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Plant-Based vs. Vegan: What’s the Difference in 2024?

People eating at a restaurant - Plant-Based vs Vegan What's the Difference

Last updated on December 15th, 2023

Plant-Based vs. Vegan? I’m going to talk about the difference between the two in this post. 

There’s no question about it, the interest in plant-based diets and veganism has grown dramatically over the last few years. People who had never even heard of these diets just a few years ago are now fully onboard and following them. 

Many people use the terms ‘vegan’ and ‘plant-based’ interchangeably, and I can see why.

But they are not the same, they refer to different diets and lifestyles. Let’s get into what the key differences are between the two. 

What is a Plant-Based Diet?

A plant-based diet is just about the food, nothing more. It’s about what you eat and usually focuses on whole foods that are minimally processed plant foods. 

If you follow a plant-based diet you have a huge choice of foods to pick from for each meal. These include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. And from these foods, the number of meals you can make is pretty much endless!

People following this type of diet typically opt for plant-based proteins that include legumes, tofu, and tempeh. And they eliminate or drastically reduce animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs.

A plant-based diet is not necessarily a vegetarian or vegan diet, it’s not as strict as those diets because it may still include small amounts of animal products.

Follow a plant-based diet

Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

Let’s have a quick look at some of the most popular benefits of a plant-based diet because there are plenty. 

The good news is that any diet that is full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains has been said to lower the risk of chronic diseases. 

Researchers say plant-based diets could even lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. While it’s not a cure or a guarantee, the idea of potentially lowering the risk of these illnesses sounds good to me. 

Plant-based diets can also be really high in fibre and this is good news because including enough fibre in your diet can help regulate digestion and reduce the symptoms of IBS.

What is a Vegan Diet?

So, let’s move on to the vegan diet. A vegan diet removes absolutely all animal products. This, of course, includes meat, dairy, eggs, and even honey. Here’s the Vegan Society’s definition of veganism. 

It’s a more cut-and-dry diet than a plant-based diet this is because it completely excludes all animal products without exception. Now, I’m not saying someone following a vegan diet can never make a mistake and consume something that’s non-vegan but what a vegan ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’ eat is clearly defined.

The biggest difference though is that veganism is not just a dietary choice, but a lifestyle that works towards avoiding the exploitation and cruelty of animals in all areas of life. This includes every part of your day-to-day life such as clothing, household items, cosmetics, entertainment and anything else that involves animals.

Vegan vs Plant-based

Benefits of a Vegan Diet

Well, the health benefits of a vegan diet are similar to a plant-based diet because the diet itself is mostly the same. 

Like a plant-based diet, a vegan diet also includes foods that come from plants such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds

Vegan diets, just like plant-based diets tend to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol, which can help reduce the risk of heart disease. They’re also high in fibre and again just like plant-based diets, vegan diets have also been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, such as colon and breast cancer.

However, with vegan foods growing in popularity, it’s now easy to find plenty of unhealthy vegan foods! 

So, a vegan diet is not a guarantee of a healthy diet. 

In fact, often times you’ll find that people following a plant-based diet may actually be eating healthier foods than vegans, this is because they are probably thinking of their own health. Whereas people following a vegan diet and lifestyle usually do this to avoid harm to animals and are more likely to eat processed vegan food. 

What I’m saying is if you want to be a healthy vegan you definitely can be, but you need to limit the processed and unhealthy foods you eat.

Plant-Based vs. Vegan

So, to put it simply, the difference between a plant-based and a vegan diet is that vegans never eat any animal products whereas those following a plant-based avoid animal products in most of their meals.

Ethical and Environmental Considerations of Vegan and Plant-Based Diets

The health benefits are great but both plant-based and vegan diets also have strong benefits when it comes to ethical and environmental issues. 

Plant-based diets are often seen as a more sustainable option compared to a regular diet. This is because, for the production of food, they need fewer resources like land, water, and energy.

By reducing or even eliminating animal products altogether, plant-based diets can also help to lower the release of dangerous gasses and decrease the negative environmental impact of animal agriculture on our planet.

Veganism takes this a little step further because it doesn’t just help the planet. Vegans work towards eliminating the exploitation and suffering of animals too. Vegans choose to avoid animal products due to animal welfare issues as well as the environmental impact of animal agriculture.

Choosing the Right Diet for You

Deciding whether to follow a plant-based or vegan diet ultimately comes down to each individual, it’s a personal choice! 

It usually depends on how strong your feelings are about the ethical and environmental concerns of a regular diet. 

Some people may find it challenging to completely remove all animal products from their diet in one go. While others may feel passionate about avoiding all animal exploitation and therefore find the change easier because the motivation is there. 

Remember small steps are better than standing still – take a look at my post about part-time vegans

It’s important to note that both plant-based and vegan diets can be healthy if well-planned and balanced. 

But it’s essential to make sure that you’re getting enough of all the nutrients your body needs, including protein, iron, calcium, omega 3, and vitamin B12.


So, plant-based vs. vegan, let’s summarise, plant-based and vegan diets are similar because they both focus on plant foods that are not derived from animals. 

However, veganism takes it a step further by eliminating all animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs and honey. If done well, both diets offer fantastic health benefits, and they have a positive impact on both the environment and animal welfare.

The decision to follow a plant-based or vegan diet is the choice of each person individually and it depends on their own preferences and values. 

Whatever you choose, it’s important to prioritize nutrient-dense, whole foods and ensure that you’re meeting all of your nutrient needs.

When deciding what type of diet you’d like to follow it’s useful to have all the information. Check out these posts that might help – The 9 Best Vegan Omega 3 Supplements, The Best Vegan Iron Sources, and What Vegan Foods Are High in Protein?

Meet the Author

Author Bio - Sinead OCarroll - The Wondering Wandering Vegan

Meet Sinead O’Carroll: Vegan explorer, sustainability advocate and the founder of The Wondering Wandering Vegan. Embracing veganism since 2018 and vegetarianism since 2005, Sinead is armed with a Vegan Health, Nutrition and Lifestyle qualification, and is on a mission to share her passion for cruelty-free living. 

With a taste for adventure and a heart for eco-conscious choices, she’s here to prove that vegans never miss out on flavour, fun or style. Join her in enjoying the delights of a vegan-friendly world! 🌱✈️🌍
Want to know more? Check out Sinead’s About page here.

Follow me on Instagram to see all the delicious vegan food I find, the vegan and cruelty-free products I use and what I get up to as a travelling vegan.

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