It might be almost impossible to find a diet that dieticians, celebrities, healthcare practitioners, social media influencers, etc agree upon as a healthy one. Therefore, it is not a big surprise that plant-based diets have been gaining much attention. But many of us don’t know what a plant-based diet exactly is. There are no official or formal definitions for plant-based diets. However, most of the experts in nutrition and diets agree that a plant-based diet is one that mainly consists of food items that are sourced from plants.
As the working definition of a plant-based diet is open-ended, it can vary a lot depending on the person following it. Some may exclude all types of animal products and some may add animal foods sparingly to plant-based recipes. Based on this, plant-based diets can be divided into 4 main categories. Let us see what these are.
A vegan diet can be considered a completely plant-based diet that avoids all animal-based food items. This type of diet excludes meat, dairy, fish, and eggs. Many people choose this type of diet for reasons like the health benefits offered by the diet, environmental issues, and concerns about animal welfare.
Vegan diets are one of the most restrictive types of plant-based diets and these will be accompanied by many other lifestyle-related choices like avoiding using goods made by exploiting animals like wool and leather. Some of the food items that are prohibited on a vegan diet include meat, eggs, dairy items, honey, gelatin, some of the food coloring agents, and additives that are sourced from animals and insects.
Diets that fall in the vegan category can also differ from each other. For instance, there are vegans who follow a whole food plant-based diet, in which the emphasis is on minimally processed plant food items and avoids processed food items like sugars, refined grains, and oils.
The vegetarian diet is another popular form of a plant-based diet that is so much less restrictive than a vegan diet. A vegetarian diet permits all the food items in a vegan diet and restricts fish, meat, and seafood. However, depending on the type of vegetarian diet, it might allow some other animal products like eggs and dairy.
Vegetarian diets are much flexible when compared to vegan diets and can include a variety of food items from different groups. Usually, vegetarian diets fall under three categories. These are discussed below.
This is a vegetarian diet that allows having eggs. However, all dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, and ice cream are prohibited in this diet plan. Usually, this type of diet is followed by people who are allergic to dairy products, who do not like the taste of dairy items, or for environmental reasons.
Lacto Ovo Vegetarian
This is a type of vegetarian diet that restricts meat but allows eggs and dairy products. Usually, people choose this type of diet for health reasons. The decision can also be made because of environmental concerns.
This is a vegetarians diet that allows dairy products but restricts all types of food items that include eggs, egg whites, etc. This means products like mayonnaise and baked goods containing eggs are not allowed in this type of vegetarian diet.
A pescatarian diet can be compared to a vegetarian diet as it restricts all meat varieties except shellfish, seafood, and fish. However, like all types of plant-based diets, a pescatarian diet mainly includes food items that are sourced from plants. Many people who follow a pescatarian diet also include eggs and dairy products in their diet. You can find different variations of pescatarian diets.
People usually follow a pescatarian diet to increase the intake of omega 3 fatty acids or proteins. There are also others who choose to follow this diet for reasons like environmental sustainability and animal welfare. When following a pescatarian diet, you should be careful about exposure to seafood items that are contaminated with heavy metals. This is because large predatory fishes can have an increased chance of accumulating toxic metals like mercury, which can have a negative effect on your health if consumed too much. For this reason, it will be good for you to add a variety of fish to your diet and limit the use of fishes like marlin, shark, tuna, escolar, and swordfish.
This is the most flexible among all the types of plant-based diets. This diet is sometimes referred to as a semi-vegetarian diet and does not prohibit the use of any type of animal-based food. Even though this type of diet is built on plants, you can include small amounts of fish, dairy, meat, or eggs as desired. As restrictions are very low in this type of diet, many people planning to follow a plant-based food plan prefer to have this type of diet, which is not a surprise.