Your best friend just started the vegan diet. And your yoga teacher follows a strictly plant-based diet. You know that cheeseburgers are probably off-limits for both, but do you know what makes them different? (Or if they even are different?) We checked in with Nadja Pinnavaia, PhD, founder of plant-based meal delivery service and nutritional coaching platform Plantable, to find out.
Some vegans and plant-based eaters have different reasons for eating the way they do. According to Pinnavaia, “Veganism originally arose from the philosophy of not wanting to cause unnecessary suffering to animals.” People who are vegan for that reason, she told us, are called ethical vegans. On the other hand, “a plant-based diet originally arose from the health benefits associated with incorporating more plants into one's diet.”
Vegans avoid all animal products—no exceptions. Plant-based dieters, however, are more focused on eating real, unprocessed foods from plants. That means that someone who identifies as a plant-based eater predominantly eats plants but might eat an occasional piece of organic fish or free-range chicken.
Eating plant-based leaves less wiggle room for unhealthy foods. “The biggest difference between a whole food, plant-based diet and veganism is the quality of food,” Pinnavaia explains. “You can eat Oreos and French fries all day long and be vegan, but that would not be whole food, plant-based eating.” A plant-based diet, she stresses, “is devoid of added sugar and refined grains. Instead it’s a diet made up of whole grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. It would not contain highly processed, plant-based animal derivatives—like fake cheese.” This, of course, doesn’t mean all vegans eat Oreos and fries, but some are a little more lenient when it comes to junk food.