What is a Vegan?
Though some people think it’s a complicated diet because it’s considered the strictest of all the vegetarian diets, veganism is really very simple. In essence, it excludes meat, eggs, dairy products, and all other animal-derived ingredients. A vegan is a person who follows this way of eating, or to the diet itself.
At the strictest level, many vegans also do not eat foods that are processed using animal products, such as refined white sugar and some wines. Most vegans also avoid the use of all products tested on animals, as well as animal-derived non-food products, such as leather, fur and wool. These are the types of practices the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is usually working to end.
The vegetarian diet offers more options because there are several types of vegetarians. When most people think of vegetarians they think of Lacto-ovo-vegetarians: people who do not eat beef, pork, poultry, fish, shellfish or animal flesh of any kind, but do eat eggs and dairy products. “Lacto” comes from the Latin for milk, and “ovo” for egg. This is the most common type of vegetarian in North America.
Lacto-vegetarian is used to describe a vegetarian who does not eat eggs, but does eat dairy products. Many Hindu vegetarians are lacto-vegetarians who avoid eggs for religious reasons while continuing to eat dairy.
Ovo-vegetarian refers to people who do not eat meat or dairy products but do eat eggs. Some people are ovo-vegetarians because they are lactose-intolerant.
In addition to the previously mentioned traditional vegetarian diets, there are two other terms you may also hear mentioned.
- Pescatarian is a term used to describe those who abstain from eating all meat and animal flesh with the exception of fish. Although the word is not commonly used, more and more people are adopting this kind of diet, usually for health reasons or as a stepping stone to a fully vegetarian diet.
- Flexitarian/Semi-vegetarian is a term recently coined to describe those who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but occasionally eat meat.
Wondering About a Vegan Diet? – An infographic by the team at PETA