I first really heard about the concept of being vegan in the early 2000s. There was a lot of hype around it, but unlike a lot of fads or trendy diets, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. In fact, as we move towards the third decade of the century, the number of people adopting this lifestyle has steadily increased. The number of vegans over the last five years has doubled in number. From Beyonce and Ariana Grande to Peter Dinklage and Liam Hemsworth, most hot favorites have been setting up an example for their followers by turning vegan.
Do they know something that we don’t?
Should we be getting on the vegan train as well? Let’s find out more so.
Surprisingly, vegan is often cited as a part of vegetarianism. Which is technically wrong. It's like the idea that all squares are rectangles, but rectangles aren't squares.
Although both, vegans and vegetarians, don't eat meat yet being a vegan is different from being a vegetarian.
If you’re thinking about going vegan or vegetarian, knowing the difference between the two is something you should be clear about. This article will take you through the different aspects so you can make an informed decision if one of these practices is for you.
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What is The Difference between Vegan and Vegetarian?
A vegan is someone who doesn’t eat anything that is animal or a byproduct of an animal. For example, a vegan with not eat eggs, dairy products, honey or even gelatin since their ingredients come from animals.
A vegetarian, on the other hand, isn’t as strict about their limitations and just doesn’t eat meat or fish. Those who do eat fish and seafood, but not meat, are offend referred to as pescatarian.
Getting the Motivation
There are many reasons why people choose to become vegetarian or vegan. Many vegetarians believe that the consumption of meat has negative effects on the body, especially eating too much red meat and all the problems it can cause. Others just might not really care for the taste of meat, and are more than happy to explore the rich flavors found in fruits, veggies, legumes and other food sources.
While becoming a vegetarian often has to do with health and diet concerns, being a vegan goes beyond that. Many vegans don’t just consider themselves vegan because they refrain from eating certain types of foods but describe their beliefs as more of an overall lifestyle choice. There is a big emphasis on the protection of animals and the environment from cruelty. This could be from wearing fur, saturating the earth with disruptive chemicals, or a multitude of other non-natural acts.
These, of course, are just a very very basic overview of the two different practices. Everyone has their own unique reasons in choosing to be a vegetarian, vegan, or neither of the above.
What do Vegans eat?
The first question that strikes people on realizing that vegans don't even eat eggs is where do vegans derive their proteins from? Legumes, beans, and lentils are the answer. Vegans live on fruits, seeds, beans, nuts and vegetables and no, it isn't limited to just salad.
You might be surprised to know that there is a long list of gourmet food that vegans can enjoy, and it doesn't have to involve meat. In fact, there are special restaurants that serve only vegan food. I’ve given a few of these a try, and I’m always pleasantly surprised how tasty everything is. When you take away all the salt, butter, and fat we’re often used to, you get to taste the rich, raw flavors of so many foods we often pass on.
What do Vegetarians eat?
When it comes to a vegetarian diet, there isn't as much fuss about their protein intake since they can consume eggs and dairy products. Of course, this general rule doesn’t apply to all vegetarians. Many people eat eggs and not dairy products, or only dairy products and not eggs.
Either way, finding a source of protein is not as challenging for vegetarians as it is for vegans. This is one of the main reasons why the vegetarian diet is ranked as the 11th healthiest diet for people with diabetes, while vegan diet holds the 19th position.
Benefits of a Vegan Diet
Becoming a vegan is not just about changing your diet, it is a lifestyle. It comes with its own challenges and health benefits too. Although it can get tough to maintain a proper iron and protein intake, the health benefits more than make up for them.
A low-carb vegan diet works to keep your cholesterol levels low. This, in turn, reduces the risk of premature heart diseases and fights any cause of obesity. The more greens you consume, the better your sex life is. Well, that’s certainly one reason to stock up on the salads.
Apart from the health benefits, a vegan diet contributes to the environmental wellness by rendering protection to animals from cruel farming practices.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
Vegetarians are considered to be the healthiest eaters and rightfully so. A proper vegetarian diet (which includes consumption of dairy and eggs) has shown to reduce the risks of certain deadly diseases including cancer, increased blood pressure, and heart failure. For most vegetarians, it is more about healthy eating and lifestyle than any strong specific contributions to environmental causes that influence their eating choices.
You don’t have to give up meat cold turkey
There you have it a little clarity on what the difference between being vegan and being vegetarian is. If you’re thinking about becoming one or the other, some good advice is not to do it all at once. Just like if you’re starting a workout program, you don’t just go from sitting around all day to suddenly running a marathon the next. You have to train and build up to it.
It is a gradual process. Start with something easy like meatless Mondays and include more vegetables in your diet. Then reduce your meat consumption by another day, then another, and so on. If you have a cheat day, don’t worry, it is normal, and doesn’t mean you’ve failed altogether. Maybe your goal isn’t to go completely vegetarian, but just to be more conscious about how much meat you’re eating. Many people moved on to being vegetarians from meat eaters and then finally turned vegans.
Personally, I have a difficult time giving up meat. Seafood would be even more difficult for me. But I am all for adding more legume and other foods into my diet. There is a whole wide world of food out there, and I’m missing out by just sticking to what I know. Just two fewer days of meat a week means at least 2 or 3 more meals of trying something else. Who knows, maybe you’ll find your new favorite food this way!
Photo: Food recipes, Flickr CC.