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mom and daughter preparing a saladWhether out of concern for animals, sustainability or your own health, interest in vegan and plant-based diets has picked up steam over the past few decades. Five percent of Americans consider themselves vegetarian and two percent follow a vegan diet.

At the same time, growing information about the effects of the meat industry on the planet has fueled demand for alternatives. Back in 2018, plant-based meats brought in over $3 billion in sales.

While the terms sound similar and are often used interchangeably, plant-based and vegan apply to two separate lifestyles and diets. To avoid confusion, here’s what you should know.

What Defines a Vegan Diet?

A vegan diet involves eliminating all sources of animal and animal-derived products, starting with meat and fish and extending to dairy, eggs and honey.

Many people consider veganism a lifestyle beyond diet, abstaining from any animal-based products like leather and silk, as well as those tested on animals.

“Vegan” entered the diet vernacular in 1944, introduced by animal rights advocate Donald Watson to describe someone who avoids all animal-based and derived products.

While plants compose much of the typical vegan diet, “vegan” is not synonymous with “healthy”. In fact, veganism includes certain processed, high-calorie and high-sodium foods.

What About Plant-Based?

“Plant-based” is a more ambiguous phrase applying to a diet made up primarily of unprocessed, minimally altered plant-based sources. This can be 100 percent plant-based or may be complemented by animal products, such as meat or dairy.

Considering this:

  • Pure plant-based and whole-foods diets are often vegan.
  • Most plant-based diets focus on the consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds, whole grains and plant-based oils like olive and avocado in unadulterated forms.
  • Many people have been adopting a plant-based diet to reduce their carbon footprint.
  • More processed plant-based ingredients like white flour, oils and refined sugar are excluded as part of a plant-based diet.
  • Debate surrounds what constitutes plant-based foods. Brands manufacturing veggie burgers and meat alternatives from soy or pea protein use this label, while whole-foods diet followers claim this practice is deceptive due to how the source is altered.

While visibility around plant-based diets continues to grow, a former researcher for the National Institutes of Health named T. Colin Campbell started using the term around 1980 to describe a vegetable-based, high-fiber and low-fat diet.

Following Vegan and Plant-Based Diets

Despite their differences, vegan and plant-based diets often become restrictive. Individuals considering these choices are advised to:

  • Supplement with vitamin B12, a nutrient often obtained through animal products. Deficiencies can lead to cognitive and nervous system health concerns.
  • Monitor their calcium intake, ideally through supplements and fortified sources.
  • Consume enough protein from tofu, ground soy, beans or another source.

Our vegan menu at Colony Diner accommodates both vegan and plant-based diets! Explore all offerings today.