What exactly is a plant-based diet, anyway? Is that the same as a vegetarian diet? Or a vegan diet? You probably don’t know the difference unless you follow one of these diets yourself or have a friend or family member that follows one. Someone may choose to follow one of these diets due to ethical ideology, health reasons, or personal preference. Whatever the reason, here are the obvious similarities and distinct differences between plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan diets.
A plant-based diet has the broadest definition of all three diets. In order for a diet to be called plant-based, you simply need to focus on eating plants. A plant-based diet doesn’t even have to exclude meat. You can still partake in a plant-based diet and eat meat occasionally. You can also refer to vegetarian and vegan diets as plant-based. So while not all plant-based diets are vegetarian or vegan, all vegetarian and vegan diets are plant-based.
Types of Vegetarian Diets
Vegetarians don’t eat any meat, but they’re usually open to consuming animal by-products such as dairy, eggs, and honey. There are several variations of the vegetarian diet: A lacto-vegetarian eats dairy, an ovo-vegetarian eats eggs, and a pescatarian doesn’t eat any meat except for fish.
The vegan diet is the strictest of the three. Vegans don’t eat any meat, but they also don’t eat any animal by-products. Many people who follow a vegan diet also follow what is called a vegan lifestyle, which The Vegan Society defines as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.” People who follow a vegan lifestyle won’t wear leather/silk/wool, avoid products that are tested on animals, and try to eliminate animal products from all aspects of their lives.
It might seem that the more restrictive your diet is, the healthier it is, but that’s not always the case. A person can still eat unhealthy, fatty, or carbohydrate-heavy foods even while technically on a vegan diet.
The Healthiest Diet for Digestion
The healthiest diet plan for your digestion includes a lot of fiber, particularly from fruits and vegetables, drinking a lot of water, and eating foods that contain probiotics. It limits fat, and if you choose to consume meat or animal by-products, they should be lean. A whole foods plant-based diet might be best for digestive health, and it is based on eating a majority of whole plant foods and can contain a small amount of meat, fish, or eggs.
Following a diet like the one described above can also be beneficial for resetting an unhealthy gut.
Generally speaking, your GI health depends on your consumption of whole foods instead of heavily processed foods. Whether or not you choose to consume meat or animal by-products is not a conclusive forecast of your digestive health. If you’d like to discuss your GI health with one of our fellowship-trained gastroenterologists, call Digestive Health Associates of Texas today to schedule an appointment!