In the last few years, more and more people have reduced their meat and animal product consumption. Studies have found a 300% increase in vegans in the U.S. between 2004 and 2019 (amounting to nearly 10 million people) and there has also been a decrease in those who consider themselves “meat eaters” from 85% in 2019 to 71% in 2021.
These “non-meat eaters” identify their dietary preferences in many ways—vegan, vegetarian, plant-based, etc. However, with this rise in popularity, more people have started using the terms “vegan” and “plant-based” interchangeably, when they are actually quite different.
What Does It Mean to Follow a Vegan Diet?
The term “vegan” describes individuals who have made the lifestyle choice to avoid using, consuming, and exploiting animal products as much as possible. This not only applies to their diet—vegans also avoid contributing economically to businesses who sell products made from or tested on animals, such as cosmetic and personal care brands, clothing, household items, medications, and more.
Since the inception of the term “vegan” in 1944, the movement has grown to include individuals who are not only passionate about the animal rights aspect of veganism, but also its impact on the environment. Research has shown that a vegan diet is more environmentally sustainable than a diet filled with animal products. Vegans also tout a vegan diet’s health benefits; vegans are at a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.
What Does It Mean to Follow a Plant-Based Diet?
While plant-based individuals are similar to vegans in the sense that they avoid consuming animal products for various ethical purposes, being plant-based typically refers specifically to diet alone, leaving out the aspect of not purchasing products that may or may not have been derived from or tested on animals.
Another difference is that while vegans are very black-and-white about not consuming any animal products in their diet, there are many people who identify as “plant-based” because they eat a diet that mostly consists of plant foods, but may occasionally eat some meat, dairy, or other animal products.
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