There’s a lot of talk about plant-based diets as a way to aid weight loss while reducing or eliminating the diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer and heart disease, that plague those populations that eat a meat-heavy diet. If you’re thinking of restricting or eliminating the amount of animal-based foods in your diet, you may be wondering what the difference is between vegetarians and vegans.
There are several different kinds of vegetarians. Vegetarians generally refrain from eating meat, fish and poultry but they will eat eggs and dairy products. People who follow this diet are more specifically referred to as lacto-ovo-vegetarians. Similarly, those who refrain from eating meat, fish, poultry and eggs, but who will eat dairy products are called lacto-vegetarians. An ovo-vegetarian will eat eggs but not dairy products, meat, fish or poultry. Pescetarians refrain from meat and poultry but will eat fish. In the 1990s, the term flexitarian was coined. Flexitarians eat a predominantly plant-based diet, but occasionally eat a bit of meat.
Vegans were named in 1944 by Donald Watson, founder of the Vegan Society. Wanting to distinguish himself from vegetarians who ate eggs and dairy products, he combined the first three letters with the last two letters of vegetarian and coined the term vegan. Vegans are the strictest form of plant-based eaters. They do not consume any animal-based products whatsoever. They avoid meat, fish and poultry, but also eggs and dairy. Most vegans will not eat honey because it is derived from animals. Vegans are generally strict, not only with the categories of foods they avoid, but also with animal-based ingredients that might be found in other foods. For example, beer is sometimes filtered with egg whites or fish-based gelatin and some baked goods are made with whey, which is a dairy product.
No matter which diet makes the most sense for you, eating a more plant-based diet with lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds, will help you lose weight and prevent or control the diseases associated with meat-heavy diets.
Rebeca Espinoza writes about health, fitness and weight loss for Spatz Medical, makers of the Spatz3 Adjustable Gastric Balloon. You can find her on Google+ or at firstname.lastname@example.org.