The good news is that lots of people are jumping on the ‘vegan’ band wagon. The thing is, while this is happening there is a lot of misunderstanding of what veganism is and what other diets are. What is a vegan diet compared to other diets any way? This article tells you why a vegan diet is not (necessarily) healthy.
So let’s start by defining the three broad types of diets: carnivore, omnivore and herbivore.
A carnivore eats an entirely meat based diet. Unless you are a lion or great white shark you probably don’t fit in this category.
Currently the most common diet in North American society is an omnivore diet. Omnivores eat a mixture of plants and animals. This of course may include any plants and animals including; fish, other seafood, beef, pork, chicken, lamb etc. This diet would also include dairy (cheese and milk). Now if you don’t eat pork or seafood as an example and still eat a mixture of other meat (even fish is a form of meat) you are still in the omnivore classification. Clear?
The omnivore classification is sometimes further defined into categories like pescatarian. This is where a person does not eat land animals but will eat fish, (maybe seafood) and dairy and eggs. Sometimes this is confused with a version of vegetarianism. However, because fish and other seafood are animals this is still an omnivore diet. However a diet that is trending towards vegetarian for sure. That makes sense – no?
Within the omnivore diet there are many other diets where there are specific foods that you eat within the diet but those foods are a mixture of plants and animals. Those diets include the currently popular Keto and Paleo diets or the pescatarian diet mentioned above. I won’t get into the specifics of those diets in this article nor will I comment about the benefits of those diets.
As we move into vegetarian diets this is where some of the real confusion begins. If you eat an entirely vegetarian diet (a true vegetarian) then you are vegetarian or “plant based”. First the most lenient of the definitions would be lacto ovo vegetarian. People on this diet eat plants and include dairy such as cheese and milk (lactose) and eggs (ovo). This is defined as vegetarian because technically these folks are not eating animals.
The strictest of the vegetarian diets is the person who does not eat any animal products. Common products such as butter, ghee, cheese, milk, honey, gelatin are not allowed in this diet. This is because animals are used (read – manipulated, killed, or abused) in the production of the product. Often this is defined as a vegan diet. Now a true vegan diet is very strict on any sort of animal product. And many vegans are choosing this style of plant based diet not because of the healthy benefits, rather it is their compassion for animals and not wanting in any way to participate in the harm or killing of any animal. For strict vegans honey, some sugar and much wine would not be allowed. (Some sugar manufacturers use bone char in the processing and fish bladders are used in the filtration process of many wines.)
Now the for the catch… eating vegan is not healthy. Eating healthy is healthy. Veganism is a lifestyle where the primary reason a person chooses the lifestyle is compassion for animals. So anything that does not harm animals in the production of the product is technically vegan. French fries and potato chips are two of my favourites. On the other hand, a plant based whole food diet could be considered healthy. Many vegans are eating plant based whole food diets in addition to their vegan lifestyle. However, for a vegan, the lifestyle goes further than that, they would not buy leather, use products with gelatin, or use feather or down products as just a few examples. Veganism is a lifestyle and much broader than a diet. As described above we have our diets (carnivore, omnivore and herbivore) and then lots of sub definitions of diets (paleo, keto, pescatarian, vegan, raw vegan, lacto ovo vegetarian, fruitatarian etc). Technically when we refer to a vegan diet we are referencing strict vegetarian where no animal was harmed… now where are the potato chips and pumpkin pie?
A plant based, organic whole food diet (avoiding any sort of processed foods – including potato chips ugh!) with a healthy mix of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, gluten free grains, legumes, and beans would be my thought of a healthy plant based diet. And Yes, there is enough protein.
Vegan definition from the Vegansociety.com “A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”
This article was written from my knowledge and understanding of diets and the vegan lifestyle. I have not done any specific research other than the knowledge I have gleaned over the years for this article. I am interested in your comments and feedback along with any corrections.