At lunch recently I was explaining to somebody that I ate a plant-based diet. As I’ve come to expect there was a quick retort from the other side of the table. But this time the response surprised me a little.
“I could never be vegan”.
I shouldn’t really have been surprised, because it wasn’t the first time I had heard this response. In fact, it’s become quite common.
But it’s a worrying trend because there is a critical difference between the two. One that needs some further exploration.
The difference between plant-based vs vegan
Why is it that the term plant-based is now so often used interchangeably with vegan? As with most issues in the food industry it can be linked to the corporations.
The problem is that the mere mention of the word vegan evokes an emotional response from non-vegans. There are many reasons for this, some more rational than others.
Nonetheless many of these non-vegans are trying to make better and healthier choices. And there are lots of companies competing to help them.
In order to tap into this market, companies hoping to appeal to these more ethical and health-conscious omnivores need to use a less triggering term than vegan.
Even though these new products have eliminated all animal products, and thus meet the definition of vegan, they have opted to use the word plant-based in their advertising.
On the surface there is nothing deeply wrong with this. Reducing the overall consumption of animal products is what plant-based is all about.
Unfortunately, the end goal of veganism is not reduction but elimination. This difference could be affecting the uptake of a plant-based diet and ruining the opportunity for millions of people to be healthier.
What is a plant-based diet?
Veganism is a lifestyle choice. And if we put differences aside, eliminating all animal products from your life is an admirable goal.
But eliminating something completely is not always a flexible or practical way to live.
The real objective of eating plant-based is not to eliminate animal products, but to significantly increase the consumption of plants.
By connecting veganism and plant-based we alienate the 90% of the world who are not vegan.
Choosing to eat a healthy plant-based diet should not mean you have to go marching through town to protect animal rights. It just means eating a healthier diet. Something that is applicable to everyone.
In the end there is one simple nutrition fact that almost every doctor and dietitian agree on: we need to eat more plants.
A plant-based diet is about eating more plants. But it does not necessarily mean eating only plants.