You may, or may not know, I am vegan, and have been for over 4 years now. I am very conscious that the reasons why I adopted a vegan lifestyle, may not be the same reasons why someone else would want to become a vegan. My partner and I primarily did this for his health initially. Since then, as animal lovers and as compassionate human beings, we stay vegans for the animals and also for the planet.
During our time as vegans, we have influenced numerous people to adopt a plant-based diet. I get that it’s not us “converting” them. I think it’s more the fact that people watch from a distance, their curiosity is peaked, they find out more, they give it a go, they feel good and next thing they know, they are eating a plant-based diet!
This week I set up a Facebook group, My Kind of Diet, primarily for people who are interested, or is on a plant-based diet; to share what I know and help where I can. As my background is Exercise Science, with a particular interest in health, it makes sense to speak about the benefits of a plant-based diet for our health.
I know that for health, we are looking at a wholefood, plant-based diet, but hey …. baby steps, right?
So, someone in the group asked me what the difference was between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet.
Here are my thoughts about it.
On the surface, they are the same. You can look at two plates of food and they would be identical. Nothing on the plate would have come from animals, and would be vegetables, pulsed, nuts, seeds.
The difference between both plates would be the principle behind what is on the plates.
Someone on a vegan diet is prompted by animal rights issues, the ethical treatment of animals, and environmental impact of animal consumption and exploitation (for diet, fashion, etc), and so will also live a vegan lifestyle, e.g. use of leather, wool, etc. The Vegan Society in the UK define veganism as,
“A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all 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 humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
On the other hand, a plant-based diet is a diet based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, but with few or no animal products. A plant-based diet is not necessarily a vegetarian diet. Many people on plant-based diets continue to use meat products and/or fish but in smaller quantities. People who follow a plant-based diet generally do so for their health, i.e. either to prevent chronic illness and disease or reverse chronic illness and disease.
I hope that helps clear up any confusion for you. And as for which diet to choose?
My personal recommendation is to start with a predominantly plant-based diet, as there is substantial evidence that indicates a diet that is low in animal products and high in fruit and vegetables can help manage most chronic diseases. A strict plant-based diet has been shown to halt, and even reverse some chronic diseases.
Adopting a plant-based diet is also one of the top three lifestyle choices that we can adopt to reduce our carbon footprint.
You may find that you are very happy here.
On the other hand, you may find that you are driven to make even stronger ethical choices, and may then move towards a vegan lifestyle.
Whatever your choice, I implore you to look at your health and begin reducing the amount of meat and animal products that you are consuming. You can start with meat-free Mondays, and move on from there.
For further discussions and help, come join my Facebook group.