Is it okay to be vegetarian, not vegan?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “Is it okay to be vegetarian, not vegan?” and will discuss the difference between vegetarian and vegan.

Is it okay to be vegetarian, not vegan?

Yes, it is okay to be vegetarian, not vegan. Vegans and vegetarians abstain from eating meat in their diets. In contrast, veganism is stricter and does not allow for the use of any goods derived from animals, including dairy, eggs, honey, and even leather and silk.

There has been an increase in the popularity of veganism and vegetarianism. However, the contrasts between these two diets may be a bit puzzling for some individuals, especially because vegetarianism has various varieties.

Vegetarian and vegan diets are food selection strategies based on mainly ethical, but also health-related aspects. Originally supposed to simplify one’s daily food choices, they might complicate and even strain one’s eating behavior due to the development of more rigid rules and an inability to remain flexible in one’s eating habits (1).

In addition, some authors include the term orthorexia nervosa to describe the fixation on health-conscious eating behavior. The ongoing mental preoccupation with healthy nutrition, overvalued ideas concerning the effects and potential health-promoting benefits of certain food and rigid adherence to self-imposed nutrition rules as characteristics of orthorexic eating behavior (1).

What exactly is vegetarianism?

Vegetarians, according to the Vegetarian Society, are those who refrain from eating animal products or their byproducts. A vegetarian is someone who does not eat any animal products: chicken, turkey, and duck as well as fish and shellfish invertebrates. Protein stock and fats derived from slaughtered animals, such as gelatin and rennet

As a result, many vegetarians eat animal byproducts that do not need slaughtered animals. Among them are: dairy goods such as milk and cheese, as well as honey, eggs. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, cereals, and pulses are often consumed by vegetarians as well as “meat alternatives” derived from these dietary categories (1).

Some of the most well-known varieties of the vegetarian diet include vegetarianism. These are some examples:

·         Lacto-ovo-vegetarian. People who adhere to this diet refrain from eating any meat or fish, however, they are permitted to eat dairy and eggs.

·         Lacto-vegetarian. This diet forbids the consumption of meat, fish, and eggs, although it does allow the use of dairy products.

·         Ovo-vegetarian. Eggs are permitted on this diet, but no meat, fish, or dairy products are allowed to be consumed.

·         Pescatarian. Only fish and other forms of seafood are allowed on this diet, which excludes all other meat. As a result, many individuals refer to the pescatarian diet as semi-vegetarianism or flexitarianism. Some individuals also include poultry,  the so-called pollo-vegetarian (1).

  • Some studies also refer to another group called flexitarians, whose members mainly follow a vegetarian diet, but sometimes eat meat as well. However, flexitarianism should be regarded as a form of rare meat consumption rather than a form of vegetarianism (1).

What is veganism?

In terms of vegetarianism, veganism is the strictest. The most extreme form of vegetarianism is veganism. People following a vegan diet do not eat any food of animal origin, which includes dairy products, eggs, honey and gelatine. Prevalence rates vary between countries and criteria used to define a vegan or vegetarian diet (1).

Vegans do not eat or use any animal products or their byproducts in any way whatsoever. As defined by the Vegan Society, veganism is “a way of life, which tries to eliminate, as far as is feasible and practical, any exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food or clothing, or any other reason.”

Food and drinks containing animal products are strictly forbidden for vegans: poultry, fish, shellfish, and eggs, items made from cow’s milk, honey, insects, meat stock, or fats derived from animals, such as rennet,

As a rule, strict vegans will aim to avoid any product that is either directly or indirectly associated with the usage of animals by humans if feasible. There are a variety of options for these items:

 Beeswax candles and soaps made from animal fats, such as tallow and latex products containing casein, a protein derived from milk, are examples of items that are tested on animals by their makers. For example, many vegans avoid leather items and products that are tested on animals as part of their lifestyle.

In addition, vegans are against the use of products tested on animals (cosmetics, detergents and toothpaste etc.). They do not consume soap containing animal fat and chocolate, cake and pasta containing milk. They do not go to circuses since animals are used there and do not watch films in which animals are used (2).

Benefits for vegan and vegetarian diets

Vegetarian and vegan diets may provide several health advantages, according to scientific studies. Vegetarian and vegan diets have been found to be a protecting factor for many chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some cancers such as colorectal and prostate. This might be because of the healthier diet intake with higher fiber, polyunsaturated fats, vitamin C, bioactive molecules and a lower intake of saturated fats. All these nutrients act directly or indirectly (via other diseases) to an anti-inflammatory status. Moreover, vegetarians and vegans seem to have a healthier lifestyle: higher levels of physical activity and lower levels of sedentarism, alcohol and tobacco consumption (3). Vegetarian and vegan individuals are less prone to develop:

·         Diabetic type 2

·         Ischemia of the heart

·         Hypertension and

·         High cholesterol

There have been numerous studies about nutrition in vegans/vegetarians and they have been shown to have better health status than people eating meat. They have been reported to have lower blood cholesterol levels and lower rates of cardiovascular diseases, obesity, diabetes mellitus, arteriosclerosis and hypertension. They are less likely to have cancer since they consume high amounts of legumes, walnuts, hazelnuts, fruit, vegetables and grains. However, it is important to have sufficient and balanced nutrition. Due to unbalanced nutrition, vegetarians, especially vegans can suffer from anemia, vitamin B12 deficiency and osteoporosis Therefore, vegans may need iron, calcium, zinc and vitamins B12 and D (2).

Which is better for you?

Both diets urge individuals to consume more antioxidant-rich and nutrient-dense whole foods, which have comparable health advantages. Choosing between the two diets is tough since each has its benefits and drawbacks.

Lacto-vegetarians, in contrast to vegans, rely on dairy products for their calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D needs. Vegans may benefit from lower cholesterol levels by eliminating dairy and eggs.

Eating plant-based sources of omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) does not protect vegans against a shortage of these nutrients. DHA is essential for brain function and cognition, as well as preventing memory loss, brain fog, and other cognitive difficulties. Eggs and seafood are good sources of EPA and DHA for vegetarians and pescatarians.

As a consequence of their diet habits, vegetarian and vegan diets have also been widely associated with deficiencies in vitamins B12, creatine and omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to be associated with neurodegenerative disease, cognitive impairment and poor mental health. Also, the bioavailability of iron and zinc in vegetarian diets is poor because of their higher content of absorption inhibitors such as phytate and polyphenols and the absence of flesh foods. Such deficiencies might lead to a lower mental health in vegetarians and vegans (3).

For Weight-loss: Which is best?

Studies show that in terms of nutrients, vegetarian diets are usually rich in carbohydrates, n-6 fatty acids, dietary fiber, carotenoids, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E and Mg, and relatively low in protein, saturated fat, long-chain n-3 fatty acids, retinol, vitamin B12 and Zn; vegans may have particularly low intakes of vitamin B12 and low intakes of Ca (4).

Cross-sectional research of 21,966 individuals from 2006 was reviewed in 2014. Three prospective cohort studies including Adventists in North America both show that vegans usually have lower BMI than vegetarians and meat-eaters do. Because vegans do not eat eggs or dairy products, this might be a plausible reason for the rise in veganism. The mean body-weight increase observed was of approximately 400 g/year overall, with significantly lower weight gain in vegans, but not in vegetarians, than in meat-eaters (4).

Additionally, research published in 2006 indicated that vegans acquired less weight over five years than vegetarians and meat-eaters. In contrast, those who cut down on animal products gained the least weight in the experiment.

Other FAQs about Vegans that you may be interested in.

Is there vegan wine?

Do vegans wear wool?

Is it vegan to own pets?

Can vegans eat eggs?


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “Is it okay to be vegetarian, not vegan?” and discussed the difference between vegetarian and vegan.


  1. Barthels, F., Meyer, F. & Pietrowsky, R. Orthorexic and restrained eating behaviour in vegans, vegetarians, and individuals on a diet. Eat Weight Disord, 2018, 23, 159–166. 
  2. Çiçekoğlu, Pınar, and Güzin Yasemin Tunçay. A comparison of eating attitudes between vegans/vegetarians and nonvegans/ nonvegetarians in terms of orthorexia nervosa. Arch psych nurs, 2018, 32,  200-205.
  3. Iguacel, Isabel, et al. Vegetarianism and veganism compared with mental health and cognitive outcomes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutr rev, 2021, 79, 361-381.
  4. Key, Timothy J., Paul N. Appleby, and Magdalena S. Rosell. Health effects of vegetarian and vegan diets. Proceed Nutr Soc, 2006, 65, 35-41.