How to decide between going vegan or vegetarian

In the last few years, the term “plant-based” has become synonymous with health and wellness. Everyone from fitness influencers, celebrities, animal rights activists and diet enthusiasts have been singing the praises of plant-based diets, either as a lifestyle change, response to the cruelties of the meat industry or as a way to protect the environment. But with the internet providing so much conflicting information on food and nutrition, it can be difficult to know what plant-based diets are out there, and which one would work best for you.

According to The British Dietetic Association (BDA), a plant-based diet refers to “foods derived from plants, including vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds and fruits, with few or no animal products”. People who consume the occasional bit of fish are called pescatarians, while people who have a bit of poultry or meat are referred to as flexitarians or semi-vegetarians.

For this post, we’ll be focusing on vegans and vegetarians. Some studies suggest vegans and vegetarians are less likely to get certain forms of cancer than meat eaters, which has seen people champion these diets for being life-changing. But it’s important to keep in mind these studies are highly observational, meaning that either a small slice of the population was selected for them, there was no way of telling which part of their diet brought on the results, they might not have been smokers, or their risk for certain cancers might have been lower hereditarily.

If you do choose to go vegan or vegetarian, either permanently or temporarily, you should consult your GP, know what diseases to which you’re suspecible and keep tabs on your nutritional intake. As the website Heathline Network reports, vegans and vegetarians generally consume less omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and vitamins D and B12. It’s important to take supplements so you can make up for any possible deficiencies and boost your immune system.

Here’s a small breakdown of the differences between veganism and vegetarianism:

Veganism

A vegan diet prohibits the consumption of animal-derived products such as eggs, milk and honey. This list also includes clothing like leather, fur and silk. Some vegans avoid specific wines and beers which are made with animal or animal-derived products.

The two dominant, but not exclusive, subgroups of veganism are:

  • Raw Veganism: This diet consists of vegan food which is raw. Raw vegans do not eat food which is cooked at a temperature of 48°C and above.

  • Paleo Veganism: These vegans stay away from processed foods. Their concerns about abstaining from meat are more health-driven than environmental or ethical.

Vegetarians

Like a vegan diet, vegetarianism prohibits the consumption of animal products but allows for the consumption of some animal-derived products, depending on what kind of vegetarian you are.

The three dominant, but not exclusive, vegetarians are:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarianism: Their diets include dairy and egg products.

 

  • Lacto vegetarianism: They avoid eggs but consume dairy products.

 

  • Ovo vegetarianism: They don’t eat any animal-derived products except eggs.