What is veganism? Are there different categories of being vegan? What’s the difference between vegan and vegetarian? I’m sure one, if not all, of these questions have crossed your mind at one point. I get these questions a lot when talking with people about my vegan diet. In my own vegan journey, I have come across many forms of being vegan and vegetarian. I have also explored different categories of vegan. What I have listed below, is definitely not all of the categories for vegan and vegetarian diets. But it’s a good majority of them. So, to help, here is my breakdown of the different types of vegan diets, the difference between vegan and vegetarian, and what you can actually eat under these diets. Before moving forward, I must tell you that I am not a dietician. I do not know the life-long effects of these diets on the body (except for my own choice of being a gluten-free vegan), so reading and incorporating these diets into your lifestyle is at your own discretion and risk. Now let’s get started.
Vegetarians are individuals that elect to not eat any animal meats (or muscle tissues of an animal). These include: chicken breasts, rotisserie chicken, fish, pork, beef, etc.). Vegetarians do, however, eat products produced from an animal, including milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs. This kind types of vegetarians can also be called ‘Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians.’ ‘Lacto’ meaning dairy and ‘Ovo’ meaning eggs. I like to call this diet the “basic vegetarian diet.”
Vegetarian can be broken down even further. The different types of vegetarianism are:
Lacto-Vegetarians do consume dairy but not eggs (or any products that are made with eggs like mayonnaise, certain breads or pastas, or cookies and other desserts).
Ovo-Vegetarians do consume eggs (or products made with eggs), but do not consume dairy (or products made with dairy). These vegetarians also stay away from milk proteins (i.e. Casein).
Pescetarians choose to eat fish and no other animals. Only fish. Some Pescetarians choose to only eat fish because it provides them with essential omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids (i.e. salmon).
Pollotarians only eat chicken and other poultry (ex: turkey). Dairy and eggs are included in this diet. However, red meats are not apart of a pollotarian diet.
*Growing up, I was brought up as a “Pollo-Pesce-Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian.” I only ate chicken, turkey and fish (mainly tuna and salmon), eggs, and dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk, etc.). I ate this way because this is how my parents ate. My parents cannot digest “red meats,” we like to call them. This is the reason why I tell most people that my journey to becoming vegan was much simpler than most because I was already a type of vegetarian.
It doesn’t stop there. There are many different categories of vegan. I myself have dabbled in several different categories of veganism on my own journey, such as plant-based vegan and raw vegan, in which I describe below.
A vegan diet consists of eating NO animal meats or any products that come from an animal. This includes, but is not limited to, meats, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, or even honey. This is the basic form of vegan. The is made up primarily of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Ethical Vegans are those who are concerned with the ethical well-being of animals. So, their dietary choices and material good purchases respect this ideal. Ethical Vegans do not eat animals or products that come from an animal, but this goes even further to electing not purchase or use any products that are made from an animal. For example: leather, wool, and silk; or cosmetic products or even furniture that is made with a material that comes from an animal. This could even go as far as not wanting to attend certain events that use animals for entertainment purposes, like circus’ and theatrical productions.
Plant-based Vegans eat produce that is not processed and directly from mother earth. I like to describe the plant-based diet as eating foods that are in their purest form. Ultimately, this diet includes fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and other foods that come directly from the ground or a plant.
Raw vegans only eat plant-based foods that are raw or not cooked over 118 degrees fahrenheit. For my first few years as a vegan, I was mainly a raw plant-based vegan. I would soak my nuts and make my own nut milks and cheeses, and I would sprout my grains and legumes. Basically, you are eating food in its purest form. In this pure and uncooked form, foods are in their most nutrient-dense form (the full amount of their vitamin and mineral intake). When you cook food above 118 degrees, you end up cooking out some vital nutrients from the food. A raw plant-based diet, in my opinion, is the most nutrient dense of all the vegan and vegetarian diets.
Fruitarians are those who eat only fruits or foods that have fallen from a tree, i.e. nuts and seeds. I came across a lot of Fruitarians when I was researching vegan diets when I first started. I don’t know much about the health benefits of this diet, but I found it very interesting. I’ve read about individuals who have cured their acne by adopting a fruitarian diet (with little to no fats). This was mind-blowing to me.
I am living proof of this diet! It is possible. It’s was much harder when I first started 9 years ago. But now with so many people adopting the vegan lifestyle, there are so many more products that cater to those who are sensitive or allergic to gluten and so many more restaurants that cater to those who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease. First off, what is gluten? The Celiac Disease Foundation describes gluten as such, “Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheat-berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.” Not to worry though, there are many gluten substitutes that are absolutely delicious.
Unfortunately, most vegan meat substitutes contain gluten, particularly seitan and tempeh. But, there are a lot more gluten-free meat substitute options coming out in stores now a days, including gluten-free tempeh. Just make sure you read the ingredients label carefully.
There are plenty more categories of vegan. Trust me. But, the categories I have described above are the one’s I’m most familiar with and have come across most often. They say different types of veganism come and go, but I have a feeling these will always be the core categories.