Vegans and vegetarians choose not to eat meat. However, veganism is stricter and also prohibits dairy, eggs, honey, and any other items that derive from animal products, such as leather and silk.
Both veganism and vegetarianism are growing in popularity. However, some people may find the differences between these two diets a little confusing, particularly as there are several variations of vegetarianism.
Health Benefits of Vegetarian Vs. Vegan Diet
Scientific research suggests that vegetarian and vegan diets may offer several health benefits. The researchers randomly assigned participants to either normal diet and care or a low fat, plant based diet program comprising low fat whole foods, which did not involve calorie counting or mandatory regular exercise. The intervention also included two 2-hour sessions each week, which provided the participants with cooking training and education by doctors. The nonintervention group did not attend any of these sessions.
These benefits include:
- lower cholesterol levels
- improved blood pressure and blood flow
- better blood sugar control
- a lower risk and even reversal of atherosclerosis
- reduced oxidative stress and inflammation
Which is more healthful?
Both diets offer similar health benefits and generally encourage people to eat more antioxidant-rich and nutrient-dense whole foods. It is difficult to say which diet is more healthful because both diets have advantages and disadvantages.
For example, unlike vegans, lacto-vegetarians get calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D from dairy products. However, avoiding dairy and eggs may help vegans keep their cholesterol levels down.
Vegans are also at risk for an essential omega-3 fatty acid deficiency, specifically in EPA and DHA, even if they consume plant sources of these nutrients. DHA is necessary for brain function and cognition and to avoid brain fog, memory difficulty, and more. Vegetarians and pescatarians can obtain EPA and DHA more easily from eggs and seafood.
The authors defined a healthful vegan lifestyle as:
- consuming a whole food, plant based diet
- exercising daily
- drinking more than eight glasses of water a day
- getting regular sunlight exposure
However, following a plant based diet does not guarantee good health. It is still possible for vegetarians and vegans to lead unhealthful lifestyles or to eat a diet of processed “junk” food.
Both vegetarians and vegans choose not to eat meat and fish. However, veganism is a stricter form of vegetarianism that prohibits the consumption or use of any products that come from animals, including dairy, eggs, honey, leather goods, wool, and silk.
Vegetarians may eat dairy products, eggs, honey, and other by products that do not involve the slaughter of animals. However, there are several variations of the vegetarian diet. For example, some vegetarians choose to eat eggs but not dairy products.
Vegan and vegetarian diets generally include a range of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, and pulses, as well as “meat substitutes” that derive from these food types.
Both vegetarian and vegan diets may provide health benefits, including reduced body weight, lower cholesterol levels, and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, it is important for vegetarians and vegans to ensure that they are meeting all of their nutritional requirements. For example, plants do not naturally contain vitamin B-12, so vegans and vegetarians may need to consume fortified foods or take dietary supplements to get enough vitamin B-12.