Vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based diets have a number of similarities, but have significant differences. When striving to make healthy lifestyle changes, it may be difficult to know which approach will be most effective. This may be very difficult. This article explains the fundamental differences between these dietary patterns and evaluates the data on the health benefits of adopting a diet that puts a higher focus on plant-based foods (and may or may not eschew meat altogether).
Different types of plant-based diets
Sometimes, eggs and dairy products are permitted in vegetarian diets. Typically, a vegetarian diet includes only fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Generally speaking, none of these diets enable the ingestion of meat (flesh). Plant-based is an umbrella term that encompasses both vegan and vegetarian diets, which are defined by the presence or absence of animal products. Vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, and omnivorous are other subsets of these diets distinguished by the types of animal-based foods consumed or avoided.
- Eggs and dairy products are included in a lacto-ovo vegetarian’s diet.
- A lacto-vegetarian is someone who consumes dairy products.
Ovo-vegetarian: Consumes eggs
Pescetarian: a person who consumes fish but no meat
Semi-vegetarian: meat is sometimes ingested (one or twice a week), but red meat is never consumed.
Flexitarian: Rarely eats meat (once or twice per month)
Vegan: Consumes no products made from animals.
- Due to the diversity of plant-based categories, it may be difficult to determine, based on the available data, which types of plants provide the highest amount of health benefits. Since cardiovascular disease (CVD), for example, takes years to develop, a well-controlled study done over a short period of time cannot accurately evaluate the risk of acquiring CVD. As a consequence, we must investigate the potential relationships between dietary habits and other elements of health. In general, a vegetarian diet that is well-planned and adhered to may provide enough nutrition, improve overall health, and lower the chance of developing serious chronic diseases.Let’s take a look at a few of the specific health benefits of adopting a diet that consists mostly of plant-based foods.
Increased Intake of Nutritious Foods Is the Primary Advantage
- A key principle of healthy eating habits is to consume a variety of vegetables and fruits in their natural state. An adequate intake of dietary fiber and a low intake of saturated fat and hydrogenated vegetable oils are often the consequence of a diet consisting of a range of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts and containing the required amount of calories. As a result, vegetarians often have reduced body mass indices (BMI), LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure. Furthermore, vegetarians had lower rates of stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and heart disease-related mortality than non-vegetarians.In addition, vegetarian diets are rich in the health-promoting phytochemicals and the antioxidant vitamins C and E, which protect the body from the detrimental effects of oxidative stress. In addition, the high-magnesium and high-potassium foods supplied by these diets may improve insulin sensitivity and cardiovascular function, respectively. Together, phytochemicals and dietary fiber have the ability to increase and maintain the gut microbiota.In brief, the potential health advantages of vegetarian diets include weight loss and/or maintenance, improved blood sugar control, healthier lipid profiles, lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation, and improved gastrointestinal health.
Reduced Consumption of Unhealthy Foods is the second advantage
- Several dietary components included in animal meals are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Meats often include saturated fats, which have a long history of association with elevated cholesterol levels and other unfavourable disease risk profiles. It is noteworthy to note that saturated fats may not be responsible for many of the bad health effects associated with them; rather, the processing of meats may be responsible for many of these detrimental effects. Consuming processed meats containing preservatives such as salt, nitrates, and nitrites may cause a rise in blood pressure and a decrease in insulin sensitivity.The great majority of research have shown a favourable association between eating more vegetables and less meat and improved health outcomes. Due to the fact that meat and dairy products may be part of a balanced diet, it is likely that eliminating them totally is not necessary for optimal health. Choosing whole foods as opposed to processed foods is an additional essential strategy for maximizing the health benefits of any diet plan.
Cutting out Meat
As previously said, the term “vegetarian” may mean many different things to many different people since vegetarians eat food in a number of ways. The shift to a plant-based diet may be facilitated by the following recommendations.
- This technique is easier to adopt and adhere to than stricter rules, such as eliminating all animal-derived products.
- Start with a few plant-based meals each week and gradually increase your intake until it becomes a sustainable habit.
- Include a reoccurring topic in your food planning. You may begin by going vegetarian on Mondays, for instance, and gradually increase to two or three times each week. The “Vegan Before 6” diet, which confines intake of meat and other animal products to the evening meal, is another alternative.
- Consider the notion of sustainability in terms of how it influences the duration of a diet plan. For this reason, choosing a diet that is just semi-vegetarian as opposed to one that is entirely vegan may be easier to maintain for a longer period of time.
- It is essential to remember that eating properly is not a temporary endeavor, but rather a way of life.
The Incorrect Approach to Vegan or Vegetarian Diet
- Just as there are better and less healthy ways to follow any other diet plan, there are healthier and less healthy ways to follow a vegetarian diet. Simply choosing the term “vegetarian” does not guarantee that a person would enjoy the aforementioned health benefits. Vegetarian foods include soda, cookies, French fries, macaroni and cheese, and cereals with a high sugar content. A vegetarian diet may include excessive quantities of calories, sugar, preservatives, and unhealthy fats. In addition, very stringent vegetarian diets may not supply enough levels of certain minerals, such as omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. Planning and preparing nutrient-dense vegetarian meals is a crucial component of a vegetarian diet in order to avoid nutritional deficits.In addition to or as an alternative to taking dietary supplements, a plant-based diet may include the intake of fortified foods (i.e., foods with additional vitamins and minerals). Specifically, vitamin B12 can only be acquired via the intake of animal-based foods or the use of dietary supplements. However, both eggs and milk include B12, therefore a lacto-ovo-vegetarian would have a lower nutritional shortfall to make up than a vegan.
- In reality, adequate eating of vegetables and fruits has the strongest correlation with decreased disease risks, particularly CVD risks (USDA, 2015). A healthy diet should include more veggies and less processed foods. This may be accomplished with or without animal products. Regardless of the kind of diet you follow, make healthy eating a lifelong commitment that you can continue for many years.