The term "plant-based" gets thrown around a lot these days. It's often used interchangeably with "healthy," "nutritious," and even "vegan." But here's the reality: Plant-based and vegan diets are not actually synonymous. While vegan diets are generally plant-based, plant-based diets are not, by definition vegan. To offer some clarity, we tapped two registered dietitians to get the scoop on these popular diets—including what they are, what foods they include, and what benefits you can expect.
A plant-based diet predominantly consists of plants; most people use the term to refer to a 100 percent plant diet, but some people include small amounts of animal products. A vegan diet eliminates all animal products.
Animal rights activist Donald Watson coined the term “vegan” in 1944 to describe someone who fully abstains from all animal products for ethical reasons. It followed that a “vegan diet” completely eliminated animal-derived foods of all kinds, 100 percent of the time. Over time, more and more people have started to adopt the vegan way of eating for reasons other than animal welfare (such as health and the environment), and today “vegan diet” is commonly used to describe a diet that excludes animal products, regardless of motivation.
While a vegan diet is more specific in its definition, a plant-based diet is more flexible—and you can modify it to your liking, as long as plants are at the forefront. Both diets are full of nutritional benefits that we can all benefit from, so it really comes down to individual preference.
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