A majority of people generally use the words vegetarians and vegan as the same. Although both of these diets are plant-based, there is a considerable difference between these two.
So, what do you mean by being a vegetarian?
A person who doesn’t eat animal flesh is called a vegetarian.
There are some variations of vegetarians, which are as follows:
- Lacto-Ovo vegetarian: Lacto-ovo vegetarians do consume dairy products and egg products.
- Lacto vegetarian: Lacto-vegetarians do consume dairy products but not eggs.
- Ovo-vegetarian: Ovo-vegetarians consume egg products but not any dairy products or animal flesh.
- Pollotarian: Restricts meat consumption to poultry and fowl only.
- Pescatarian: While technically not a type of vegetarian, these individuals do restrict their meat consumption to fish and seafood only.
There are many reasons a person chooses a vegetarian diet:
- Religious faith: Vegetarian diet is a part of some cultures, like Hinduism, Jainism, etc. those who follow these religions, vegetarian lifestyle represents nonviolence towards animals and spiritual upliftment.
- Health benefits: many types of research around the world have concluded that a vegetarian diet is healthier than a non-vegetarian diet if followed properly.
- Environment-friendly: this reason is lesser known though. Many people don’t realize the effect of meat and poultry industry on the environment.
It contributes significantly to climate change.
These industries destroy forests in order to create more land for rearing their meat sources.
A large amount of grains and fresh water supply also goes into the feeding of these animals.
It also leads to habitat loss and species extinction.
- Ethical reason: Some people opt for a vegetarian diet because torturing animals for their food is something they don’t prefer. The condition in which the animals are kept and reared are often really bad. Here is a brief about the dark side of meat industry:
The animals that are bred and reared for our consumption have a miserable life. The animals are kept in overcrowded areas, the environment is unhygienic to an extreme extent since the air is thick all the body waste. Animal injuries are left untreated which they generally are prone to because of such pathetic and dirty conditions they are kept in.
Profit is their only concern and hence they try and maximize their output, which means that slaughterhouses process as many animals as possible. Hence, they try to do it quickly and these practices are often not fully effective because of the quick processing time. Many of the animals are still alive and go through unimaginable excruciating pain and trauma while skinning, scalding, etc.
A similar version of torture can be seen in the egg industry breeding hens for eggs and keeping the male ones for slaughter.
- Economically more feasible: Having a non-vegetarian diet is more expensive as compared to a vegetarian diet as meant and other poultry products are costlier.
A vegetarian diet is associated with higher consumption of fiber, folic acid, vitamins C and E, magnesium, unsaturated fat, etc. This often results in a healthier and more active lifestyle:
- Lower chances of being obese:
Vegetarian diets have significantly less fat and are nutrient and antioxidant-rich.
- Life expectancy increases:
Being a vegetarian, you are less prone to a lot of diseases and your mood improves. hence, generally, vegetarians live longer.
- Improvement in mood
Arachidonic acid is a substance that usually comes from dietary animal sources. Vegetarian diets are not high in arachidonic acid. Research has shown a link between arachidonic acid and mood disturbances, hence being vegetarian contributes to the improvement of mood.
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Lower risk of cancer
- Lower risk of diabetes
- Lessens the chance of developing kidney stones
It is found that eliminating animal protein consumption by vegetables will result in a higher urine pH; whereas low urine pH has been associated with stone formation.
- Reduced risk of heart diseases
The list of benefits still goes on.
But there are some risks as well.
Animal products are important sources of protein, no saturated fats, iron, vitamins, and minerals.
Vegetarians have a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency compared with people who consume animal-based products. The human body cannot use the plant-based form of the vitamin. Fortified foods are recommended for those who do not consume eggs or dairy products, and a supplement may be necessary.
Becoming a vegetarian will not guarantee good health or a healthy diet if they consume too many calories, unhealthy snack foods, too many refined carbohydrates, whole milk dairy products, and junk foods, whether meat-based or not.
We did discuss vegetarians, but about vegans?
Vegans are a level up from vegetarians.
In addition to cutting off animal flesh, they cut off of any and every animal product and by-products. They cut off of all dairy products, honey, lards, etc. they also avoid leather, cosmetic products tested on animals, etc.in short, they are absolutely against animal cruelty. They avoid everything that is tested upon animals to being an animal product.
Being vegan is a tad bit more difficult as you have to ensure that everything you are using is animal cruelty-free, from eating to clothing to cosmetics. They are also prone to the deficiencies just like vegetarians, in addition to that, dairy produce normally provides zinc, but fortified cereals, dried beans, nuts, and soy products can make up for this. Zinc is an essential nutrient that plays a role in cell metabolism and immune function.
Types of vegan:
- Ethical Vegans: They put their ethics forward instead of their stomach and inherit their love and care for animals and environment. Ethical Vegans do not consume any dairy product be it milk, eggs, cheese, honey and avoid the usage of any product made by animal skin or parts.
- Plant Based Vegans: They go on to live on plants based foods, which grow from the ground only.
- Raw Vegan: They do not eat any animal by-product and anything that is cooked above the temperature of 115-degree Fahrenheit as they believe that such food is devoid of nutrients and enzymes completely.
In additions to the health benefits of having a plant-based diet, vegans have gelatin, lard etc free diet which is generally consumed in a vegetarian diet. Its more fibrous and richer, since it exclusively plant-based.
But vegans and vegetarians often face some problems:
- Availability of limited options:
In countries which are majorly vegetarian, it isn’t a problem, but countries where a majority population is non-vegetarian like the western countries, it’s hard to maintain a nutritious vegetarian/vegan diet.
- Prone to deficiency of certain nutrients and vitamins like zinc, calcium, vitamin b12, etc.
so, it’s really important to carefully plan out your diet chart.
- Reading labels and checking the ingredients of any item being bought, becomes quite laborious.
- Social issues: When living in a country having a major non-vegetarian population, it’s difficult to manage as all the social gatherings and events have mostly non-vegetarian options. also, there’s a lot of people questioning your choice of such a lifestyle.
Well, being vegan/vegetarian is the way to go!