A year ago, my husband was diagnosed with high cholesterol. When I looked over the diagnosis, there was only one recommendation from the doctor and that was to start taking medication. Both my husband and I were outraged. I started to do some research online and I encouraged my husband to do so as well. I wanted to have a better understanding of the link between food and cholesterol. After a week, we decided that the best course of action was to go on a plant-based diet.
Four months ago, my husband went to do a follow-up test to check his cholesterol. The results were amazing. His cholesterol dropped by over fifty points. His doctor asked him what has he been doing for the past few months. He couldn’t believe that a simple change in diet had that result. It proved to us how little doctors understand the power of a healthy lifestyle.
During this same time as I continued my own research, I noticed plant-based diets have become the new cool kid on the block. However, I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding between a plant-based diet and a vegan diet. When we tell our family and friends that we eat a mostly plant-based diet, they think we’re vegan. A lot of sites that are focused on promoting a vegan diet, refer to a plant-based diet as the same thing. I believe they’re different and here’s why.
What is a plant-based diet?
When you look up the definition of a plant-based diet on Wikipedia, this is what you’ll get:
“A plant-based diet is a diet of any animal (including humans) based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruits, but with few or no animal products. The use of the phrase has changed over time, and examples can be found of the phrase “plant-based diet” being used to refer to vegan diets, which contain no food from animal sources, to vegetarian diets which include eggs and dairy but no meat, and to diets with varying amounts of animal-based foods, such as semi-vegetarian diets which contain small amounts of meat.”
So which is it? Is it vegan, vegetarian or semi-vegetarian? I believe it’s a semi-vegetarian diet. The reason is, the basis of the diet are plants, meaning vegetables and fruit. Rather than every meal having some source of animal protein, you have plant protein instead.
Plant protein can be anything from nuts, such as almonds, to seeds, such as sunflower seeds, or even beans, such as lentils. Here’s a great list of plant proteins from Nutrition Stripped.
So what does a day of plant-based eating look like? In our house, we start off with a plant-based Simply Be Good Smoothie. We will also have a bowl of Grain-free Granola from Minimalist Baker. For lunch we’ll have either a big salad full of vegetables and nuts, or soup, like Butternut squash. For dinner , we’ll either have brown rice pasta with kale, walnuts and tomato sauce, or spaghetti squash with zucchini, peppers and an avocado pesto sauce.
A couple of times a week we’ll have eggs for breakfast and for dinner, salmon, chicken or beef.
What is a vegan diet?
When you look up the definition of vegan on Wikipedia, this is what you’ll get:
“Veganism is both the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, and an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of animals. A follower of either the diet or the philosophy is known as a vegan.”
Right away you can see there is a total rejection of animal protein or products of any fashion. Vegans not only stay away from meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, they also do not consume honey, nor even wear leather or fur. It’s also for the ethical treatment of animals and the sustainability of the planet.
What are the differences between plant-based and vegan?
The main difference is, a plant-based diet allows you to eat animal protein occasionally, whereas a vegan diet does not. If you’re interested in trying a healthy diet without giving up animal protein 100%, a plant-based diet is for you. The other thing I like about the plant-based diet is, the quality of animal protein.
Grass-fed meat, organic chicken, pasture-raised eggs are all high-quality forms of animal protein. Is it more expensive than conventional? Yes, but remember, illness is more expensive than wellness in the long run. Can most people afford doing a plant-based diet? I would argue yes.
Which one is better?
I think people in the vegan community would say a vegan diet is better. You’re not just eliminating animal protein from your diet, but you’re protecting the welfare of animals and the planet. Based on that, a vegan diet seems like the way to go.
However, adopting a vegan diet for most people is challenging. For decades, we’ve been told we need to include animal protein in every meal. We used the Food Pyramid as a guide, which was first created in the early 90s. It was updated in 2005 and then replaced by MyPlate.
MyPlate is a huge upgrade from the Food Pyramid, but it’s not perfect. It lists protein as part of what you should eat for every meal, but doesn’t specify meat, which is good. Yet, it includes fruit, which we definitely don’t need to include in every meal and dairy as the main drink, referring to milk. So MyPlate is not perfect, but better.
The bottom line is, reducing your animal protein consumption is a good thing. It’s good for your health and it’s good for the planet.
Plant-based definition – Wikipedia
Veganism – Wikipedia
Diet High in Meat Proteins Raises Cancer Risk for Middle-Aged People – Scientific American
Food Pyramid – Wikipedia