They are two of the most common diets to follow and many undertake vegan and vegetarian eating regimes for health, environmental, ethical and even religious reasons. So if you're wondering what the exact differences are, Wild Radish will break down everything you need to know before you make the change...
What Is a Vegetarian Diet?
The Vegetarian Society define a vegetarian as someone who does not eat meat, by-products of meat or foods created from production methods that have used any part of an animal either living or dead.
A vegetarian diet primarily consists of various fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and seeds, but also different types of fungi, algae, yeast and other non animal based products. The veggie diet excludes all meat, poultry, fish and shellfish.
There are 3 common types of vegetarians:
The Vegan Society describes a way of life that rejects "as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose."
A vegan diet can consist of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains, excluding animal products, dairy, eggs and other animal-based ingredients like gelatin, honey shellac, whey and casein. Vitamin D3 is occasionally excluded from the vegan diet because it can be sourced from animal products such as sheep's wool.
The Vegan diet encompasses more than just diet and extends into proactive lifestyle choices that link in with a strong belief and adherence to animal rights. Therefore, to sustain a consistent through-line, vegans abstain from purchasing clothing and other items containing wool, leather, suede and silk. Ethical vegans will also choose to stay away from cosmetic products that have been tested on animals as well as refraining from zoos and horse races.
How Healthy are Vegetarian and Vegan Diets?
Those that become vegan or vegetarian typically experience decreased blood pressure, a lower body mass index, reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes due to the low cholesterol and saturated fat that appears in the main staples of the diet. Both diets tend to be high in foods that contain a rich nutritional profile; filled with vitamins, minerals, fibre and other food sources your body loves.
A vegan and vegetarian diet excludes meat and animal products, but it should not be restrictive otherwise you could be missing out on some key nutrients your body needs. Common vitamins such as B12 - found in meat, fish, eggs and milk - are often lacking, but are absolutely crucial for brain function and a healthy nervous system. Make sure you supplement your diet with fortified cereals, nutritional yeast, soy or almond milk. Zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin D also have the potential to be lower when you're switching to these diets so make sure your food choices are as varied and eclectic as possible.