Plant-Based Diet vs. Vegan: Learn What’s the Difference, According to Experts
You may have heard someone describe their diet on the social media or on the menu as "herbal" rather than vegan. With so many ways to characterize food choices today, it's easy to confuse them all. What exactly are the differences between the vegetable and the vegan diet?
What is vegan?
While the term was first introduced in the 1940s, the popularity of veganism skyrocketed in the 1960s and 1970s. In essence, this means that neither dairy products nor animal products, including honey, are consumed.
"I hate to use the word strictly," says Susan Tucker, a health care consultant on herbal nutrition and wellness and owner of Green Beat Life. "It's the most thorough and strictest version of the herbal diet."
What is the definition of a vegetable diet?
Plant-based nutrition is a diet rich in whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, with sparing use of fish, dairy or animal protein. The inclusion of red meat, poultry and other animal protein (such as whey protein) means that plant products are not necessarily vegetarian. The holistic nutritionist and ayurveda consultant Natasha Uspensky, CHHC, AADP, describes it as similar to the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole foods and low in poultry, cheese, yogurt and red meats.
"It is used a bit looser," says Uspensky. "There is not necessarily an official definition, but I would say that this is the most widely used definition in the nutrition world."
Are vegan and vegetable the same?
Yes and no. Imagine this: A vegan diet is based on plants, but a herbal diet is not vegan. The occasional grass-fed burger, eggs, cheese, or collagen protein may be planted close together but is not completely vegan.
"Sometimes people say I'm vegan, but I eat fish twice a week," says Tucker. "I'd say that's more herbal, people might fall into that category, where they're 75 percent based on plants."
What are the health benefits of a vegan diet?
Studies have shown that daily consumption of processed meats such as bacon or hot dogs increases colorectal cancer risk by 18 percent. The World Health Organization has also classified red meat as carcinogenic or carcinogenic. It has also been shown that avoiding meat or dairy products lowers the risk of heart disease. "Many athletes are vegan because of the inflammation of milk and meat," says Tucker. "Milk is hard to digest for many people."
In addition to the health benefits, veganism can also play a major role in the environment, as less meat and dairy products are needed. "The industrial agricultural complex is one of the worst things in our environment in terms of factory farming," says Uspensky. "If we rely less on animal food and factory farming, that's very good for our environment overall."
The vegan diet approach, which eliminates animal by-products, may also extend to make-up and other skin care products, household cleaners and other products. "In the meantime, it can also refer generally to people who do not wear leather," says Tucker. "So it goes beyond the diet somehow."
What are the health benefits of a vegetable diet?
"If you reduce the amount of processed foods and only animal products in general, you can have a healthier profile," says Lara Metz, MS, RDN, CDN. "You may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer, depending on what you eat."
For some people, however, a minimal amount of animal protein may be beneficial. A person's reaction to one particular food is not the same as another's.
"There may be people who have been phenomenally well-nourished vegans for 20 years, and suddenly, when their hormones or lifestyle changes, or even their stress levels change, they'll find they do a bit better with the animal protein added, "says Andrea Moss, a holistic nutrition trainer and founder of Moss Wellness. "But the question is, is it really the best for your body?"
What are the risks of a vegan diet?
"A common danger when people stop eating so much animal protein is that they become so-called junk food vegans," says Uspensky. "There are many junk foods that are technically vegan, but by no means good for you."
This means eating less impossible burgers and oregos and more whole foods. One way to do this is to be careful with your meals and to know where the nutrients come from. "It takes a lot of care to make sure you're taken care of," says Uspensky, "so you will not eat bread in the end."
It is also important to consider a few vitamins and minerals that are not included in veggies, fruits, wholegrain products and pulses that are consumed in a vegan way. "There are very few possibilities in the vegan diet to obtain naturally occurring B12," says Uspensky, noting that the nutrient yeast is the only source that is not enriched. "If something is attached, it will probably be processed."
A lack of other vitamins and minerals like iron, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc is also a risk. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to consult a doctor before and during the diet.
CONNECTED: Over 150 recipe ideas that you can enjoy for life.
What are the risks of a vegetable diet?
"I would not say that there are any health risks," says Tucker. "There are risks when you suffer from existing conditions, and there are health risks if you do not pay attention."
Since a plant-based diet sometimes means that vitamin B12 is derived from dairy products and iron from animal protein, the dieticians say the risks are small and far apart. "They eat a wide variety of foods," says Uspensky. "You really do not have to worry about nutrient deficiencies."
What is the best way to start a herbal diet?
"Think about what a typical day looks like for you in terms of your food intake," says Metz. "Break it down into every meal and snack, and think about what your plant foods are normally and how you can enhance them."
Meat-free assembly, milk changes and focusing on vegetables, whole grains and fruits at every meal are great ways to incorporate a herbal diet into your lifestyle. Metz recommends adding vegetables to eggs in the morning for breakfast, slicing fruits or vegetables for a snack, and refining a boring salad with croutons and chicken with non-starchy vegetables such as cucumbers, broccoli, peppers, and artichokes.
Overall, you want to make sure that your body reacts positively to the change. "The best way to know if a particular nutritional approach is right for you is to try it for a period of time," says Moss. "You receive feedback from your body. If you succeed, you will know. "