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A large number of people, of late, have grown aware of the ill effects of modern agriculture and are choosing to adopt a more ethical and environmentally friendly lifestyle. This has led to the popularity of many plant-based diets, which restrict the usage of animal-derived consumer goods. Not only are these diets free of animal cruelty and its negative effects on the environment, but they are also incredibly healthy. Veganism and plant-based diets are two such plant-based options. Although used synonymously to describe a diet free of animal products, veganism and plant based diets do have a slight difference conceptually. While one focuses on eating healthy, the other is more of a lifestyle choice that extends beyond food habits. Let’s take a look at the few differences between a vegan diet and a plant-based diet

What is Veganism and Vegan Diet? 

Coined by animal rights activist Donald Watson in 1944, the term “veganism” is used to describe a solely plant-dependent lifestyle. Vegans avoid the consumption of all animal-based products, including many animal-derived products like eggs, dairy or honey. They also advocate the exclusion of animal cruelty associated products, which include consumer goods like leather or fur. Many turn to veganism for ethical reasons and are strictly against animal exploitation. However, veganism doesn’t restrict the consumption of refined or processed foods, so being vegan doesn’t necessarily imply eating healthy. 

What is a Plant-based Diet? 

Introduced by American biochemist, Dr Colin Campbell, a plant-based diet entails the consumption of low fat and high fibre diet based on vegetables. As opposed to veganism, a plant-based diet focuses mainly on health benefits rather than ethical sentiments.

A type of plant-based diet that is largely popular nowadays is the whole foods plant-based (WFPB) diet. WFPB consists of natural and healthy foods derived from plants like fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seed and plant-based milks. Several studies have found a strong association between WFPB and the prevention of various chronic ailments such as Type 2 Diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer. All foods that are refined and processed, even if derived from plants, are excluded from this diet as they are known to cause inflammation and provide minimal nutritional value. 

How is a vegan diet different from plant based? 

You can be vegan and plant-based at the same time! The key difference between a vegan and plant based diet is the types of foods that can be consumed. A vegan diet can consist of any food item, natural or processed, as long as it is derived from a plant source. This includes foods like refined sugar and processed oils, which can be extremely unhealthy. Unlike the vegan diet, a plant-based diet is more holistic – only foods that are highly nourishing and provide significant health benefits are included. A plant based diet may allow the inclusion of some form of animal-derived produce like meat, poultry, eggs and dairy. The table below outlines the few differences in the food groups for a vegan and plant based diet: 

Food VeganPlant-Based
Milk and Milk ProductsNoMaybe
Oils YesYes (No in WFPB)
Highly processed YesStrict no
Whole grains and legumesYesYes


The bottom line is that a plant based diet focuses on eating healthy, hence may allow a few animal-based products. A vegan diet, on the other hand, is more of a lifestyle choice adopted by people who are against animal cruelty and hence doesn’t allow any animal-derived products. Irrespective of the fine details, adopting any of the plant-based lifestyles can prove to be beneficial.

Written by Dr. Sulagna Chakrabarti

Sulagna is a dentist by day and a writer by night. She has been moonlighting as a content creator since 2015. Ask her something random and there is a very, very high chance that she will contribute to the conversation.

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