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Perhaps to lose weight, choose a healthier lifestyle, religious beliefs, or become a PETA supporter, there can be numerous reasons why people opt to become or choose to be a vegan or vegetarian. Of course, you may have a completely different argument to want to be either one; health concerns being one of them. However, the point isn't to find out the "why", but "what". We wish to find out "what" makes someone a vegan or choose vegetarianism.

When your vegetarian diet contains a rich pattern that includes fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains, which in turn keep your heart and body healthy, it not only keeps you strong physically, but also makes emotional, psychological, and mental changes. In contrast, there are people who are strict vegans for ethical, health, environmental, and many more reasons. Many people, including myself for a long time, are under the impression that there is no difference between these two diets. Being either is a choice of lifestyle, as you are considered in two separate food groups. To help understand the actual contrast and significance between the two, first let's shed some light on both the definitions.

The Definitions

Many of us (at one point, including myself), don't really know what being either means. Of course, there are specific diet constraints that an individual has to follow. However, the line between "include" and "keep out" can be blurry. So, to help clarify the sometimes "unnoticeable" blur of vegan vs. vegetarian diet, the following definitions between both the food classes is illustrated.

Vegetarianism
This might be a simple one to understand, but there are many layers of vegetarianism. By definition, people who are vegetarian do not eat any kind of meat products (red meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, animal slaughter products) but at times will consume dairy and egg products. The diet also includes of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains. Besides the health reasons that drive people to adopt such type of living, vegetarianism is also provoked (in people) due to ethical, religious, political, cultural, and/or aesthetic grounds. Although, the concept of vegetarianism is pretty clear across the world, there are however, subcategories that divide it further on.

Pescatarian - A pescatarian is someone who abstains themselves from eating all kinds of meat and animal flesh foods. However, this distinction does not include consumption of fish. Seafood is included in the diet, minus the flesh of animals. Although, the term "pescatarian" isn't utilized so openly, and is unknown to most, many "meat-eating" people are adopting the diet in hopes of turning vegetarians. The diet allows in vegetables, nuts, fruits, grains, beans, dairy products, eggs, shellfish, and fish; it just won't include meat.

Flexitarian or Semi-Vegetarian - It sounds funny to hear someone say that he/she is a semi-vegetarian, but this term is quite popular. A new term for "almost" vegetarians, describes those who are under a mostly vegetarian diet and sometimes eat meat as well. A semi-vegetarian occasionally eats only fish and chicken (no red meat). The boundaries to this diet is flexible.

Lacto Vegetarian - This type of vegetarianism describes people who don't eat eggs, beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish, and other animal flesh products. As the name suggests, "lacto" means milk in Latin, so the basic consumption comes from eating dairy products. This includes milk, cheese, butter, cream, and yogurt.

Ovo Vegetarian - "Ovo" means egg in Latin; hence the diet consists of eggs while excluding meat and dairy products. The eggs are mostly preferred from free-range animals and not the caged ones.

Ovo-lacto Vegetarian - When you combine the lacto-vegetarian and ovo-vegetarian diets together, you get ovo-lacto vegetarianism diet of milk, butter, cheese, eggs, and other dairy products, while excluding meat products.

Veganism
A misunderstood fact, vegan is by far the most strictest vegetarian subcategory. Apart from veganism being a way of living, it covers the philosophical grounds as well. Vegan diet, also known as pure and complete vegetarian diet, strictly stays away from the usage of animals for food, clothes, and other functions. Also, dairy and egg products with processed foods such as gelatin is also excluded from the diet. Any type of raw vegan diet will consist of unprocessed vegan food(s) which then are heated above 115º F before consumption. The most common influences for becoming a vegan are health, ethical, moral, environmental, spiritual and religious values, along with animal rights and welfare issues.

Macrobiotic - Although, another sub-group or category of vegetarianism, macrobiotic can be considered as a sub-level or "cheat veganism" diet. This means, that you are a vegan as you consume unprocessed vegan foods, whole grains, sea vegetables, fruits, legumes, beans, naturally processed foods, and vegetables, but your diet also includes (occasionally) fish.

The Health Benefits

Now if you're wondering on how to make a decision between the two lifestyle choices, then perhaps the health benefits mentioned for both can help make things simpler. Apart from the classifications of food and diet, there are differences in health benefits as well.

Vegetarianism

• Helps lower blood cholesterol
• Less risk of heart diseases, strokes, and attacks
• Longer lifespan as compared to those who consume meat products
• Helps lose weight
• Less likely to get diabetes, gallbladder and gallstones issues

Veganism

• Improves cardiovascular health
• Healthy heart due to less fat and cholesterol in diet
• Lowers high blood pressure
• Helps fight Type 2 diabetes (according to American Diabetic Association)
• Prevents breast cancer, age-related macular degeneration, arthritis, cataracts, and osteoporosis

By understanding the difference of a vegan and a vegetarian diet, you too can opt to change or alter your current way of living. No matter which type of diet regime you go for, be sure to consult your doctor and research before becoming either one.