Quite often you hear someone say they’re a vegetarian or a vegan, but while you may utter “aaaah, I see’s” and nod enthusiastically, I know many of you are probably totally baffled when it comes to distinguishing between the two terms – I know I am!
So here is where we’re going to lay it all out and discover the differences between these two eating lifestyles as well as their existing subsets.
One thing we all know for a fact is that vegetarianism is the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat and often also meat by-products obtained from slaughtering an animal or through cruel practices.
There are many reasons that motivate people to adopt this lifestyle – because, let’s be clear; vegetarianism is a lifestyle and not just a diet. Some of these reasons may include: respect for sentient animal life, health-related reasons, political or religious reasons, and also environmental, cultural, or aesthetic reasons.
The different subset varieties of vegetarianism that exists are:
Ovo-vegetarian: this vegetarian diet that includes eggs but not dairy products.
Lacto-vegetarian: this variety of vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs.
Ovo-lacto vegetarian: this diet includes both eggs and dairy products.
The three variations of diet above may or may not contain animal by-products, but it will still contain no meat products whatsoever.
Semi-vegetarian: people who follow this diet identify only mammals as “meat animals” and may thus include fish or poultry, or sometimes other meats, on an infrequent basis into their diet.
Pescetarian: this diet is mainly vegetarian but also includes fish and other seafood as part of the main diet.
Pollotarianism: this variant includes chicken and possibly other poultry.
Pollo-pescetarian: this variant of diet includes poultry and fish, or “white meat” only.
The four subsets above may still identify themselves as vegetarian, but groups like the Vegetarian Society do not agree with this viewpoint as they regard all birds and sea creatures as animals, and as such not allowed for consumption.
Veganism is an extreme form of vegetarianism. This diet excludes all animal products and animal by-products including dairy, eggs, honey and even beeswax products. Some vegans even go as far as avoiding animal products such as leather, silk, wool, or any products that may contain animal derivatives. In short; their lifestyle diet embraces the philosophy of rejecting the status of animals as a product or article of trade – man should not exploit or use animals.
Some of the different subset varieties of Dietary Veganism that exist are:
Raw veganism: this type of diet consists mainly of fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Some vegetables are allowed to be cooked, but should only be cooked up to a certain temperature.
Fruitarianism: this variant permits only fruit, nuts, seeds, and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant.
Macrobiotic diets: this is a diet which consist mostly of whole grains and beans.
In addition to the varieties of Dietary Veganism described above, Ethical Vegans also avoid any products that are derived from animals such as: wool, silk, leather, bedding that contains feathers, or ordinary soap (which is usually made of animal fat). They will also avoid certain vaccines which is manufactured using animal products or processes. But the unfortunate flip side of this is that some “vegan-approved” clothes, in particular leather alternatives, are made of petroleum-based products, which has triggered criticism because of the environmental damage involved in the production of these items.
The health benefits of both vegetarianism and veganism is a hotly debated topic. Numerous studies have been done to assess the overall health, well-being, and mortality rate of vegetarians and vegans vs. omnivores, but results from these studies seem to be extremely biased and difficult to conclude.
Health professionals and researchers will warn about the risks of mineral and vitamin deficiencies if a vegetarian diet is not properly planned or adequately supplemented, but many vegetarians claim they suffer no such deficiencies – which may in part be due to specific genetic markers that allows them maximum nutrient absorption. Conversely many others will claim that a vegetarian lifestyle left them with numerous health problems which were only alleviated when they returned to a diet that included a moderate intake of meat.
Whichever lifestyle choices are made however, the fact remains that one should always embark on such a journey of change as fully informed as possible, and monitor health changes regularly, and take the appropriate action to remain as healthy as possible. And, if all else fails, listen to your body and meet its needs.