what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian-Know the difference

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what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

Have you ever confused a vegan and a vegetarian before?

Well most people do this on a daily basis, but do not worry I am here to help you understand what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian in the simplest way possible.

A little about me before we start:

  • I have been a vegan myself for over 8 years.
  • I transitioned from being vegetarian to a vegan in 2010.
  • Converted to a vegan diet to unclog my heart arteries. More about my story here.
  • I have been living as a vegan athlete for 8 years winning many national colors. (yeah this surprised people).
  • I have been helping people follow the vegan diet as I am also a dancing coach.

Now that you know a little a bit about me let’s continue in finding out the differences between the two plant based diets.

According to Havard Medical School about 2.5 million of those aged above 55 years in American have turned to a plant based diet (either vegan or vegetarian).

This just shows how much these diets have become popular and are increasingly becoming more popular over the years.

what is the difference between a vegan and vegetarian


As more people decide to move to these diets (the vegan and vegetarian diet) the more it will be important for people to be educated in knowing the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian diet so they can adopt it efficiently into their lifestyles.

The article will focus on what a vegan is and what they eat and also what a vegetarian is and what they eat.

The article will also talk about how the vegan and vegetarian differ.

Let’s start finding out the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian.

Plant based diet- The broad aspect

what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian


Before I talk about what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian let’s talk about the broader aspect of these diets as this will help you understand deeper about both these diets.

Both the vegan and vegetarian diet are well-known as plant based with both diets putting emphasis on fruits and vegetables.

The plant based diet has evolved a lot over the years into different categories but it still remains that the vegan diet originated from the vegetarian diet.

Both these plant based diets are said to give great health benefits to people who decide to consume them.what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

The benefits of both the diets are very good when it comes to health as the Havard Medical School stated that both these diets help people to lose weight, reverse heart disease, diabetes, you name it.

These plant based diets do not only help in health, but the benefits also range to environmental issues. (we will talk about this later).

In essence both a vegan and a vegetarian would focus on eating foods which do not come from animals directly and with a vegan going deeper in restricting even animal by-products.

A vegetarian- Who they are and their focus on food


To explain well to you this burning question: “what is the difference between a vegan and vegetarian”, I will start with describing what a vegetarian is.

The reason I am starting by describing what a vegetarian is comes from the fact that ,as I mentioned above, the vegan diet originates from vegetarian diet.

A vegetarian is a person who consumes only plant foods such as vegetables, fruits and animal by-products such as milk and cheese.

Types of vegetarians

Over the years some people became allergic to milk and other animal by-products (while being vegetarians) so a category of a vegetarian came to existence.

There are 7 types of vegetarians that have come to exist and they all still follow the vegetarian diet with just the elimination of certain foods.

Below are the types of vegetarians which exist:

  • Lacto-vegetarian

what is the difference between a vegan and vegetarian

Consumes these foods: Fruits, vegetables, milk, cheese and yogurt

Eliminates these foods: red meat, white meat and eggs.

  • Lacto-ovo-vegetarian

what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

Consume these foods: Dairy products, eggs, fruits and vegetables

Eliminates these foods: Red meat and white meat

  • Ovo-vegetarian

what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

Consume these foods: Fruits, vegetables and eggs.

Eliminates these foods:Red meat, white meat, fish.

  • Vegan

what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

Consume these foods: Fruits, vegetables only

Eliminates these foods: All dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, read meat and white meat.

We will still discuss this later though

  • Pollotarian

what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

Consumes these foods: fruits, vegetables, poultry and fowl.

Eliminates these foods: Red meat, seafood like fish.

This is is considered a semi-vegetarian diet though. I just had to include it.

Although there are other categories like pescatarian and flexitarian I did not include them since they are similar to the pollotarian by being semi-vegetarian as they include some sort of meat.

In this article it is all about plant based vegetarians.

A vegan- Who they are and their focus on food

what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

A vegan is a person who is similar to a vegetarian in that they eat fruits and vegetables, but they totally exclude any type of animal by-product whether it is dairy products or eggs. It is purely fruits and vegetables here guys.

This is considered the most strict diet due to the food selection.

In my article about the vegan diet for beginners I wrote about all the information you need to know about starting a vegan diet so you never go wrong with nutrition.

This information is very important if you are ready to start the diet or just need guidelines. You can read it here.

Types of vegans:

Just like the vegetarian diet it also has subcategories which are as follows:

  1. Detox vegan diet
  2. Raw till 4 diet
  3. Low carb vegan diet
  4. Whole foods Plant based diet
  5. SOS-free diet
  6. Engine 2 diet
  7. Junk food vegan diet
  8. The starch solution
  9. The 8/10/10
  10. Low fat raw vegan diet (the fruitarian diet)
  11. Esselstyn heart healthy diet
  12. Wholestarch low fat
  13. The Nutritarian diet
  14. High carb low fat diet
  15. Just vegan diet

For detailed explanation about each of these diets you can read my previous article about vegan diet for beginners.

Choice difference between a vegan and vegetarian

what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

There are broader reason for why people decide to be vegetarian and vegan and those normally tend to be linked with health such as loosing weight and reversing heart disease etc.

However, as to why people choose to be vegans can differ to those who opt to go vegetarian and I will talk about it below.

Reasons why people become vegetarians:what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

  • Health reasons (loosing weight)
  • Trends following
  • Religion/culture

Reasons people become vegan:

  • Moral
  • Chronic illnesses
  • Ethics
  • Health reasons
  • Trend following
  • Religition/culture

As you can see above the reasons are,to the large extent, very similar but you may have observed that the vegan reasons are more than the vegetarian’s, thus this is why it is a strict diet.

I have observed in my 8 years of being vegan that most of my friends or people I have met,become very hard core when in this diet because of the above mentioned reasons.

And you know the funny part?

Most of the vegans I have spoken to have said they have had more energy than ever since adopting this “strict” diet.

Please note: I am talking about people who follow the diet fully and are committed to it.

I am not talking about those who complain that it doesn’t work for them just because they were not 100% committed to learning about it.

Are you wanting to know the best guideline to becoming a vegan then check out this vegan diet for beginners article

It’s always the case if you are not committed to something ( whatever it is) it will never work for you and the benefits will be found only by those committed.

Dietary -The most important aspect of being a vegan and a vegetarian

Let’s face it.. Consuming a vegan and vegetarian diet can leave you with insufficient vitamins in your body,

but you if know what vitamins to focus it will be a walk in the park in adopting these lifestyles.

Let me list some vitamins you should also make sure you have enough of in these diets.what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian

  • Vitamin B-12
  • Calcuim ( specifically for vegans and some vegetarians)
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Protein (specifically for vegan and some vegetarians who do not eat cheese regularly)

So all vegans and vegetarians should always be aware to focus more on foods that produce these vitamins.

I do recommend a supplementing of these vitamins especially for vegans and I know this from experience since I am an athlete.

Take home message

Knowing what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian can help you understand the foods to eat especially when you are trying to tell people what to cater for you in an event or function.

This will eliminate a lot of disappointment when it comes to making sure you are sticking to the plant based diet.

There are many differences between a vegan and vegetarians such as the foods they eat and the reasons they choose to opt for these lifestyles respectively.

There are also a lot of similarities that exist like the health benefits you get by becoming a vegan or a vegetarian such as loosing weight and controlling acne and diabetes.

Having said both these lifestyles are a great choice for people who are ready to transform their health without a doubt.

I hope this article help you learn what is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian.

If you have any questions or any comments you want to add please do not hesitate to comment below I will be happy engage with you.

Reader Comments

  1. Jerimy

    Interesting article. I’m vegetarian (mostly vegan) and did not know that there was so much variety within the two higher level diets.
    Your personal story makes a compelling case for switching to a majority plant-based diet. There is lots of scientific evidence to back up your claims.

    In my case, with degenerative disease in my spine, one of the causes can be blocked blood vessels. The back doesn’t get much blood flow as it is, and when those little arteries clog up back there, the discs do not receive the nutrients that they need to repair. Switching to primarily plant-based hasn’t fixed my back pain because the damage has already been done, but it can help prevent further damage.

    Now I’m in my 40’s, so taking care of my heart is especially important as well.

    Thanks for the article!

    • Thabo Khoza

      Hey Jerimy

      What a great testimony I am sorry to hear that you have such a disease. I am glad you are managing it with the right diet especially at your age and I am sure it will give you a lot of benefits in the future.

      As long as you stick to the right information I am sure things will be better with your spine.
      Thank you for sharing your story

  2. Dalibor

    A lot of people confuses those two, or they not knowing enough on both. You explained it perfectly. As a passionate “meat eater” I think you are missing a lot, but I know also a lot can be compensate in different ways. It’s just my thought and I’m sure a lot of people won’t agree with me, but also a lot will 😀

    Nice article 🙂

    • Thabo Khoza

      Ha ha I buddy I use to feel like I was missing out when I started out but now I am at a stage where when I see meat I have no reaction at all :). At the end it is peoples preferences as long as it works for you because a meat diet nearly took my life.

  3. Todd P Matthews

    Once upon a time, I thought vegan and vegetarian was the same until about 2012, when I met a few people who were in the lacto and lacto-ovo categories, while another was a vegan.

    I never knew there was a name for someone who consumes poultry but not red meat, nor did I realize this was semi-vegetarian. I would be in the Pollotarian class since my red meat consumption is non-existent. I can’t even tell you the last time I consumed red meat.

    I’m also not a fan of seafood and haven’t consumed it in years, so Pollotarian suits me perfectly. But even so, my overall white meat consumption is between 3-5 ounces a day, sometimes not even that.

    • Thabo Khoza

      Hey Todd

      Wow I must say that you are following a very healthy diet and you are on the right track as that is all you need to be healthy. I am sure you are super healthy and very energetic, How are your energy levels?

  4. Max

    Very interesting read.

    I actually didn’t know there were different types of vegetarians. I think i could go without red meat and white meat but I would probably load up on seafood.

    • Thabo Khoza

      Yes you can absolutely do that and by doing that you would be following a Mediterranean diet which is the healthiest diet.
      This is also how I started out since I did not want to abandan meat totally when I started out.

  5. Rahye

    You really beat me at my game here, used to think I know all about being a vegan and a vegetarian. Most times i would say they mean the same thing.
    You know what, i totally agree with you, when a person follows the diet of either being a vegan or vegetarian, the body usually adjusts and the person would feel normal as every other person on other category of feeding.

    I would like to ask though, can a person who have never been a vegan or vegetarian all his life change at the age of 28 without any major health implications?

    • Thabo Khoza

      Hey man thanx for your feedback.
      I am glad to have explained well what a vegan really is since this is my life and I live this lifestyle.
      Yes it is possible to change to a vegan or vegetarian diet at any age. There are people in their 50s who still change their diet to a plant based one.

      However the key thing is to know the vitamins that you may lack. I can really say that for people who are old calcium becomes the major problem as the body is what it needs the most and so your bones can easily get damaged if you are not careful.

      People with arthritis can have a huge problem in this department.

      I hope I answered your question mate and thank you for the feedbacks

  6. Jon

    What perfect timing. My wife asked me the other day what the difference was between a vegetarian and a vegan, and I gave her an accurate answer for the most part, but not a complete one.

    You definitely provided a complete answer here. I particularly appreciated the further breakdowns. I had actually never heard of some, such as the Pollotarian!

    Great post, this one I’ll haver to bookmark.

    • Thabo Khoza

      Hey Jon

      Wow this is very wonderful news to hear that your wife was interested in the diet. I am glad you were able to give a good explanation to your wife.
      Yeah there are many types of vegetarian diet.
      I am glad you enjoyed the article and it helped you

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