Vegan food is often considered healthy. But nowadays there is an abundance of processed vegan junk food. All the big food manufacturers are making vegan products and jumping on the growing vegan popularity. Most are high in unhealthy fats, additives and heavily refined nutrient void ingredients.
Plant Based Diet
A plant-based diet is short for a whole food plant based diet. It’s focused on whole foods and excludes foods that aren’t healthy or not from plant sources. The kind of foods excluded is refined sugar, flour, additives and deep fried as well as animal products. A plant-based diet is focused on eating whole ingredients like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and avoiding anything heavily refined. Everything that is plant-based a vegan can eat, but not everything vegan is suitable for a plant-based diet.
Plant-based and Veganism Are Not Interchangeable
I understand the desire to have an alternative word to vegan due to the bad connotations. I did grow up vegan in the 80s and back then people looked at even vegetarians as if they came from space. But these two words do have different meanings and it’s beneficial to retain them.
Some of the most harmful foods for health can be considered from plants – like hydrogenated fats full of transfats and refined sugars. These certainly aren’t health foods so wouldn’t be part of a plant-based whole-foods diet.
On the cover of my book Healthy and Easy I deliberately wrote plant-based to show that it was healthy vegan food.
It’s very possible to be both plant-based and vegan but at the same time, and many are, but this doesn’t mean they are the same.
Plant-based diets are far more restrictive – they avoid any refined ingredients that aren’t beneficial for health such as sugars and oils. Plant-based is just about having pure unrefined food. There are many vegan cheeses out there but they often contain a plethora of unhealthy oils so aren’t suitable for a plant-based diet. My cashew cheese and all of my hard vegan cheese recipes are suitable for a plant based diet.
There are many health benefits of a whole food plant-based diet. The same can not be said for vegan junk food. People often talk about “vegan food” as if it’s something very special. However, no one eats deep-fried chips and ketchup saying “this vegan food is good”.
Many junk foods are naturally vegan just because it’s cheaper to use low-quality ingredients that are free of animal products and certainly aren’t healthy. A prime example of something “vegan” due to low-quality ingredients is Oreos. More information about palm oil products like Oreos later.
Veganism is a Lifestyle
It’s important not to class veganism as a diet when it’s a lifestyle. It’s currently very popular and fashionable and this could all change in the future. Veganism isn’t just a fad diet.
The definition of veganism according to the Vegan Society is “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”
Plant-based is a Diet
Someone plant-based maybe just interested in the health benefits so could avoid eating all animal products but still buy a fur coat.
There are many different splinters of veganism – raw vegan, fruitarian, high carb low fat, low carb high fat and so on.
It’s important to keep the distinction between plant-based and vegan as they are two different things and it’s a useful to have different names.
Palm oil – Vegan or Plant-based?
Palm oil is very controversial as huge amounts of the rainforest are chopped down each day in order to make way for palm oil. The rainforests are home to some of the most biodiverse nature and the long-term effects for the planet could be catastrophic. As it’s very high yielding it can be lucrative to grow. Many common products from soaps to biscuits contain palm oil.
Palm oil could be argued as not being vegan due to the damage of deforestation. Some believe sustainable palm oil is beneficial as it’s so high yielding and if grown correctly reduces the amount of land needed, this was the stance of an exhibition in the Eden Project Rainforest biodome.
Some products are “accidentally vegan” meaning that they weren’t designed to be vegan but just be coincidence are. These products are usually very low quality and almost always use the cheap unsustainable refined palm oil that is neither healthy nor minimising cruelty to animals. Making it not vegan either.
Veganism is a journey and many non vegans are always trying to find fault as to why a vegan isn’t perfect. This isn’t helpful at all – we are all learning and try to do the best we can.
Vegan Not perfect
One thing many vegans will find is someone questioning their veganism. “What about x or y?” this probably comes from a place of defensiveness and take you not eating a food as an attack on their lifestyle. Veganism is about minimising cruelty to animals, not being perfect.
It’s virtually impossible to avoid everything that might contain a tiny amount of animal products (roads and tyres for instance) but what matters is people are doing their best.
Small changes made by millions of people add up to a big change.
- Veganism and plant-based are two different things.
- Veganism is a lifestyle concerned with excluding all forms of cruelty where possible.
- Plant based is a diet concerned with not eating animal products or anything refined or otherwise not beneficial for health.
- It’s not helpful to use them interchangeably as it dilutes the terms.
What do you think of my thoughts? Have I missed something? Please comment down below as would love to hear what you think, I’m apprehensive about posting this but do want to share my view on the issue of plant based and veganism being two different things.