If you keep notes on the world of health and diet, at this point you have probably noticed that there is a lot of noise about plant-based diets. If you are skeptical, just scroll to Instagram for two minutes and you will likely see a new recipe for green smoothies and healthy food exchanges for those who do not eat meat.

“Vegan and vegetarian diets are different forms of plant-based diets where one chooses to get most of their protein from plant sources and limit or limit the amount of animal-based food they consume,” he says. Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN.

However, when it comes to vegetarians versus vegans, it can be confusing to point out the difference between the two eating styles. Most people know the basics: For both diets, you eat mostly herbs. But beyond that, things can get a little tricky. What does it mean to be vegan? Here you have everything you need to know about what it means to be vegan versus vegetarian.

What is a vegetarian diet?

Being a vegetarian requires refraining from eating meat, poultry, and sometimes fish.

“A vegetarian diet usually allows for at least one amount of animal-based food,” Rifkin explains. “Common animal proteins in a vegetarian diet are milk like milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs and fish. Anyone who follows a vegetarian diet can choose with animal products that they are happy to consume when developing their plant-based diet. . “

There are several types of vegetarianism:

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: Avoid meat, fish and poultry, but consume eggs and dairy products
  • Lacto-vegetarian diet: Avoid meat, fish, poultry and eggs, but consume dairy products
  • Ovo-vegetarian diet: Avoid meat, fish, poultry and dairy products, but consume eggs
  • Diet vegane: Vvegetarians who do not consume any animal or animal-based products

Corollary: Not all vegans are vegetarians, but not all vegetarians are vegans.

Veganism is stricter than vegetarianism and eliminates all animal-based products.

“A vegan diet does not contain animal-based foods,” says Rifkin. “Some may even restrict foods of animal origin, such as honey. In this case, individuals are getting their proteins entirely from plant-based sources, such as beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products.

Danielle Gaffen, MS, RDN, LD, breaks down the difference between a raw vegan diet and a whole food vegan diet.

Connected: Tips for adopting a plant-based diet from leading vegan chefs and bloggers

Raw vegan diet

This pattern of eating is exactly what it sounds like: A vegan version of raw food. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains are included in this meal plan. Foods may not be cooked, but can be prepared in other ways such as mixing, blending, etc.

One thing to note about this meal plan is that supplements tend to be discouraged. This is potentially troubling because many vegans try to get the amount of vitamin B12 needed from vegan foods (unless they consume enough fortified foods). So if a B12 supplement is not considered, deficiencies can occur!

Vegan diet with complete food

This diet is also gaining popularity, focusing on minimally processed vegan foods and excluding refined foods like added sugars and oils. One thing you should be aware of is that many of the best sources of vegan B12 are from fortified foods, which are processed. If a person following this diet pattern will only eat whole foods, special attention should be paid to B12 and supplements may need to be considered.

“It’s worth noting that some foods are more nutritious when cooked,” Dr. Christen Cupples Cooper, EdD, RD and Founding Director of Nutrition Programs, College of Health Professions, Pace University, explains. “An example of this is tomato sauce. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant that can help prevent prostate cancer in men. Lycopene is more potent in cooked tomatoes than in raw tomatoes. Eating whole foods should “be the basis of any diet, whether vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous. Whole foods provide all the food ingredients that work together to provide health benefits.”

Connected: 101 Amazing Vegan Diet Tips – Beginners, This Is For You!

How to make sure you are getting enough nutrients as a vegetarian or vegan

“Following a plant-based diet requires more effort to ensure the proper balance of nutrients due to limited food sources, especially protein,” says Rifkin. “Because a vegetarian is consuming an amount of animal-based protein that is rich in many nutrients, such as iron, zinc and B12, he is less likely to be deficient.”

Due to strict restrictions, there is a higher chance that vegans will not consume an adequate intake of nutrients.

“Those who follow a vegan diet are much more likely to develop nutritional deficiencies like iron and are more likely to consume an inadequate amount of protein because they do not consume animal foods,” Rifkin explains. “In this scenario, supplementing with protein and vitamins can be helpful in avoiding nutritional deficiencies.”

It’s important to be aware of your iron and B12 intake and include more of those nutrient rich foods in your diet.

“Concerns about both types of diets will include adequate iron intake,” he says. Shena Jaramillo MS, RDWith “Individuals need to make sure they are consuming beans, potatoes, leafy greens and other iron-rich foods and even potentially consider an iron supplement. Vegans usually need to supplement with B12 or choose foods fortified with B12. “

In general, vegan diets require more planning than a vegetarian diet. So what foods should you include in your diet to make sure you are getting adequate nutrition?

“Beans, nuts, walnut butter, tofu and the right fruit and vegetable supplement can all contribute to a well-rounded diet,” says Dr Cooper. “However, vegetarians and vegans should pay attention to vitamin B12 and iron, which are found in abundance in animal foods and in smaller amounts in plant foods. Plant eaters should also learn some tricks for absorbing iron so more efficient, such as eating orange or drinking orange juice when eating iron-rich leafy greens. “

In particular, Gaffen says vegetarians and vegans should pay special attention to the following nutrients:


Vegetarians who do not consume dairy products (usually vegans) may have lower calcium intake, so it is important to try to get it from any source you can or consider a supplement.


Vegetarian diets tend to be lower in iron than the ubiquitous diets. But if consumption of plant-based iron sources is consumed with large amounts of vitamin C, iron absorption may increase. For this reason, vegetarians do not have a greater risk of iron deficiency than those who are not vegetarians. And statistically, iron deficiency levels are similar between vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is not usually a concern for vegetarians who regularly consume eggs or dairy products (lacto-ovo-vegetarians), as vitamin B12 can only be found in animal products. Long-term vegans, however, may develop B12 deficiency anemia because they are not eating animal food sources. Therefore, vegans need a reliable source of vitamin B12.


While zinc is found in many foods, there are plant-based foods that can be included in the vegetarian diet to increase zinc intake like mushrooms, asparagus, corn and broccoli.


While people absorb omega-3 best from seafood, vegetarians and vegans will be relieved to know that alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) is a source of a small amount of omega-3 that you can get from source-based sources. bimore.

Vitamin D

A person’s vitamin D status depends largely on exposure to sunlight, as our skin has the extraordinary ability to transform the sun’s UV rays into vitamin D. But people can also get vitamin D by eating foods that contain it. For vegetarians, those foods include egg yolks and fortified milk, while vegans can get vitamin D from some mushrooms. Supplements can be guaranteed if a vegetarian or vegan is not able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight or food.

Connected: 10 nutrients to make sure you are following a vegan diet

Vegetarian vs vegan: What is the difference from a health standpoint?

Both plant-based diets are healthy. It’s just a matter of making sure you are getting the essential nutrients you need.

“A lot of research supports the health benefits of vegan and vegetarian diets, such as lowering cholesterol and improving digestive regularity. Because animal protein is included in a vegetarian diet which reduces the likelihood of deficiencies, it can be considered a healthier diet. and more rounded, “says Rifkin.” A vegan diet can also be very healthy, would simply require an individual to eat a varied and balanced diet, and is likely to include some supplements to limit the incidence of nutrient deficiency. “

As with any diet, it is essential to follow proper nutritional guidelines to ensure optimal health.

“While vegan and vegetarian diets can be healthy, they can also be dangerous or lead to poor nutrition if not implemented properly,” Jaramillo explains. “In general, these diets have less fat, saturated fat and total calorie intake than non-plant-based diets. There is no diet that is better – it has to do with how balanced the food is during the day. “

Dr. Cooper agrees. There is ample evidence to support the benefits of eliminating red meat and adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

“Each of these diets can be healthy if one is eager to eat a wide variety of foods to provide the body with the valuable nutrients it needs to repair tissues, fight disease and maintain function. important to the body, ”says Dr. Cooper. “Some of the healthiest populations on earth eat plant foods almost exclusively. Most scientific studies to date suggest that limiting red meat intake and increasing intake of whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains may help. people stay healthier and live longer. “

Next, read further 25 healthy plant-based dinner recipes that the whole family will lovewith


  • Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN
  • Shena Jaramillo, MS, RD
  • Christen Cupples Cooper, Ed.D, RD, Founding Director of Nutrition Programs, College of Health Professions, Pace University
  • Harvard Health: “Cutting red meat for a longer life”
  • Danielle Gaffen, MS, RDN, LD