What is the difference between Vegan and Vegetarian?
Vegan diet philosophy excludes all animal based products (meat, chicken, fish, seafood, eggs and dairy). Some people following a vegan diet philosophy even avoid honey.
Vegetarian diet choices exclude all animal products, but include animal produced foods such as eggs and dairy (which is what we call ovo & lacto respectfully).
What is the benefit to me?
With an increasing amount of focus on climate change and our environment vegan and vegetarian diets certainly leave a smaller carbon footprint through their reduced impact on production & agriculture.
In terms of health, vegan and vegetarian diets are typically lower in total and saturated fat and higher in dietary fibre (from all those vegetables and fruits). However, being 'vegan' or 'vegetarian' does not guarantee someone is eating 'healthier' .
So vegetarians eat more vegetables?
You would think so right? Unfortunately this is not always the case. Often there continues to be a low intake of fruit and vegetables and a dramatically higher intake of carbohydrates (such as mushroom risotto, hot chips or spaghetti napolitana). Mammals (including humans) instinctively eat to the point at which we we have consumed enough protein and; unless well balanced; adequate protein can be tricky on vegan (and to a lesser extent vegetarian) diets, thus increasing portion size consumed.
Is there any risk to my health?
Mostly a well balanced vegetarian or vegan diet is very healthy, although the key is well balanced. On a vegan diet getting enough protein, iron, zinc, calcium and Vitamin B12 is very tricky (B12 typically needs to be supplemented). The key is to focus on plant based proteins (legumes, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy (milk, tofu, cheese) products) and ensure some at EACH MEAL. Specifically legumes/lentils, cashews and amaranth (it's a grain) are key sources of iron for vegetarians/vegans (key particularly for women). A squeeze of lemon juice should always be added to meals to increase absorption of iron from your digestive tract. You should always check the calcium content of your non-dairy milks to ensure it at least matches dairy milk at 300mg/250ml serve.
Vegetarian diets are much easier to balance (with eggs and dairy providing more protein, B12 and calcium options), however iron is still tricky (particularly for women who have a higher need for iron than men).
What is pescetarian?
Pescetarian eating is choosing to avoid meat and poultry but continuing to eat fish and seafood. This strategy adds in a lot more flexibility (particularly when eating out) without the carbon footprint from land based livestock.
What is flexitarian?
This is the strategy we like the most. Flexitarian philosophy (otherwise called 'casual vegetarian') is when people mostly chose vegetarian choices (with a high intake of legumes, lentils, tofu and nuts), however are accepting and happy to consume chicken, fish or meat occasionally.
We like this option because it promotes plant based diets, while still being 'flexible' enough to manage social situations (like family BBQ or eating out). It also is more of a choice than a 'rule' that is often attached to vegan/vegetarian diets.