Veganism vs Vegetarianism



With the popularity of veganism and vegetarianism rising, mistaking the two as the same type of diet can be a simple misconception. The differences between the two diets could be confusing for people, as several variations of vegetarianism exist. Individuals also ask questions such as “what are the health benefits of each diet, which diet is more healthful, are there any risks of either diet?”

Vegetarians, as defined by the Vegetarian Society, are people who do not eat the products or byproducts of animal slaughter. This means vegetarians don’t consume meat (beef, pork, chicken, fish, and more), insects, gelatin, and stocks that deprive from animal slaughter. However, many vegetarians still eat byproducts that are not produced from animal slaughter. Some of these products include eggs, dairy products, honey, and many others. A vegetarian’s diet mainly consists of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains as well as “meat substitutes” that are created from these food types.

Veganism is similar to vegetarianism but remains much stricter. Veganism, as defined by The Vegan Society, is “a 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.” People who are vegans avoid consuming products that contain meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, dairy products, honey, insects, gelatins, and any types of stocks produced from animals. Some vegans take their diets a step further, expanding the same rules into their lifestyles. If possible, vegans will avoid using or buying products that include leather, wool, silk, beeswax, soaps or candles containing animal fat, latex, and cosmetic products tested on animals.

Living by these types of diets can seem like an idea that is way out there, but scientific research suggests that vegetarian and vegan diets may offer several health benefits. A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis created by the National Institutes of Health found evidence to suggest that plant based diets can help lower levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. A 2019 study conducted by the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology also found an association between a healthful plant based diet and a lower risk of developing chronic kidney disease.

Veganism and vegetarianism have several different health benefits, but they both come with their own risks. Plant-based foods do not naturally contain vitamin B-12 causing vegans and vegetarians to need another source of the vitamin. Vegans are at risk for an essential omega-3 deficiency, especially in EPA (Eicosapentaenoic acid, one type of omega-3 fatty acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid), regardless of consuming plant sources of these nutrients. DHA is necessary for brain function to avoid brain fog, memory difficulty, and more. Vegetarians can obtain EPA and DHA more easily from eggs. Vegetarians and vegans must make sure that they’re eating a balanced diet that meets all of their nutritional requirements.

Both diets have many positive health benefits when all of one’s needs are met, but both cause possible risks. In the end, it’s left to the consumer to decide if becoming vegan or vegetarian is the best choice for them.

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