Vegetarian? Pescetarian? Vegan? What’s the difference?
Ever wonder what the differences between vegetarianism, pescetarianism, and veganism are? Let’s talk about that here!
The classic meatless diet that everyone knows and has heard about—vegetarianism—is pretty self-explanatory. Vegetarians avoid any and all consumption of food items directly taken from animal slaughter. Many people choose this way of life because they think it's the right way to eat, but many others do it because they want to be healthier. The diet itself is pretty simple. The most important part of the diet is to stay away from meat and poultry. To make up for the lack of protein caused by not eating meat, vegetarians choose beans, legumes, and mushrooms as other protein sources. This is especially important as many vegetarians also reduce or remove eggs and dairy from their diets, though these are not directly created from animal slaughter. If you ever decide to try and become a vegetarian, it would probably be beneficial to start slowly by cutting meat portions and replacing them with mushroom and vegetable dishes. However, eggs and dairy should remain for the sake of meeting protein requirements.
Pescetarianism is vegetarianism’s more lax little brother. In contrast to vegetarianism, pescetarianism allows for seafood, dairy, and eggs to be included in the diet. In a sense, this is a less restrictive “meatless” diet (if you don’t count fish as meat). This is more of a health-based dietary restriction, as ethically, it doesn’t make much sense to exclude fish as an animal. This can be beneficial for everyone, as red meat is linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer. Studies show that there might be health benefits to reducing animal meat consumption, especially red meat like beef and lamb. Pescetarian diets include fish meat and seafood, which helps people get enough vitamins and minerals like vitamin D and iodine, which are important for the body to work well. In addition, fish and other types of seafood can be rich in protein, which fills in the gaps left by eliminating meat in its entirety.
In comparison to the other two diets discussed, veganism is the most restrictive of the bunch. It’s more of a lifestyle than a diet, as aside from eliminating all animal meats from the diet, veganism also calls for an abstention from purchasing and using any and all animal-based or animal-tested products. In contrast to vegetarianism and pescatarianism, the commitment to a diet and lifestyle like veganism calls for huge efforts to completely change one’s lifestyle. Products like butter, milk, and other forms of dairy are avoided as they come from cows. Eggs and foods that use them are also avoided. In addition, other commercial products like makeup, soaps, and shampoos, that go through animal testing for safety assessment are avoided at all costs. One would need a steadfast ethical and moral inclination for animal rights in order to 100% stick to a lifestyle like veganism.
The various diets and lifestyles discussed aren’t from everyone. In increasing restrictiveness, pescetarianism, vegetarianism, and veganism are all heavy commitments that need good amounts of motivation and enthusiasm in order to truly integrate them into one’s lifestyle.
While on the surface, these diets may seem to be straightforward and outright “healthy,” there is much preparation needed before one can safely transition towards any of these restrictive diets. With vegan and vegetarian diets especially, one can run the risk of having vitamin B12 deficiency, as it comes exclusively from meat sources. Pescetarians do not face this problem as some forms of animal protein still exist in their diets. In addition, vegans are also more likely to be deficient in important minerals like iron, zinc, etc. Thus, they will need to augment their diets with multivitamins and other dietary supplements.
While daunting at first glance, these diets have a lot going for them! Integrating vegetarianism, pescetarianism, or veganism into your life may help you in many ways, from your health to your sense of morality. It won’t hurt to give it a shot!