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Are you Vegan or Plant-Based? What's the Difference?

Plant-based foods & diets are skyrocketing in popularity, & some people are confused about the key differences between being vegan & eating a plant-based diet.


In a nutshell (excuse the pun!) vegan diets eliminate all animal products, whereas plant-based diets do not necessarily avoid animal products, but instead concentrate on eating mainly plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, seeds & nuts [1,2]

Another way to put it, is that: “veganism includes avoiding animal products of all kinds, including clothing, while plant-based usually refers to diet only” [1].

Now let's take a closer look at the two different lifestyle choices.

A Plant-Based Diet/Plant-Forward Diet


Anyone who doesn't want to take the vegan route but chooses to opt for a plant-based diet (AKA a plant-forward diet) instead, can focus on consuming a high percentage of foods which derive from plant sources.

Of note, plant-based regimes place a strong accent on eating whole foods—that is to say, unprocessed, or mildly processes food, which is as close as possible to the way nature intended it to be!

Examples of Plant-Based Foods:

  • Whole grains (such as: oatmeal, barley, faro, and quinoa)
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Plant-based oils (including: olive oil, canola, and avocado) [2].

One Size Doesn't Fit All! “Whereas veganism is a philosophy based on avoiding animal cruelty, when someone chooses a plant-based diet, it tends to be for other reasons, such as their health or the environment. Those who eat a plant-based diet may exclude all animal food, or just eat limited amounts” [1]


Flexibility is key when it comes to describing people who are on a plant-based regime. So for some people, consuming a plant-based diet could be for health purposes (such as losing weight); and/or environmental concerns, such as reducing the greenhouse gases generated by cattle.

However, being a plant-based adherent does not necessarily include avoiding services or products which generate suffering to animals. A good example of this, is someone who buys leather jackets, shoes, gloves, handbags, and so on [1].


For other individuals, a different aspect of being plant-based, relates to choosing to avoid processed foods, and only opt for whole foods. Moreover, other people may consume meat and fish substitutes derived from processed plant foods such as soy, quinoa, or wheat, yet refer to themselves as a plant-based eater, simply because they don't fall inline with the rudiments of a vegan lifestyle [1].

A Vegan Diet


Being vegan means adhering to a lifestyle. The Vegan Society in the UK, states that veganism is: “a philosophy and way of living [that] seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals: for food, clothing, or any other purpose... In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals” [1].

Again, as with being plant-based, there is no one size fits all, and individuals embrace life as a vegan on different levels. However, on a practical level, being vegan means rejecting the following:

  • Animal food, including: meat, dairy, eggs, seafood, fish, and honey
  • Food and beverage ingredients and additives (such as beeswax and gelatin), that derive from animals
  • Goods or clothing which are created using animal skins (fur, swede, leather, and wool, are prime examples)
  • Goods or clothing which is generated using feathers. (Down in duvets and jacket lining, are good examples)
  • Goods or clothing which are made through the exploitation of animals (silk is one illustration)
  • Aquariums, circuses, zoos, and other exploitation of animals for entertainment purposes
  • Ingredients or products that have been tested on animals
  • Purchasing anything that contains palm oil. This is due to the fact that manufacturers have, and still are, causing animals to die, suffer, and lose their habitats, because of their palm oil extraction business
  • In addition, a percentage of vegans do not support, or purchase from, charities or companies that exploit animals, or conduct animal testing [1,2]
“Although vegans have an ethical stance in common, their actual diets may vary.
For example, some vegans choose to eat whole foods & avoid processed foods. Others choose to include vegan “junk foods,” such as burgers or sausages made from plant-based ingredients. Others still have a more balanced approach, including occasional processed foods, but mainly eating whole foods” [1]

A percentage of vegans have opted for this lifestyle due to the impressive science-backed health benefits. A vegan with health benefits (as long as they consume a well-planned balanced nutritious diet), can mean: “protection against obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease” [2].

However, in order to be in optimum health, a vegan must make sure that they are consuming the necessary essential nutrients that they would otherwise get with a non-vegan meat-based diet. For instance: “they may need to take a supplement for some nutrients, such as vitamin B12. Moreover, they can also eat foods fortified with vitamins and minerals” [1].

Some potential deficiencies to be mindful of while consuming a vegan diet, comprise:

  • Protein
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium
  • Iodine
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Omega-3 fatty acids [1].

And while this list might look somewhat alarming, once you understand the food combinations that will give you all of the above, you will see how super-easy it is to prepare or buy balanced meals.

An Easy Revision Guide

This table lets you know what's what, at a quick glance!




Avoiding dietary animal products all the time



Consuming mostly plant food



Eating processed food and meat and fish substitutes



Avoiding the use of animals for clothing or any other function



Advancing the use of, and development of animal-free alternatives



Someone who is inspired for health reasons





[1]. Richards, L. (2021). “What is the difference between plant-based and vegan?”

[2]. Piedmont (2020). “The difference between a vegan and a plant-based diet.”


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