Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian: What’s the Difference

Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian: What’s the Difference

Ever since it emerged that eating whole and organic foods is better for our long-term health than wolfing down processed junk, there has been a proliferation of all manner of 'dietary religions' and factions. Chief among these are the three main ones - vegan, vegetarian, and pescatarian. Each of these represent a unique ideology of what to include in one's plate and what to leave out by all means if possible. What's more, it does not just stop there - others won't even touch the by-products or extracts of what they believe they shouldn't eat. A vegan, for instance, will steer clear of biscuits made from animal-sourced ingredients (like honey) even though the biscuits are not exactly a direct animal product.

For someone who is green to these new-found eating habits, all these terms can be confusing and, admittedly, hard to know where to draw the line. In the vegan vs vegetarian supremacy battles, for instance, one would struggle grasping what exactly is considered 'vegan-friendly' but not necessarily 'good for vegetarians' . Pescetarians don't have it any easier either - it's difficult to know whether eggs (part of poultry) can be included in your diet when the entire philosophy of your eating habits is based on relying on fish only for your protein needs.

To clear the air and iron out the kinks, here is a detailed vegetarian vs vegan vs pescatarian guide.

What is the Difference Between Vegan and Vegetarian?

what is the difference between a vegan and vegetarian diet

At this juncture, it is likely that you may be wondering, 'what's a vegan vs vegetarian?' Especially considering that both factions choose not to include meat in their diet. However, there are several clear distinctions between the two closely-related dietary groups.

For starters, it's obviously clear that both of them don't consume meat directly. This includes bones, soup made from bones or direct meat products such as sausages, ham, bacon, loganiza, hamburgers and the like. Both vegetarians and vegans will prioritize getting the bulk of their protein needs from organic and plant-based sources such as legumes, lentils, tofu, quinoa, soy and the likes.

So, is vegan and vegetarian the same thing? No, not at all. You see, while both groups abstain from eating meat and fish directly, veganism is a bit stricter in that it excludes honey, eggs, dairy or any other by-products (however remote) of animal-sourced ingredients. This goes as far as staying away from leather goods and silk. As you can see, the definition of vegetarian vs vegan is a little confusing as one can be a vegetarian but not necessarily a full-swing vegan and still need to order a vegan-friendly burger whenever they are eating out.

Perhaps the difference between vegan and vegetarian becomes much clearer when listing down what each of these factions can or cannot eat. According to the Vegetarian National Society, they do not consume the following product or direct products of animal slaughter:

  • Insects
  • Fish and shellfish (wildly caught or otherwise)
  • Poultry and by-products of poultry such as duck, turkey or chicken
  • Gelatine, rennet and other types of directly-extracted animal proteins
  • Meat, such as pork, beef, and game
  • Fats or stock that are derived directly from animal slaughter

Strict vegans will even take it a step further and avoid using byproducts of animal-derived goods such as beeswax, silk, wool, tallow-containing soaps and candles, casein-containing latex, and cosmetics/products borne out of tests carried out on animals. This is why many vegans prefer to use vegan vitamin A drops rather than capsules that may contain animal-derived gelatin. This includes:

  • Honey
  • Eggs
  • Dairy products such as cheese, yoghurt and milk.

When it comes to vegetarianism and fish, the narrative remains the same; they don't eat fish or any fish-derived products. Having said that, vegetarians ordinarily consume a rich variety of nuts, seeds, grains, pulses and vegetables, in addition to the 'meat substitutes' that they derive from these types of foods.

Veganism, on the other hand, is borne out of the morality and belief that exploitation and any form of cruelty to domestic or wild animals is fundamentally wrong. As such, vegans go purposely out of their way to avoid consuming or using anything derived from animals. This includes all what a standard vegetarian does not eat in addition to the following;

  • Dairy products
  • Honey
  • Eggs
  • Dietary supplements made from animal products

What's more, strict vegans will even a step further and avoid using byproducts of animal-derived goods such as beeswax, silk, wool, tallow-containing soaps and candles, casein-containing latex and cosmetics/products borne out of tests carried out on animals.

What Is a Pescatarian?

what is the pescatarian diet

Going by the most basic pescatarian definition, these are individuals who adhere closely to the vegetarian diet that eschews consumption of poultry and meat but will still consume fish and fish-sourced supplements. In other words, the only difference between a pescatarian vs vegetarian is that the former adds fish to his diet but abstains form a majority of the other things that vegetarians do not partake in such as poultry, meat and products made from poultry/meat such as broths, gelatin and lard. It's not a surprise, therefore, that a pescatarian diet is sometimes referred to as a semi-vegetarian diet.

Given the above mentioned differences, a pescatarian food profile is a bit flexible and more accomodating compared to that one of a strict vegan. However, a pescitarian diet predisposes one to an increased risk of consuming mercury or heavy metals given its fish-heavy nature. For this reason, experts often recommend pescatarians to limit their intake of large sea fishes such as shark, king mackerel, swordfish, tuna and shellfish due to the heightened probability of them being contaminated with mercury. Instead, they are advised to prioritise smaller freshwater fishes like the tilapia, nile perch and catfish.

So, do pescetarians eat dairy or eggs? Certainly. Given that pescatarians are essentially vegetarians who also eat fish, they consume dairy and dairy-sourced products. In fact, the standard pescatarian diet consists of vegetables, milk, eggs, legumes, nuts and a variety of seeds. So, yes, we can confirm that pescatirans eat eggs.

That being said, there's a new rise of dairy free pescatarians that are redefining the intricacies of what is a pescatarian. This new faction does not consume dairy products, especially processed ones like yoghurt, cheese, and ghee.

Are There Any Benefits of Vegetarianism, Veganism or Pescetarianism

all benefits of vegetarianism

A plant-based diet has for generations been associated with a number of unique health benefits that meat-eaters miss out on. If done right and consistently, it opens up a number of valuable upsides such as;

  • Less tissue inflammation
  • Better control of blood sugar
  • Better control of blood pressure
  • Reduced blood cholesterol levels

These pointers may not look as much in the short-term but have been linked to improved heart health, a lessened risk of developing diabetes and fewer chances of suffering from specific types of cancer in the long run. What's more, in direct comparison to those who eat meat regularly, vegans and vegetarians ordinarily consume less cholesterol and saturated fat. Instead, since they have to rely on plants for their energy and protein rations, they tend to eat more vitamins like E and C, plant fiber, phytochemicals, magnesium and potassium. All of this often translates to better cardiac and general health overall.

Pescatarians, specifically, have an added benefit of extracting ample omega-3 fatty acids from their fish-heavy diets. Bear in mind that these acids are known for their legendary anti-inflammatory and heart-protective properties. Besides, considering these are essential components critical for the maintenance of superb cardiovascular health that the human body is unable to make on its own, supplementation is necessary for those who don't get to eat fish on a regular basis.

The real advantages of plant-based diets are, nonetheless, felt when it comes to weight loss. Given that vegans hardly consume any junk or processed food in a bid to steer clear of animal products, it then goes without saying that keeping your waistline within a certain bracket of inches is easier for those who subscribe to this stricter version of vegetarianism.

Risks of a Vegan or Vegetarian Lifestyle

health benefits and risks of a vegan diet

As much as a pure plant-based diet is lauded for being among the healthiest and least inflammatory in its class, it does not come without its own set of unique risks. First, by excluding entire food groups like fish, milk, meat and the likes, you are setting yourself up for missing out on a number of crucial essential micronutrients such as zinc, iron and vitamin B12. Therefore, without careful supplementation using vegan-friendly food additives, you could be at risk of bearing the full brunt of a number of serious medical conditions associated with the deficiency of such important nutrients.

Speaking of supplementation, we would recommend the following gems to be added to your eating routine if you are a vegan or a strict vegetarian who eschews animal products.

Another common concern regarding pursuing a pure vegetarian and vegan lifestyle that does completely away with animal protein sources stems from the fear that a person's protein intake will be affected. As you may already be aware, proteins are the body's chief building blocks that are absolutely crucial for properly-functioning bodies. And as much as plant sources can substitute meat, eggs or milk, it can prove to be difficult for the strictest of vegans. It will require meticulous meal-planning and a real effort to ensure that your plant-based diet is furnishing you with the same amount of protein as a standard meat-based eating routine.

On the brighter side, since red meat, fish and poultry can be marginally pricier than legumes or nuts, you can eat healthier and less inflammatory meals for cheap by adhering to a 100% vegan eating regimen.