What’s The Difference Between Vegans, Vegetarians And Pescatarians?

vegan vs vegetarian vs pescetarian

There’s a huge difference between these 3 different diets.

Yet, there’s also a major commonality among them.

Whether you’re vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian — there’s absolutely one thing you avoid, which is eating meat from land animals.

But what about things like yogurt, cheese, fish or white chocolate?

Learning the difference between them is pretty simple, but adopting each diet requires care and a certain amount of research. This is especially true for veganism.

Let’s dive a little deeper and understand what each diet means, and why do people adopt them anyway.

What Is The Core Difference?

While principles and beliefs play an important role in the decision to pursue each diet, let’s not forget that within diets like veganism and vegetarianism there are sub-diets.

In veganism, you have people following a whole-foods diet, a raw vegan diet or a frugivore diet.

While for vegetarianism, you’ll find ovolactovegetarians, lacto-vegetarians, and ovo-vegetarians.

Pescatarians, on the other hand, are considered vegetarians who eat seafood. 

The Intricacies Of A Vegan Diet

From the names I’ve mentioned, you can probably pinpoint the differences between each diet, but I’m going to lay them out anyway.

There are three (main) diets very well known among vegans. The whole foods plant-based diet, the raw vegan diet, and the frugivore diet.

Whole Foods Plant-Based Diet.

The whole foods plant-based diet is about emphasizing whole ingredients and minimizing processed foods to achieve optimal health.

Plus, like any vegan diet, the biggest ‘precursors’ lie in the wish to save animals and promote environmentalism.

This diet focuses mainly on minimally processed foods (you can opt for organic ingredients if you decide so), and it is specifically plant-based.

Based on the research available, a whole foods plant-based diet promotes overall health by significantly decreasing the risks of heart disease, lowering the risk of cancer, reducing cognitive decline and reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

The effects of a vegan diet go beyond just health and show how a 70% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and 50% less water use could be achieved by adopting a sustainable, plant-based diet.

Raw Vegan Diet.

A raw vegan diet has gained popularity over the years. Like every vegan diet, it excludes all foods from animal origin.

But the biggest difference lies in the concept of raw foodism, where the food is either completely raw or heated at temperatures below 104–118°F (40–48°C).  A raw vegan diet is rich in fruits, seeds, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and sprouted grains.

The notion behind this diet is that minimally cooked food can sustain more nutrients than foods cooked at high temperatures. That is something I don’t contest because boiling broccoli will disperse its nutrients.

When you type down “broccoli” on google, you’re given different nutritional values based on the cooking method you choose.

You’ll notice that cooked broccoli has reduced nutritional value.

Sometimes people are not familiar with the food you CAN’T EAT when following this particular diet.

To give you an idea, here are some of the foods you must avoid:

  • Pasteurized juices
  • Coffee and tea
  • Alcohol
  • Processed foods and snacks, such as chips and pastries
  • Cooked fruits, vegetables, grains and legumes
  • Baked goods
  • Roasted nuts and seeds
  • Refined oils
  • Salt
  • Refined sugars and flours.

As you can see, this diet is somewhat more restrictive than a whole foods plant-based diet. While you can acquire plenty of Iron and Iodine from foods like beans and salt on a whole foods diet, the same can’t be said for a raw vegan diet.

Since salt is pretty much avoided, people on a raw vegan diet must find a different source of iodine to include in their diet (like algae). This being said, a lot of the pros you can find on a whole food plant-based diet, you can find them on a raw vegan diet.

The cons, however, might be more extended than a whole foods-based diet in the sense that it goes beyond just suppressing B12 and Vitamin D needs. While calcium exists in seeds and some nuts — there’s not as much variety and thus you need to account for that in your diet.

Additionally, and this is applicable for women, following a long-term raw vegan diet may be more likely to experience amenorrhea.

Frugivore Diet

The frugivore diet is probably the strictest of vegan diets. The bulk of the calories comes from fruits, while occasionally raw vegetables enter the mix.

I’m not sure how I feel about this diet because it challenges how I view nutrition.

For me, a good diet requires a balance. How can you possibly get a whole array of nutrients by eating mostly fruits? What about iron and omega 3 ALA?

Fruits are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These include vitamin C, potassium and folate. They all play an important role in our body and may even aid with the absorption of other nutrients. (Such is the case with Vitamin C and calcium)

Most studies point to the health benefits of fruits as being outstanding. Fiber, for example, can reduce cholesterol levels and promote weight loss. This is particularly true for fruits with skin because they contain more fiber and antioxidants.

What if we consume too much fruit? Isn’t there anything bad about it?

No conclusive data suggests that fructose (the sugar within fruit) taken in excess is bad for the human body. Some testes were made, however.

Seventeen people were made to eat 20 servings a day of fruit. And in spite of the high fructose content of this diet, the researches reported no adverse effects for body weight, blood pressure, and insulin and lipid levels after three to six months. Most recently, this experiment was repeated and researchers found no adverse effects on weight or blood pressure or triglycerides, and an astounding 38 point drop in LDL cholesterol.

This being said, there’s a lot of controversial data regarding excess consumption of fructose to understand whether or not a frugivore diet is a way to go.

The Three Types Of Vegetarians

There are three types of vegetarians. We have Ovo-Lacto-vegetarians, Lacto-vegetarians, and Ovo-vegetarians. They all avoid meat and fish.

  • Lacto-Ovo-vegetarians: This group eliminates meat, fish, and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products.
  • Ovo-vegetarians: They avoid meat, fish, poultry, and dairy products but allow eggs.
  • Lacto-vegetarians: They avoid meat, fish, poultry, and eggs but allow dairy products.

While I believe vegans adopt a vegan diet for reasons like animal cruelty and the environment, vegetarians, on the other hand, may share the same concerns but it may also come down to how their body reacts to meat.

This is also the most common path people take before completely hopping on a vegan diet. There’s a need for gradual change, by getting our bodies to slowly adapt. And I want to support you through that transition.

If you’re sitting on the fence and don’t know how to go about veganism, here is a suggestion to get you started: The Free 7-Day Vegetarian Meal Plan.

The Pescatarian Diet

A pescatarian is simply someone who adds fish and seafood to a vegetarian diet.

In most cases, people want to contribute and diminish the environmental impact caused by animal agriculture… and in other cases, people can’t simply live without appealing to their taste buds.

This diet is often crossed as a ‘form’ of vegetarianism, but there are still acts of animal cruelty involved if we consider fish as being living creatures. Simply put, the premise of a pescatarian diet is to ADD fish and seafood to a vegetarian diet, and not meat.

Even though this is somewhat odd since we’re saying fish is not meat. But does fish not contain any meat at all?

Still, I applaud the effort though, because a pescatarian diet can cause 46% less greenhouse gas emissions than a diet where people at least one serving of meat a day. Aside from the impact on the ocean’s ecosystem, there are a lot of things pescatarians are preventing:

  • They’re refusing to support the raising of livestock.
  • They’re refusing to support factories that offer terrible working conditions.
  • And there’s the fact you could feed the whole wide world with grain… if we cut back on the resources to grow meat.

That said, aquaculture and overfishing can also be problematic. HOWEVER, if you’re a pescatarian because you can’t fathom the idea of any animals being exploited and feeling pain… know that scientific studies exist to prove that fish do feel pain.

With the way the population is increasing, overfishing is an inevitable reality, because the rate at which supply needs to meet demand is jumping through the roof. Today, around 85% of global fish stocks are over-exploited or depleted.

We can’t simply neglect the negative impact this has on our planet.

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About the Author: Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than three years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!