Since the popular Netflix documentary What the Health debuted, there’s been a new buzzword flying around: plant-based. For many, this term sounds like another form of veganism – it’s not. Up until a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t aware that they weren’t the same thing! The two diets have completely different goals when it comes to avoiding animal consumption.

If you were thinking that plant-based and vegan diets were the same as well, here’s the actual truth:


The plant-based diet (more accurately coined as the whole-foods, plant-based diet) is geared toward overall health. The main goal is to abstain from animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, etc.) due to the variety of chronic diseases linked to them: diabetes, cancer, and hypertension, just to name a few (more info on dietary studies here).

The diet also advises against anything overly processed like refined sugars or flour, however, some might still consume animal products such as honey or dairy, but it’s not suggested.

This lifestyle doesn’t typically focus itself much in the political affairs of animal products, like veganism does, but rather on the health advantages of a diet built upon fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The concern here is not so much about animal rights as it is the human’s rights to eat and live better.

Summary: Plant-based diets avoid animal products and processed foods for health, but it typically ends there.


Vegan diets differ in that the focus of this lifestyle has always been about the ethics: the abuse and exploitation of animals for human gain. Vegans don’t eat or use animal-made products because the health, life, and rights of the animals are not considered in the process.

The vegan diet is not so much a diet as it is a lifestyle. Those who follow this way of living also choose to avoid using animal products in their everyday routines: clothing, shoes, sweeteners, shampoos, etc. However, health is not so much the focus of eating vegan – many find that eating any product is fine so long as it wasn’t made from an animal (Oreos and chips, for instance). Saving the world and all of its creatures is the bottom-line with this lifestyle.

Summary: Vegans avoid any and all animal products because of conscious ethical and political reasons, however, processed foods can and may still be consumed. 

Which one are you?

A plant-based diet can easily lead into a vegan lifestyle and a vegan can most definitely eat plant-based, however, the psychology behind the two is very different. In my opinion, both can make the world a better place especially if combined. There are so many great reasons to try either one of these lifestyles whether your goal is to live longer or save the world or both.

Which lifestyle do you prefer? Share it with me below!

Author: Nicole Marks

Hi, I'm Nicole aka the Holy Hippie. My blog exists to inspire, encourage, and motivate positive change - spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. If you're in need of a friend, just pull up a chair, grab your favorite drink, and let's talk life together.

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8 thoughts on “The Difference Between Plant-Based & Vegan

  1. Very informative. As I am neither Vegan nor plant based. I am however Paleo and it is always interesting to read about different diets and beliefs that people have. Thank you for posting.

    Posted on February 16, 2018 at 10:47 am
    1. Thanks for commenting, Crystal! It’s good to meet others who are open to different ways of life. We don’t always have to agree with each other, but we should always have the decency to love the person behind the belief. Thanks again!

      Posted on February 16, 2018 at 7:47 pm
  2. Love this! Back in July I made the switch to a more plant based diet! 1- in part because I purchase products that do not test on animals and therefore are cruelty free so I wanted to align my food choices with that as well and 2- I really wanted an overall healthier nutritional path and I’ve really come to like the plant based approach. I’m certainly not a vegan 100% as I still have meat and dairy on occasion but because I’m still new to it all, it’s nice seeing a visual of the differences! Especially since everyone asks, ha!

    Posted on February 16, 2018 at 10:53 am
    1. Yes! It’s good that you’re slowly transitioning yourself. Some people jump right in and get lost in the process! And it’s so common for many people to mistake plant-based for vegan or even vegetarian! But all three are unique in their own ways.

      Posted on February 16, 2018 at 7:45 pm
  3. I also just recently learned the difference between these two concepts, however I didn’t realize the health aspect of it. I just thought plant-based meant you ate no animal products at all and vegan referred to the entire lifestyle. I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 3 years now but try to eat vegan as often as possible, and all the products I use in my life are vegan and cruelty-free. It’s great to learn something new!

    Posted on February 16, 2018 at 4:07 pm
    1. Hi Brianna! Thanks for reading! It’s nice to meet other people who are striving to make the world and their health a priority. And yes, it’s always great to learn something new 🙂

      Posted on February 16, 2018 at 7:43 pm
  4. This is really good. I was a clumsy one assuming that the two were the same. I understood that being Vegan was a lifestyle choice, but the plant-based thing still kinda gets me. Is vegetarian the same as plant-based? Because my vegetarian friends are really strick?

    Posted on February 16, 2018 at 4:31 pm
    1. Hi Erin! So plant-based and vegetarian still differ in that many vegetarians consume animal products like dairy, eggs, fish, etc. Plant-based is strictly vegetables, fruits, and grains. They also try to consume less oils and processed foods.

      Posted on February 16, 2018 at 7:41 pm