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Vegan? Vegetarian? What Does it All Mean?

This week I’d like to chat about plants. In short, they are IN! Every day I read more and more articles about chefs putting vegetables at the center of their dishes, not just as sides. More and more people are embracing plant-based eating habits. One question I see a lot of people asking is, what’s the difference between a vegan and vegetarian diet? So, I decided today to break down the definition for everyone:

Vegetarian: This typically refers to a lacto-ovo diet. People who call themselves vegetarian usually exclude all animal flesh, but will eat dairy and eggs. It requires a lot of attention to hidden ingredients (i.e. gelatin, etc.) but is less restrictive than a full vegan diet. Some vegetarians also eat fish. They are sometimes called pescatarians.

Vegan: This diet excludes all animal derived food – including animal flesh, dairy, and eggs. Many vegans also avoid eating honey. Being vegan requires paying special attention to the ingredient lists of everything from vitamin supplements to baked goods. Many times dairy, eggs, or fish derivatives are hidden deep in the ingredient list – sometimes under deceiving names. Many vegans also adhere to their “diet” outside the food world. They don’t wear animal derived clothing (leather, wool, silk), and don’t use cosmetics or lotions that come from animals or use animal testing in their research.

No matter how you identify, the benefits of putting an emphasis on vegetables in your diet become more clear every day. In fact, the latest official Dietary Guidelines suggest eating a vegetarian diet as one of three diet patterns for optimal health. Other recent, large studies have shown that the more plant-based your diet, the better equipped you are to fight obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, and other diseases. And it is becoming increasingly clear that choosing plants over meat can immensely help the planet.

You don’t need to identify yourself as anything! Go vegetarian a few days a week! Try being vegan certain hours of the day. Simply incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet. The more you do, the more you, and the planet, win!

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