Vegetarian vs Vegan vs Raw: Which is Best?

By Ali Luke
vegetarian-vegan-raw

When we talk about a “diet”, we often mean a weight-loss regime.

Many people who are perfectly happy with their weight are on “diets”, though, which aren’t intended to limit total food intake but to exclude certain types of food.

I’m going to give you the run-down on a few popular diets that involve eliminating certain foods, the reasons why people may adopt each, and some tips for catering for guests on each of these diets:

  • Vegetarian (no meat)
  • Vegan (no meat and no products from animals, e.g. eggs, milk)
  • Raw food (no cooked food at all, often combined with veganism)

Vegetarian Diets

You’re probably familiar with the concept of a vegetarian diet – eating no meat. True vegetarians count any dead creature as meat, though semi-vegetarians relax this (for example, pescetarians eat fish). In the UK and US, most vegetarians will eat eggs and milk.

Common reasons for adopting a vegetarian lifestyle are:

  1. Ethical: Many vegetarians believe that eating animals is morally wrong.
  2. Health-related: A diet which excludes meat tends to be low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and a diet high in fruit and vegetables offers extra fiber, vitamins and minerals.
  3. Environmental: It takes much more energy to produce meat than vegetables. Animal farming is a heavy contributor to global warming and pollution.

If you’re having a vegetarian round for dinner, here are some tips:

  • Serve dishes which are not traditional American/British foods. Meals in the US/UK are often based around meat, whereas other culinary traditions include many dishes which are meat-free.
  • Check whether your guest eats eggs and milk products.
  • Examine food labels to check that the ingredients you’re using are fully vegetarian (the rennet used to make cheese coagulate, for instance, is commonly from calves’ stomachs).

Vegan Diets

vegan-dietA vegan diet can be seen as a vegetarian diet taken a stage further. Vegans eat no meat, nor do they eat any products that come from animals, such as eggs, milk and honey.

Common reasons for adopting a vegan lifestyle are:

  1. Ethical: Vegans generally believe that it is wrong to exploit and use animals for our gain.
  2. Health-related: A vegan diet has similar health benefits to a vegetarian one, though some adherents report increase energy from adopting a diet that excludes all animal produce.
  3. Environmental: Keeping farm animals to produce eggs and milk products still requires far more resources than just growing grain, fruit and vegetables.

If you’re having a vegan round for dinner, here are some tips:

  • Choose a dish which is vegetable-based, such as a vegetable curry, or pasta with a tomato and vegetable sauce.
  • Include some plant-based protein: beans, nuts or soya. Quorn is not suitable for vegans as it uses egg white as a binder.
  • Remember that cream, ice-cream and most cake products are out due to containing milk and/or eggs. A fresh fruit salad with sorbet could make an alternative dessert.

Raw Food Diets

The raw food diet has become increasingly popular over the past decade. Unlike vegetarian and veganism, it doesn’t necessarily involve eliminating animal products (though the majority of raw foodists are also vegetarian or vegan).

Common reasons for adopting a raw food diet are:

  1. Weight-related: Most people lose weight easily on a raw food diet.
  2. Health-related: Enzymes in foods are killed when cooked, and raw foodists believe that avoiding cooking foods means that these enzymes can assist in the digestive process.

If you’re having a raw foodist round for dinner, here are some tips:

  • Check whether they are 100% raw. Anyone who eats over 60% raw food is deemed a “raw foodist”. You may have some leeway on what you can serve.
  • If catering for many non-raw guests, try serving a supper buffet that includes plenty of salads, fresh fruits, and raw nuts (check labelling). Olive oil, lemon juice and vinegar are all suitable raw salad dressings.
  • Be very cautious if serving raw fish or meat – the risk of food poisoning is high.

If you follow any of the above diets, tell us about your experiences in the comments. What health benefits (if any) have you seen? What tips would you offer to someone who was interested in trying it?

70 Comments

  1. Donnelly

    I’m actually thinking about going vegetarian because I really don’t like meat because of the fat on it and how its so expensive and difficult to find meat that doesn’t have all those antibiotics in it. However, I don’t want to completely cut out cheeses (from goat and sheep), eggs, or fish. I think that fish is such a good source of protein for our bodies. Plus, our bodies very easily digests fish more than any other meat because that is what our digestive system is made to digest. It’s so much harder to digest red meats and chicken because of all those God awful antibiotics that are put into them and the fact that they are heartier than fish. We were created omnivores by our creator, so I don’t think that we should completely rule out ALL sources of protein, especially sources that are easier to digest and that are healthy for you because of the essential minerals and vitamins we get from them.

    Reply
    • Matt

      Protein is in everything. I don’t think we need any from meat or animals at all. Look at our teeth then a fruity vegan/ vegan and bug eater’s teeth. They are similar. We don’t really need so much protein. Some bodybuilders get less than 120 a day and look ripped.

      Reply
  2. Vegdad

    I made the switch to being a vegan six months ago and in the process lost sixty pounds and feel better than I ever have. I lowered my blood pressure from 165/95 to 118/56. I run now daily and have never felt better. My energy levels are higher than they were before and I look forward to creating awesome meat free meals. I am also considering throwing in more raw into my diet as I can see the benefits of being raw. I highly recommend a plant based diet to anyone considering a healthier lifestyle. Read “The China Study”, and visit my blog vegdad.com for healthy vegan recipes.

    Reply
    • Janette

      Awesome!!! Thank you for sharing. I’m actually in the process of making the changes. I want to become a vegan.

      Reply
  3. Dashiell Bark-Huss

    I’ve done a lot of different diets. The biggest difference I notice was with going mostly raw and cutting out all grains, legumes, and high carb products which tend to make me sleepy and lower my immune system(sugar rush). Right now I’m high fat raw paleo. I just need to work on working out more and getting my ass to the farmers market to buy meat.

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  4. Michael

    Can depend on where you live, I am in New Zealand and the sun is really harsh, in the middle of summer 15 minutes will definately burn you.

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  5. S Price

    True, but the 15 minutes has to be with full exposure (i.e. bikini/bathing suit). Not really practical year-round in most environments. An estimated 70% of Americans are vitamin D deficient, so despite the facts, we aren’t getting nearly enough.

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  6. MelB

    I understand what is being said about milk but you have to consider the source of your milk. When my daughter was small she had lots of health AND behavioral issues after starting cows milk. What we found out by accident was it was the conventional produced milk causing the issues.

    Now, our family only drinks milk straight from the farm where the cows are grass fed, no pesticides are used anywhere in the area, no hormones or drugs are given.

    We can still enjoy milk and the health issues have left and only arise now when she goes to visit her friends and we forget to tell them about no milk.

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  7. Kim

    Seriously too many people hear the word “Diet” and jump to conclusions. You have to take it into context.

    “Diet” has many different meanings and the one used here is “the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group: The native diet consists of fish and fruit.” as in simply the sum of the foods that a person eats.

    NOT the same at the common idea of “going on a diet”.

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  8. april

    15 min in the sun gives you all the vitamin D you need for the whole day. And no 15 min of sun is not gonna give you skin cancer people.

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  9. Tyler

    Hey, just wanted to remind you, there is an ample amount of iron found in legumes and greens…

    So if anyone is interested in a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet, do your research and find out which legumes, or greens are specifically rich in the important nutrients that you previously depended on through animal products. In fact, if you are interested in any diet, do your research on anything you are eating, so you know what and how much of it to consume on a daily basis.

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  10. Sarah

    Actually Kym thats interesting what you say about milk being unavoidable because you’re completely wrong.
    There are many substitutes for milk, such as soya milk, rice milk or almond milk, which can be drunk on their own or used in cooking and baking cakes etc. and they are, in my opinion, much tastier.
    Drinking dairy milk is in fact not natural, as it comes from cows; a different species. Cows’ milk is intended for calves not humans. Milk can actually be very bad for your health. Also the production of cows’ milk is severely unethical as the cows are treated with no respect and suffer greatly. For more information, visit this page. It is very useful for information on milk’s dangers to your health: http://www.vegetarian.org.uk/campaigns/whitelies/index.html

    Reply
    • Donnelly

      I completely agree with you. I am not only lactose intolerant, but I also am actually allergic to milk. I am allergic to the whey protein inside of the milk because the molecules are too big for me to digest. And that’s how it is for a lot of people. That’s why it’s so easy to get sick after drinking dairy products. To make it worse, the antibiotics and crap they feed to the cows makes the cows milk even worse for you. I actually eat sheep and goat cheese, which is much easier for humans to digest because the molecules are much smaller. In addition, I drink almond or cashew milk. I used to drink soy milk; however, soy milk is now considered bad for our bodies because of the way they process the soy beans.

      Reply
  11. mike

    Where do horses, cows, elephants, giraffes, and gorillas get their protein?…(hint..they are all herbivores)

    Reply
  12. Martin

    New to vegetarianism. I decided to give up the meats and become one mainly due to liking the taste of red peppers and rice and peas.
    Giving up the meat has not been a problem although I sometimes think it might be really nice to have a burger when I see it etc.
    I have found that I do indeed feel better for it and for some stupid reason, I like the idea of being one. Almost proud and something to stand for. Whilst I am not against the killing of animals etc.(no offence), I am glad to know that I am not adding to this at the same time.
    I really don’t want to lose the enjoyment of vegetable dishes I have eaten, since they have been very enjoyable to my new palate.

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  13. Kitty

    I am fifteen years old, and for the past three or four years, I’ve been careful about what I eat, and have been an on-and-off vegetarian. Five moths ago, I eliminated red meat from my diet completely, and two weeks ago, I became a 100% raw vegan.
    I have to say, I have never felt better. I’ve been lethargic the past couple of years, but my energy is back greater than it ever has been before. Although I’ve never had weight problems, I’d always gained a pound or two when I cut all meat from my diet, because I turned to grains, pastas, and sweets for replacement. I originally went all raw to “turn the cookie into the cheeseburger” because I’ve always had a soft spot for oatmeal raisin cookies, but just thinking about fast food makes me gag. After only two weeks of eating raw, I never want to go back. I feel absolutely amazing, my extra few pounds have been dropping at an insane rate, and I’m happier than ever before.

    Reply
  14. Mystery

    Just out of curiosity, what is it like to eat a rabbit or share a rabbit feast? Do you eat it like animals do, raw and with your own hands? Do you drink the blood first or pour it in your garden or bathe in it or waste it with a flush down the toilet. I don’t mean to preach at all. Just asking since you brought it up. Many of us have no experience.

    Reply
  15. Mystery

    You can eat your milk and eggs raw. It really might be better for your heart. Real organic raw honey can also help strengthen the heart muscle. Do you eat honey? If you do, don’t mix it into anything hot. Heated honey is bad for weak people. You can usually tell if it’s heated, by the fact that they heat it to filter it. If the honey is clear, it’s been filtered and heated. If it’s whipped honey, that is also a usual indicator that it’s been heated.

    Reply
  16. Mystery

    What kind of egg substitutes are you getting in restaurants? Tofu scrambler?

    Fish do have long term memory. Vertebrate fish have a spine and a well developed nervous system and can feel pain too.

    I do not care if any animal eats another, I just like what’s said to be understood before written as a fact.

    Reply
  17. Mystery

    The problem is, the link you gave never made mention of raw honey. It just said honey. Honey is heated and filtered, unless otherwise indicated. Heating the honey renders it a totally dead animal liquid full of dead sugar. That is the perfect place for dangerous stuff to grow. This page is on raw versus cooked too, remember. Get some people who research food better.

    Reply
  18. Booni

    Thank you, I couldn’t have put it any better !

    Reply
  19. hhholsteiners

    (I added more to this post … not sure of the earlier one posted, so I’ve repeated it) ….

    If I use milk, I use cow’s or goat’s milk. Beware soy milk!!!! Soy that has not been fermented turns men into monks (that’s what they eat to lower their “drive”) and can cause abortion in pregnant women! An Indian coworker of mine, heavily ingesting soy, lost her first child at 5 months gestation (incompetent cervix, and she’d had no surgeries down there). She was so devastated, she left and moved back to India, taking a huge hit on her new house and new car (she and her husband work for our Indian branch now, and they make a lot less than we do).

    Soy, like corn and peanuts, is one more mass-produced fad you have to be careful to keep in moderation. The mother of my 3 egg donor daughters finally took my advice, and took them off soy milk, when one of them started growing armpit hair at age 8! Another side effect of unfermented soy ingestion is early puberty … not good for these girls, as one was born preemie, and the other two were twins!

    I grew up on meat, cooked and garden veggies, and cow’s milk, and I didn’t undergo puberty until 14. I was a runner and skier, and didn’t drink coffee or overdue the caffeine drinks, so I was the DEAD LAST girl in my grade to reach puberty. There were only 40 girls in my class of 74, and we all could see the boxes of pads in the top shelf of our gym lockers. Funny, because our health booklets said that we were supposed to “become women” between 14 and 16. I was the only one who fit the norm. Most were set to go at 10, 11, and 12!

    As for disease being all non-raw food related, I beg to differ. Today in the US you can get away with eating raw, but in many cultures, fresh veggies (and meats) are contaminated and will kill small children and the elderly, unless cooked. Two of my great grandmothers lived to 92 and 96, and both ate a lot of cooked veggies, meat, & dairy. The key was that they EXERCISED and STAYED ACTIVE, even late in life. They had a night cap before bedtime (1 oz of alcohol is good for you), and they never overdid caffeine, cigarettes, sweets, or alcohol. In my family, if you want to die young, and/or go senile early, sit on your butt, drink too much alcohol, and smoke cigarettes. It’s been a pretty consistent predictor.

    The vegetarians in my life have tended to have funny breath, a lack of muscle, and a lack of energy. It’s a lot more effort for them to be as active and healthy as me. I can outlift them, outhike them, outride them, and outlast them, and believe me, we’ve gone hiking, etc. to find out. And don’t get me going about the bedroom. My sensitivity and repeatability blow them away :). Being a vegetarian didn’t keep my friend from ovarian, and later, thyroid cancer. She’s beaten it both times, but it got in the way of her being another egg donor recipient of mine.

    Exercise outside, drink lots of uncontaminated (but still with minerals!) water, eat/do everything in moderation, and don’t hold your frustration in … do something about it. Plan ahead for what you stuff into your mouth, and where you are headed, and nothing will truly catch you off guard. Get there fast, so you can take it slow, with a fast return to a slower heart rate :). It’s that simple. I don’t do anything special, and I’m over 40 with low blood pressure, pulse, cholesterol (high in the right one), etc. I can lift colleagues off the ground who are almost double my weight, and if I’m in sock feet and on a smooth floor, I can carry them across it. And I don’t work out on any weight bench. I keep horses at home and work as an engineer.

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  20. Kristin

    They are on crack. I think its hysterical that they feel that processed foods are healthy.

    Reply
  21. Kristin

    Brilliant observation–“Vitamin D ADDED to milk.” I am pleased to note that you are aware that any nutrient in milk (the breast milk of another species) is utterly destroyed in the pasteurization process. You therefore are dim-wittingly disregarding the fact that plenty of soy or nut milks contain the same vitamin d (calcium) supplement that is pushed by the dairy industry (INDUSTRY…money making, is the key phrase here) into making people believe that their products have any nutritional value whatsoever, instead of the lumpy mucus causing disaster of an excuse of health or even needed. I find it laughable that you, as a self-proclaimed dietitian, finds it necessary to proscribe its uses. Thankfully, there are better educated ones out there than you are.

    Reply
  22. Stephanie Star

    okay. so i’ve been a vegetarian for 3 years, a vegan for 8 months, and a fruitarian for 2 days(; i really dont think vegans are over the top. it’s way healthy but you have to make sure you are getting all the vitamins you need. the only problem with being a fruitarian is all the acid is burning my tongue. but i love being vegan and i am going to be one for the rest of my life. so who ever said a vegan or raw foodist is over the top is on crack.

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  23. pegasus

    I have been vegetarian and mostly vegan with a high pfor about 14 years and have been eating a high percentage of raw foods for about the last 3 years. I occasionally include some cheese or raw milk if I can find it but do not drink pastuerized milk or use other dairy products. I’ve heard about benefits of drinking raw milk and the only drawbacks I seem to hear about are the possiblility of getting sick from bacteris in the milk. Does anyone know of any scientific studies documenting the benefits of raw milk? Or any studies documenting risks not associated with bacteria caused illness?

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  24. Larry

    Excellent post Bob. My wife and mother are both lactose intolerant, and about two years ago we started purchasing our milk fresh and raw from a local farmer who sells to the community. My family has never felt better, we’ve lost weight, we hardly get sick any longer, and my wife and mother can both drink it without any of the problems that pasteurized “dead” milk had caused them in the past. I have a 3 year old son and he’s the only one out of his friends who drink raw milk and doesn’t get vaccinated, and he’s also the only one out of all of his friends and family members that is NEVER ill. He’s never had one single ear infection, sore throat, or problem in his entire life. People will say that we’ve “gotten lucky” with him and his health. I say thank God for the knowledge we was able to unearth and put forth during his life to allow him to be as healthy, and us as healthy, as we can. True knowledge is power.

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  25. Larry

    Actually, you need to educate yourself about your digestive tract more than the “pointy things” in your mouth. That’s the definitive answer about eating or not eating meat. Instead of me telling you what that would mean, I’ll leave this up to you to actually figure it out, canine boy.

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  26. T

    under 2 months), you’ll need an equivalent calorie count. Ask your friend. Plan an assortment of edible fruits and veggies (ripe, not too old, with real greens like kale, spinach, collard), and a handful of raw nuts (unroasted, unsalted, un-oiled), or an avocado. If you don’t know how to pick fruits/veggies, ask a fellow shopper or the staff. This is not meant to be insulting, but if you don’t buy them normally, you may not know how to pick them.

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  27. T

    Feeding a raw foodist: I am for health/food allergy reasons. When I’m visiting “normal diet friends”, I prefer “going shopping with them and getting what I can eat”. However, if that isn’t possible, or you’d just like to have food ready, think about calorie count – raw fruits and veggies have less in them, so to get a “normal calorie” meal, you are looking at a LOT of fruits and veggies (not just a couple apples, some iceberg lettuce, and a carrot), with a little bit of nuts, seeds, avocado. If the person has been raw for quite a while, they will likely consume less calories as their bodies are used to getting nutrition, but if the person is new to raw foods (< 2 months), he/she will likely need equivalent calories to what you are having for the same meal. Ask them. For nut shopping, raw, unsalted, un-oiled nuts only. Expensive, but you'll only need a handful. Or add a ripe avocado. Fruits and veggies need to be edible - ripe, and not too old - If you don't know which are good on the grocery shelf, ask other shoppers or the grocery staff (no, this is not trying to insult people, but if you don't shop for them normally, you may not know how to pick good ones).

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