Vegan vs. Vegetarian: What's The Difference?

The Grow.Bar dishes pictured above are classified as vegan. However, they could also be labeled as vegetarian. So what's the difference then? To fully explain we're going to start with the basic definitions. Veganism is a philosophy and lifestyle that excludes the use of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. Vegans do their best to avoid using or consuming any sort of animal product. They do not consume meat, eggs, milk, honey or food derived from animals.

Vegetarianism is a dietary practice that excludes meat (including bi-products, fish, shellfish, other sea animals and poultry). And there are several variants of these diet restrictions, some of which may also exclude eggs. Vegetarians that do consume dairy products and eggs are Lacto-vegetarians. And individuals who only consume eggs (in addition to grains, fruits and veggies) are Ovo-vegetarians. There's even Pescatarians who choose to eat fish, but no other meats or animals.

Gary L. Francione is a vegan American legal scholar and animal rights advocate. He writes that "there is no meaningful distinction between eating flesh and eating dairy or other animal products. Animals exploited in the dairy industry live longer than those used for meat, but they are treated worse during their lives, and they end up in the same slaughterhouse after which we consume their flesh anyway. There is probably more suffering in a glass of milk or an ice cream cone than there is in a steak."(Veganism: The Fundamental Principle of the Abolitionist Movement).

If you agree with Francione's perspective, then you lean towards veganism. If you still enjoy eating dairy products, but avoid meats, then you're on the vegetarian side of the spectrum. Which one is healthiest and which is the right choice for you? We simply can not answer these questions for everyone. People are different and what works for one, may not be the best choice for others. What we can and will do, is further explore the benefits of both.

In general, avoiding meat (as is the case with both veganism and vegetarianism) has many health benefits. People who steer clear of meat are at a lower risk for cardiovascular disease, various chronic diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and some cancers (including lung and breast). However, the reasons for this reach far beyond what you eat. You must incorporate an all-around healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a low consumption of alcohol and tobacco products to reach maximum results.

That being said, both vegans and vegetarians consume high amounts of fruits, vegetables, soy and nuts. And they usually have a lower intake of saturated fats and cholesterol as a result. Cholesterol is only found in animal foods, so if you want to avoid cholesterol completely, then you should consider a vegan diet.

This is where the two start to differentiate. Vegans do not consume dairy products. Milk, cheese and eggs are all created from animals, which means a vegan just says no. However, with this decision comes additional menu restrictions and the possible need to take B-12, Vitamin D or iron supplements. And since a vegan lifestyle lacks these nutrients, vegans must look somewhere other than the dairy section for added health support. This is possible if vegan's properly educate themselves. Fortified soy products (like light plain soy milk) contain about 50% of the B-12 recommended daily value. And mushrooms contain anywhere from 1-100% of the daily recommended dose of Vitamin D (Health Aliciousness - Top 10 Foods High In Vitamin D).

Vegetarians, unlike vegans, are allowed to consume dairy products. And some of them still eat fish, which can provide additional health benefits like consumption of protein and omega-3 fatty acids (which are essential to body and brain function). It's hard to argue with a vegetarian standing by their choice. The list of benefits is long. And even though vegans make their dietary decision based on more of a philosophy, then simply a diet, both practices bring with them big advantages. Judging either just seems ignorant.

Veganism has it's own additional benefits as well, such as avoiding shellfish or dairy food allergens. For many individuals, these issues come with huge health risks and concern. When eating out or shopping for their food, people with serious food allergies must proceed with caution. And adopting a vegan philosophy can help maintain a safe, healthy and happy eating experience.

Many vegans can recognize the science and proven health benefits that come from eating some meats and fish. But it's not likely this will change their point of view. And why should it? Their choice is a conscious, compassionate and healthy one. Who are we to say what's healthiest? It's not up to us. That part is up to you. Our bodies are all unique. Listen to yours and what it's telling you.

Grow.Bar arugula - @grow.bar

Grow.Bar arugula - @grow.bar

If you understand what your body needs, then you can find the necessary nutrition anywhere. You are allowed to have specific beliefs, tastes and opinions. Enjoy life and enjoy eating, but always do what works for you. For only you can truly control your health. We encourage our Grow.Bar community to remain conscious that the earth provides life with what it needs to grow and survive. And to use our resources intelligently to support a healthier and happier world for everyone.

We don't always need to look in the direction of slaughterhouses and animals for food. We can look to our gardens, farms and crops to create and inspire nutrient-rich meals. And many meat eaters today are starting to cut back on their red meat intake. The studies show what nobody really wants to hear. Hamburgers every day can cause pretty serious health issues. And no, bacon is not good for you (no matter how good it tastes).

Like with anything long-lasting, moderation is key. And balance is imperative to proper nutrition. The differences between vegans and vegetarians do exist. However, we feel both communities often function together in society and within their communities. We are happy to report that Americans are growing increasingly more health conscious every year. The market trends even show vegan and vegetarian based foods are here for the long haul. So try some new recipes today (Grow.Blog Recipes) and sign-up or contact Grow.Bar to share with us your favorites!

You may also enjoy these articles: Vegan Trends, Vegan Diets, Urban Gardens & Sustainability, Why Organic Is Important, The Menu Is Deceiving, Real Food, No Ingredients