The distinction between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet is a source of confusion for a lot of people, and understandably so. The two terms are often used interchangeably, including on this website. But there is a subtle difference between the two terms which I think is important, especially when we are talking about health and diet. Here I will present the basic characteristics of a vegan vs plant-based diet and help you make sense of these distinctive lifestyles.
Veganism is an ethical stance.
Something that confuses a lot of people is the motivation behind the choices of vegans. There are many vegans who still eat food like french fries and veggie burgers. You might ask, “Why bother being vegan if you still eat junk food?” It’s true that these choices are counterproductive if you are motivated by health, but many vegans are more motivated by concern for animals and the environment.
In fact, veganism is by definition an ethical stance that seeks to avoid the exploitation of animals in all ways. A diet excluding animal products is the most obvious characteristic of a vegan lifestyle, but that is not all there is to it. Vegans also avoid buying leather, wool, products tested in animals, and anything else that involves animal exploitation.
Since animal use is so prevalent in our society, it can be difficult to avoid animal products altogether. For example, many necessary medications have been tested on animals at some point in the development process, but no one is expected to refuse these medications. Veganism is not about being perfect; it’s about making an honest effort to live in alignment with your values.
For full health benefits, go plant-based.
Just cutting animal products out of your diet can have some great health effects like lowering cholesterol and helping you lose weight. But, as I mentioned, a vegan diet can still be high in refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and vegetable oil. That’s not exactly the picture of an ideal diet. Really amazing and long-lasting effects are possible, but only by transitioning to a fully plant-based diet.
A plant-based diet is the same as a vegan diet in that it excludes all animal products like meat, dairy products and eggs. But the plant-based diet goes further by emphasizing whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods. A plant-based diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. It minimizes highly processed foods like refined flour, sugar, and oil.
The whole plant foods that are included in a plant-based diet are packed with all the macro- and micro- nutrients that are needed for the human body to function optimally. The diet is also high in dietary fiber, which aids digestion and helps your body to absorb nutrients and obtain energy from food.
More restrictions, or more opportunities?
Transitioning to a plant-based diet can seem daunting. Unhealthy animal products and overly processed, packaged foods make up such a big part of the standard American diet that they have come to seem perfectly normal. Maybe the thought of removing all these products from your diet seems restrictive. Why would you want to deprive yourself when everyone around you enjoys eating whatever they want?
To me, thinking of a healthy diet as deprivation and restriction is completely backwards. By changing to a plant-based diet, you won’t be depriving yourself of anything besides weight gain, disease, and participation in animal cruelty. Instead, you will be giving your body the fuel it needs to be healthy and thrive. And when you feel better physically, you will ultimately be happier and feel empowered to achieve more in your life.
Besides, with over 20,000 edible plants in the world, a plant-based diet never has to be bland or boring. There are many vegan cookbooks that can show you how to make delicious and nutritionally sound meals from plants alone. You will probably find yourself trying new combinations and eating foods that you have never even heard of before. Discovering new foods and recipes can make the transition seem fun and exciting rather than restrictive.
A plant-based lifestyle is an ongoing process.
Even when you are motivated by all the perks of a plant-based diet, changing your habits is hard. I am happy to be well into my second year of a vegan lifestyle, and I can confidently say I will never go back. But I will admit that when I first started considering going vegan, it took months before I made a full commitment. When I finally did, it was because I had learned about the reality of animal agriculture and decided I could no longer contribute to it with a clear conscience. Practically speaking, starting a vitamin B12 supplement curbed my cheese cravings and helped me to maintain my energy levels while I figured out my new diet.
I am still figuring it out, and while my motivations for being vegan are mainly ethical, I have become increasingly drawn to the health side of the equation as well. That’s why I am now transitioning from just vegan to vegan for the animals and plant-based for my own health.
I have been interested in nutrition for a long time and love learning about the topic, but learning and implementing change are two distinct actions. Change is difficult because it means we have to acknowledge what we are doing wrong, and that can be humbling. But I’ve realized that this is the only path to real progress.
Are you ready to change your life?
Incidentally, I was compelled to start taking a hard look at my eating habits while trying to help others with their diets. I am passionate about the vegan lifestyle, but I hesitate to recommend it without providing a practical, comprehensive resource to help people transition. Thankfully, I have found that resource, and it is helping me in my own life more than I could have imagined. It has made me realize that although I have taken a great step by going vegan, my diet still has a lot of room for improvement. But instead of being discouraged, I am eager to start treating my body better and to see how a truly plant-based diet can change my life.
I only wish I had known about this resource when I first went vegan, but I am happy that I have found it and can share it with you today. If you want to change your life by transitioning to a plant-based diet, but are overwhelmed by information and don’t know how to start, the Plant-Based Transformation Program is perfect for you. For a one-time fee, you can access a personalized evaluation, information about plant-based nutrition, a guide to changing your habits, and more. The program comes with a money-back guarantee, so if you change your mind there is no damage done to your bank account.
If you give it a try, though, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. I plan to always keep this resource on hand in the future to help with grocery shopping, meal planning, and cooking. Changing your lifestyle is a challenging process, but by starting the Plant-Based Transformation Program, you will be well on your way to a healthier, happier, and more ethical life.