What is the Difference Between Vegetarian and Vegan?

Many people often get confused between the terms “vegetarian” and “vegan,” assuming they are the same thing. However, there are significant differences between the two. Understanding these distinctions can help you make informed choices about your diet and lifestyle. In simple terms, a vegetarian avoids eating meat, while a vegan abstains from consuming any animal products. Let’s dive deeper into the specifics to better understand the contrast between vegetarianism and veganism.

Types of Vegetarians

When it comes to vegetarianism, there are several categories, each with its own set of dietary allowances and restrictions. Here are the most common types of vegetarians:

  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians: These individuals refrain from eating meat, fish, and poultry but include dairy products and eggs in their diet.
  • Lacto vegetarians: Lacto vegetarians avoid eating meat, fish, poultry, and eggs but still consume dairy products.
  • Ovo vegetarians: Ovo vegetarians eliminate meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products but include eggs in their diet.
  • Pescatarians: Pescatarians are not strictly vegetarians, as they consume fish and seafood along with plant-based foods.

It’s important to note that all these vegetarian categories exclude meat from their diets while allowing different forms of animal byproducts.

The Basics of Veganism

Veganism, on the other hand, is a more stringent form of vegetarianism. Vegans avoid all animal products, not only in their diet but also in their daily lives. Apart from eliminating meat, fish, poultry, and eggs, vegans also forego dairy products, honey, gelatin, and any other substances derived from animals. Veganism extends to other aspects beyond just food, embracing a lifestyle that avoids the use of any animal-derived materials, such as leather, fur, or wool.

Dietary Considerations

One major distinction between vegetarians and vegans is their dietary choices. While both groups primarily rely on plant-based foods, their specific food preferences differ.

Vegetarians have a more flexible diet, as they can include certain animal byproducts, such as dairy and eggs. This broader range of food options can make it easier for vegetarians to meet their nutritional needs, particularly concerning certain vitamins and minerals, like calcium and vitamin B12.

On the other hand, vegans need to pay closer attention to their nutritional intake, as they avoid all animal-derived food sources. They may need to find alternative sources of nutrients that are typically obtained from animal products, such as fortified plant-based milk for calcium or nutritional yeast for vitamin B12.

Health Considerations

Both vegetarian and vegan diets can provide various health benefits when well-balanced and properly planned. However, there are certain factors to consider for each.

Research suggests that well-planned vegetarian diets can lower the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and certain types of cancer. In contrast, a well-balanced vegan diet can have additional benefits, such as reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes and certain chronic illnesses. However, it is essential for vegans to ensure they obtain all the necessary nutrients to avoid deficiencies.

Environmental Impact

Another significant aspect to explore is the environmental impact of both vegetarian and vegan lifestyles. Plant-based diets, regardless of the extent of animal byproduct exclusion, can contribute positively to our planet in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving water and land resources, and minimizing deforestation associated with animal agriculture. By choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet, individuals can actively contribute to the wider effort of combating climate change and promoting sustainability.

Ethical Considerations

Both vegetarianism and veganism stem from ethical considerations regarding the treatment of animals. Vegetarians typically abstain from eating meat due to concerns about animal welfare or religious beliefs. Vegans take it a step further by avoiding all animal products to eliminate the exploitation and cruelty associated with animal agriculture and other related industries. By adopting a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, individuals can align their dietary choices with their ethical principles.


To summarize, vegetarians refrain from consuming meat but may include certain animal byproducts like dairy or eggs in their diet, while vegans avoid all animal-derived products entirely. Vegetarians have different types, such as lacto-ovo vegetarians who include dairy and eggs, lacto vegetarians who include dairy but exclude eggs, ovo vegetarians who exclude dairy but include eggs, and pescatarians who eat fish and seafood. Vegans, on the other hand, abstain from all animal products, not just in their diet but also in their lifestyle choices, including clothing and personal care products. Each dietary choice has its own dietary considerations, health benefits, environmental impact, and ethical foundations. Regardless of whether one chooses to be a vegetarian or a vegan, both lifestyles promote a more compassionate and sustainable way of living.