While vegans and vegetarians are often lumped together when it comes to dietary habits, the two lifestyles can't be referred to interchangeably. Veganism is a subset of vegetarianism, so while all vegans are also vegetarians, not all vegetarians are vegans. Each comes with its own practices and guidelines, with differences in everything from food consumption and clothing to product-use and politics.
Vegetarianism is the practice of eliminating meat entirely from your diet. This can be done for any number of moral or dietary reasons. There are three types of vegetarians:
Veganism takes vegetarianism a step further -- along with omitting all meat, vegans also forego all animal-based products including dairy, eggs and honey. Because vegans often choose this lifestyle in the name of animal rights, they often don't use products that have been tested on animals -- whether makeup, cleaning products, or otherwise -- and do not purchase items that are made from animals such as leather jackets, fur coats and reptile-skin boots.
Although both vegans and vegetarians both avoid eating meat, there are a few major differences between the two diets. Here are the biggest distinguishing factors in a vegan vs. vegetarian diet:
Whereas vegans tend to live on a strictly plant-based diet, vegetarians can still eat animal products that don't require the slaughter of the animal, such as eggs, honey and milk. Vegans avoid animal products completely because they believe that even though an animal was not killed for the food, the factory farms of the egg and dairy industry do not treat the animals well.
One of the most notable differences between vegans and vegetarians is that vegetarianism is mainly restricted to food products, whereas veganism extends to all animal-based products. Making the decision to go vegan is not simply about your diet, but how you live your life overall. Vegans avoid products such as leather, silk and furs, and they also don't use products such as makeup that has been tested on animals.
The most apparent similarity between vegans and vegetarians is that neither group consumes any meat, including seafood and poultry. Because meat is cut from their diet, both groups turn to other foods to replenish the nutrients usually provided by meat, such as eating soy products and legumes for protein sources.
Both vegans and vegetarians often pursue these dietary lifestyles for similar reasons -- for animal rights, the environment or religious or political regions.
Both veganism and vegetarianism have health benefits that make these diets appealing. The vegan diet is ranked as the nineteenth best diet overall by U.S. News and World Report, which sites veganism as a heart-healthy way to lose weight and prevent diabetes. The vegetarian diet, on the other hand, is ranked eleventh best diet overall, also due to its promotion of heart health, weight loss and diabetes prevention.
Both of these plant-centric diets have been linked to a lower risk of death by heart disease and stroke. Foregoing meat has also been linked to a decreased risk of certain cancers and lower cholesterol levels.
When it comes to health concerns with becoming a vegan or vegetarian, most of the concerns involve not receiving enough of certain nutrients. For example, meat such as pork, beef and chicken are many people's main source of protein.
However, as long as a vegan or vegetarian considers their nutritional needs and makes a plan for their diet, getting enough protein is easy. There are many sources of protein that are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, including chickpeas, tofu and vegetables such as broccoli, potatoes and corn.
If you're still concerned about your nutrient intake, an easy way to make sure you stay healthy on a vegan or vegetarian diet is by taking supplements such as B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids.