Plant-based diets are becoming far more popular in this modern day and age when people are more conscious about what they’re putting in their bodies. Thanks to the high nutritional content of plant foods, it’s possible to get all the nutrients you need from just eating whole grains, nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies. But how far should you take it? Here, we’re going to break down the vegan vs. vegetarian diet in order to help you understand which is the better choice for you.
The Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarians do not eat meat (fish, poultry, or red meat) or any product that is made from animal flesh. However, some do eat animal products, such as eggs or dairy products. The vegetarian-based pescatarian diet includes fish as well, but it’s otherwise plant-based. Vegetarian diets are excellent for those who want to cut back on their animal protein intake and consume more fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and grains. It’s not as restrictive as a vegan diet, as it allows for animal products. However, it’s still a very healthy option for those who are trying to improve their eating habits.
The Vegan Diet
Vegan diets are characterized by the total lack of animal meats or animal products in your diet. If it came from an animal—including eggs or dairy products—it’s off the menu. The vegan diet is high in legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Replacement proteins are typically consumed, such as those derived from soy products (like tofu and tempeh) or grains. Raw vegans stick with all raw and minimally processed foods, while whole-food vegans are all about only consuming whole-grain foods. Veganism is far more than just an eating plan—it’s often a lifestyle, with people committing to only vegan fashion, beauty products, and even household products.
Vegan vs. Vegetarian Diet: The Nutritional Balance
The one downside to both vegan and vegetarian diets is that cutting animal meats and animal products out of a diet can lead to a deficiency in certain important nutrients. For example, red meat is the best source of Vitamin B12, a vitamin that plays a vital role in your metabolism, and one that’s hard to find in non-animal proteins. Iron is another nutrient that is typically obtained from animal products, but which vegans have to supplement with iron supplements. While it’s not impossible for vegans and vegetarians to get a balanced intake of minerals, vitamins, carbs, fats, amino acids, fiber, and antioxidants, it will require some supplementation in order to replace the nutrients typically available in animal products.
Fitness on a Plant-Based Diet
Getting fit on a plant-based diet will require the consumption of vegan protein powders. There’s just not enough protein in the average vegan or vegetarian diet for the body to produce enough muscle tissue from the available amino acids. There are more than enough carbs and fats to provide the energy required for exercise, but only by taking a plant-based protein powder or eating a lot of plant-based proteins—emphasis on A LOT—will you have the amino acids required for muscle growth.
Vegan vs. Vegetarian Diet: Which is Healthier?
The truth is that both diets have their pros and cons. For those looking to cut animal products out of their diet complete, veganism provides a fully plant-based diet. However, it’s often a difficult diet to maintain, whereas vegetarianism is a bit easier thanks to the flexibility of adding animal products. Both can offer health benefits, but it’s a good idea to consider how sustainable it is over the long term before committing to either.