Depending on who you ask, the terms plant-based and vegan might mean the same thing. As interchangeable as they may seem, there are some very distinct differences between both lifestyles. Simply put, veganism is an animal friendly and environmentally conscious way of life, while being plant-based mainly focuses on diet and health, with less of a focus on animals and the environment.
What Does A Vegan Lifestyle Consist Of?
Those who subscribe to the vegan diet must abstain from eating animal products as a way of not contributing to the exploitation of animals for the purpose of survival. Being vegan also means that you do not purchase or wear anything made from animal products. Clothes, purses, shoes, and hats that are made from animal products, or beauty products that have been tested on animals, are avoided; granted, there are many people who simply maintain vegan diets for personal health reasons and don’t worry about the animal products or testings.
Donald Watson, an English animal rights activists and founder of the Vegan society, coined the term vegan in 1944. Since then it has grown tremendously in popularity, so much so that the food and drug industry are constantly creating new vegan-friendly options to capitalize on the expanding market. The downside to the creation of vegan alternatives to animal based foods is that vegans can go through life without ever eating a vegetable or fruit, since processed alternatives like soy, or anything not containing animal-derived products like honey, fall into the vegan category.
Vegans have a strong belief that all living creatures have the right to life and freedom. A true vegan opposes any physical or psychological mistreatment of animals and their environment. Even the farming of animals is seen as a violation, according to vegans. A transition to veganism usually involves going through a vegetarian way of life first, and then shifting towards being vegan. From that point on, they can classify themselves as one of the following types of vegans:
- Dietary Vegans: Those who avoid consuming animal products strictly for dietary reasons, and continue to use the byproducts in the form of cosmetics and clothing.
- Whole-foods Vegan: Those who prefer to eat foods that are natural and nutritionally rich, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. This is similar to the plant-based lifestyle in terms of eating habits.
- Raw-food Vegans: Those who only consume uncooked foods, or foods that are cooked at a temperature below 118 degrees F (48 degrees C).
- Fruitarian Vegans: Known simply as fruitarians, this group consists of people who only consume fruits, and occasionally vegetables, but mainly fruits.
What Does A Plant Based Lifestyle Consist Of?
The plant-based lifestyle has a lot more dietary restrictions than its vegan counterpart. A person can only consume what grows from the ground, and has not gone through a refinement process that expels most of the food’s nutrients. The diet includes fruits, vegetables, as well as whole grains, but it is important to steer clear of meat, dairy, and unnatural or processed foods.
Studies have shown that this lifestyle has several health benefits, since all the consumed foods are non-GMO and free of added preservatives or chemicals. It’s known for being the healthiest dietary option for those suffering from cancer, hypertension, diabetes and some of the other more common life threatening illnesses.
How To Transition To A Plant-Based Lifestyle
Transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle is quite demanding and often times complicated. It takes plenty of discipline and willpower to not only go against the ideas and beliefs that you and most people were born into, but to also overcome the temptation to deviate while surrounded by societal influences. Unlike veganism, there aren’t many options to choose from when it comes to your eating habits.
Restaurants that are 100% plant-based are very rare or nonexistent, even in most metropolitan areas. One has to be more than okay with preparing his/her meals at home to avoid cross contamination from eating out at a restaurant that does not adhere to such demands.
A common question or concern is, “If all you’re eating is plants, where do you get your protein?” The biggest mammals in the world are herbivores that are hunted down and eaten by carnivores, which absorb the rich plant-based protein that the herbivores received from eating plants. It all ties back to the source. If you need a more detailed guide of plant-based protein, click here.
The ideas behind both the vegan and plant-based lifestyles are as old as the human species itself. During pre-historic times, indigenous cultures primarily consumed plant-based foods and rarely ate animals or their byproducts. In your health journey, it’s important to eliminate any confusion in order to fully understand the pros and cons of both diets. Choose what is best for you based on what you can manage with regards to your health and values.