Wow – the past couple of weeks since the Game Changers documentary came out on Netflix have been pretty intense! The movie did great things for opening peoples’ eyes to the benefits of a plant based diet, and has spread the word! Welcome to our new subscribers who’ve joined since then – we hope you are finding the blog useful! A common question we’ve been asked recently is “what’s the difference between being vegan and being on a plant based diet?” We thought we should do a quick blog post to clear up the confusion!
Being vegan is different from following a plant based diet, although there is some overlap. Veganism is an ethical belief – and it goes way beyond food. It’s the exclusion, as far as possible, of anything associated with the exploitation of animals. That ranges from food to make-up to household items such as cleaning products (which are sometimes tested on animals). In terms of diet, vegans don’t consume any animal products (no meat, fish, eggs, dairy, honey etc) but that’s the extent of it. Ethical vegans do not focus on health, it is about the animals, which means it is possible to be unhealthy as a vegan (for example, eating a lot of highly processed products) – although I would still argue that it is healthier than a standard omnivorous diet.
Being plant based, on the other hand, is to do with diet. Specifically, I’m talking about a whole food plant based diet focused on health. While this diet does exclude animal products, it is for health reasons rather than ethical ones, and it also means excluding or seriously minimising the use of processed foods regardless of whether or not they contain animal products. For example, an ethical vegan wouldn’t necessarily have any problem eating plant oils such as sunflower oil, whereas these would be excluded in a whole foods plant based diet due to the low nutrient/high calorie content of oils.
There can be a lot of overlap between the two, which is where people get confused! For example, Jonny and I are both vegan – we went vegan years ago for ethical reasons so in addition to not eating animal products, we don’t use any products that have tested on animals or wear any animal products. Although we are vegan for ethical reasons, for the past couple of years we have followed a predominantly whole foods plant based diet to support our health and fitness programmes. We have found that our energy has increased, we recover faster from our workouts and we generally feel a lot healthier.
Well, that was short and sweet! Hopefully that’s cleared up any confusion! While veganism and plant based diets are two different things, they are not mutually exclusive – and quite often one will lead to the other!