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Difference Between A Vegan And Plant-Based Diet

There are so many people who are turning vegetarian for better health and for the love of animals too.(1) Thanks to this change, there are many plant-based options when it comes to food items available in grocery stores, fast food chains, public events and restaurants.

Many people do not like to be labeled as a vegetarian and choose other labels like “vegan” or “plant-based” to describe their lifestyle. For most of us, these two words mean the same. However, there is difference between the terms “vegan” and “plant-based,” which we will discuss in this article.

Difference Between A Vegan And Plant-Based Diet

The Origin of Plant-Based Movement 

Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” in 1944.(1) He was the founder of The Vegan Society and was also an English animal rights advocate. The term vegan means avoiding the use of animals for moral reasons. The practice of being a vegan is referred to as Veganism.(1)

The term “plant-based diet” was included with nutrition science by Dr. T. Colin Campbell in the 1980s to describe high fiber, low fat, vegetable-based diet, which centered on health and not so much on ethics.

Veganism is an umbrella term to describe a diet which excludes animal-derived foods items, such as cheese, poultry, fish, meat, eggs and other dairy products. A vegan diet consists of plant based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, seeds nuts and grains.

As time went on, veganism has developed into movement based on health and environmental concerns along with animal welfare and ethics.(2, 3)

Many people with the passage of time are becoming aware of the harmful effects the modern animal agriculture have along with the negative effects on health upon consuming diet rich in processed meat and saturated fats.(4, 5, 6) A survey has revealed that about 2% of Americans are vegan and the majority of them are Millennials.(7)

Many people are keen on cutting down their animal products consumption and try vegan or plant based diet without putting themselves in a specific category.

Vegan vs. Plant-Based: Learn the Difference 

What Does It Mean To Be A Vegan?

Veganism goes beyond just following a plant based diet, as it also involves lifestyle which one chooses to abide by. Being a Vegan means living a life which avoids not only consumption, but also the use and exploitation of animals as much as possible. Veganism also depends on a person’s choice but largely is concerned with the intent that minimal harm or no harm is done to animals via their lifestyle choices.

A vegan diet not only eliminates foods derived from animals, but also usually avoids the use of items, which were made using animal based products or were tested on animals. These items can consist of personal care products, clothes, accessories, household goods and shoes. For some hardcore vegans, this also means forgoing the use of immunizations or medications which have been tested on animals or are made of animal byproducts.

What is Meant by Plant-Based?

Plant-based term is often used in context of diet alone. The term plant based is used by individuals to show that they follow a diet which is completely or mostly derived from plants. However, there are quite a few individuals who refer to themselves as plant-based and continue to consume certain foods that are animal-derived. Whereas the term “plant-based whole foods” is used for a diet consisting of foods which are mostly made from whole plants, which are minimally processed or are raw.(8)

People who follow whole foods, plant-based diet will also not eat processed grains and oils, whereas people who are vegan or follow simply a plant-based diet will consume these foods.

The term “whole foods” is an important distinction which does not include processed foods that are vegan. A example would be some types of boxed mac and cheese, bacon, cheese slices, hot dogs and also “chicken” nuggets may that be vegan, but do not come under whole foods, plant-based diet.

Is It Possible To Be Both Vegan And Plant-Based?

Yes, a person can be both vegan and plant-based. There are many individuals who start being a vegan, by following a vegetarian diet for environmental or ethical reasons, then follow a whole foods, plant-based diet for better health goals.

On the flip side, some individuals start their health journey by consuming, plant-based whole foods and then transition into veganism by adopting the use of animals based products in their daily life or the use of products that were tested on animals that is eliminating animal products in other areas of their life also and not just from their diet.


There are increasing numbers of people who are opting to cut down or completely remove animal products from their diet. A few of them do not like to label themselves as anything; whereas some consider themselves in the category of plant based or being a vegan.

Being a vegan does not conform to only diet and extends to lifestyle choices, such as avoiding the use of products which are tested on animals or are derived from animals.  Some vegans also avoid animal products arising from a concern of any potential negative effects on the environment caused by the use of animal products.

Following a plant-based diet usually refers to strictly consuming a diet which is derived from plants with the absence of or limited products derived from animal. The meaning of whole foods, plant-based diet is avoiding the use of processed packaged foods and oils too.

The meaning of these two terms is fundamentally different; however, there are certain similarities, such as following plant based diet and being a vegan, both are beneficial for health. Regardless, more and more people are choosing to be vegan or plant based these days.


Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 23, 2022

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