Unfortunately, despite the massive progress in Veganism and plant-based eating, animal agriculture has continued to scale its operations to meet the growing demand of meat; particularly in developing countries where meat consumption equates to wealth.
Countries like India have seen meat production climb a staggering 53% in some cases.
However, by going vegan or eating plant-based, it creates awareness. As awareness spreads, especially through social media, people start to accept and make the changes we desperately need.
It forces the dairy and meat industries to reevaluate their strategies. Like this farmer in Iowa that shut his doors after 95 years milking cows.
Overall, by choosing your fork over your knife, you can continue to help save the lives of thousands of innocent animals, better the environment, and your health.
Every bite counts.
So are you Vegan or Plant-Based?
You are now armed with the information you need to decide if you are vegan or plant-based. Based on what you care about, pick the term that most closely defines your life’s philosophy.
Maybe you’re plant-based, but also follow vegan philosophies. On the other hand, you could be vegan and still eat healthy.
The most important and often underrated action is that you decide. Learn as you go, make a change if you need one, and eat more plants.