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What's the Difference Between Vegan, Plant-Based, and Vegetarian?

Vegan Desserts

Nowadays, we are bombarded with food labels and at times find it hard to distinguish the difference between "vegan", "plant-based", and "vegetarian".

That's precisely why I  am here to explain what each food label means and what to look out for in your next food shop!

Vegan

A vegan diet excludes all animal-derived ingredients such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, and honey. 

Someone vegan may also follow a vegan lifestyle defined below:

¬†"Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude‚ÄĒas far as is possible and practicable‚ÄĒall forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."¬†(1)¬†

Plant-based

A plant-based diet mainly consists of plant-sourced foods such as vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. It doesn't mean you exclude dairy, meats, fish or poultry. Instead, you choose to mainly focus on plant-sourced foods in your diet (2) 

Vegetarian

A vegetarian diet includes vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, eggs, dairy, and honey and excludes fish, meat, poultry, gelatin, or animal stock. (3) 

Summary

How do I know if my plant-based foods are vegan?

Now that we have defined the three standard food labels, what should we look out for in our next food shop?

  1. Make sure to properly look at the ingredients at the back.
  2. Be aware that food items labelled "plant-based" may include animal-derived ingredients.
  3. Overcome this challenge by looking for "certified plant-based", which means "a finished product consisting of ingredients derived from plants that include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes." (4)

Which lifestyle diet is healthier?

Generally speaking, a vegan/plant-based diet can be healthier than a vegetarian diet. However, the debate really comes down to the food choices you make in your day-to-day life.

For example, you can be a vegan, but have a poor vegan diet, meaning you tend to eat refined plants, processed vegan meats and cheeses, and consume a lot of refined sugars and flours, making your overall lifestyle less nutrient-dense.

The same goes for a plant-based diet; you can opt for less nutrient-dense refined plant foods such as white rice, pasta, potato chips, processed bread and sugar-sweetened juices and snacks. 

To achieve a healthier diet, I encourage you to focus on whole foods that are unrefined and minimally processed. 

Stay tuned for my next blog post, where I will discuss incorporating more plant-based foods into your lifestyle diet! Trust me; you will enjoy it!

Speak soon,

Maitha

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