Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Popular Diets, Commonly Confused: Vegan, Vegetarian, Pescatarian

(originally posted on www.wunderbudder.com on 01/22/13)

With constantly changing opinions on what foods are the healthiest, and what foods we should be avoiding, there are new diets emerging on a regular basis. From fad diets, to weight-loss plans, to entire lifestyle changes, it can be hard to keep track of which diet is which. Even three of the longest-standing, most common, and most well known diets are continuously confused with each other. Everyone knows, or at least has heard of, a vegetarian (a term used for over 150 years), a vegan, or a pescatarian, but do we all know what those terms really mean?

Vegans don't consume any animal (mammal, bird, fish, etc.) flesh or products, or any products made by animals (like eggs, dairy, and honey), or any products in general that directly lead to the exploitation, injury, or death of any creatures. Living the vegan lifestyle also includes not wearing or using any animal products, like leather or fur. Vegan is a more recent (still over a half-century old) term for "strict vegetarian".

Vegetarians don't consume any animal flesh, or products made from animals (mammal, bird, fish, etc.), but may consume products made by animals, like eggs, dairy, or honey. Although many vegetarians choose not to wear or use animal products, the vegetarian lifestyle is less strict than vegan and some vegetarians use certain products like leather boots or hand-made drums made from "by-products" (e.g. skin) of the meat industry. Some vegetarians categorize themselves as lacto- or ovo- (or lacto-ovo-) vegetarians if they eat dairy or eggs, respectively, but the term vegetarian has generally come to include eating both dairy and eggs and usually doesn't need to be categorized.

Pescatarians, the most recently (still a couple decades old) defined of the three, are similar to vegetarians, but fish is included in their diets. The distinction between vegetarian and pescatarian is important to make, but being newest, it is also the most often confused. Calling a person who eats fish a "vegetarian" is not only confusing to everyone, it's also incorrect. Pescatarians eat fish, but do not eat any other animals or products made from animals.

Although these diets can seem restrictive, what they do include are fresh vegetables, leafy greens to tuberous roots, grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and berries, and beans: a food list with an infinite number of combinations and flavors.

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