Vegans, Vegetarians, Flexitarians: What’s The Difference?

More and more people base their diets on plant-based foods, but what are the differences between vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets?
Vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians: what's the difference?

Vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians, how are they different? We often hear about these lifestyles, but sometimes it tends to get confusing. Apparently similar for those who do not follow them, they have substantial differences.

All three styles favor the consumption of foods of plant origin and have respect for the environment and animals at heart. But let’s see, to clarify, the main features.

Vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians: how are they different?

These eating styles are on the rise for a variety of reasons. When consumed foods and ideas are taken into consideration, some distinctive features emerge. Let’s see which ones.


Vegans base their diet on the consumption of foods of exclusive plant origin. They don’t eat meat, dairy, eggs or honey. But veganism is much more; it refers to a lifestyle that includes nutrition, but not limited to.

Vegan philosophy is driven by ethical and moral issues that put humans and animals on an equal footing. Vegans denounce the mistreatment of animals, do not buy leather shoes or belts, cosmetic products or even drugs of animal origin.

Similarly, vegans are opposed to all forms of animal exploitation, such as zoo, horse racing, circus, bullfighting, etc.

They are also sensitive to the environmental impact of the livestock industry. In this regard, various studies have shown that farming makes intensive use of natural resources, increases the greenhouse effect, acidifies the soil and pollutes rivers and seas.

Baking pan with vegetables.
Vegan diets completely exclude products of animal origin.


The vegetarian diet is based on the consumption of vegetables such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, cereals, seeds and nuts. However, it also includes dairy products, eggs and honey. The only foods banned altogether are meat and fish.

Within this group there are several subgroups, among which the best known are the lacto-ovo-vegetarians, the ovo-vegetarians and the lacto-vegetarians.

In some cases we remain vegetarian for life, in others the goal is to gradually eliminate all animal products. In other words, the vegetarian diet can represent an almost necessary transition phase to get to veganism.


The watchword of this eating style is “flexibility”. This group includes people who follow a purely vegetarian diet, but who sometimes consume meat, fish, shellfish and derivatives.

This category also includes those who do not eat meat often or those who prefer one type of meat to others. This eating style can also be a preliminary step towards a vegetarian diet.

It is a lifestyle that has gained a lot of ground in recent times. In fact, you may be flexitarian without knowing it. It should be noted that for a flexitarian, eating meat does not mean committing a transgression and is not accompanied by guilt.

Are these diets healthy?

Until a few years ago it was thought that diets that exclude the consumption of products of animal origin were lacking. However, scientific evidence in the nutritional field indicates that the only element deficient is vitamin B12, if well planned.

Vitamin B12 is synthesized by microorganisms that live in the intestines of animals, therefore the only food sources that contain it are eggs, milk and its derivatives. The vegetarian and flexitarian diet, although the latter involves the consumption of some animal foods, fails to meet the recommended daily requirement.

Prolonged deficiency of this vitamin could cause anemia, nervous system disorders, memory loss, delayed fetal development, and other complications. As a form of prevention it is recommended to take a supplement.

Vegan burger.
These eating plans can experience a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can be artificially supplemented.

Vegans, vegetarians and flexitarians

The three eating styles have obvious differences. It could be said that flexitarianism is a way of life that can progress towards vegetarianism, and eventually veganism. This is not always the case, however, and it is not certain that a certain eating style must be adopted in stages.

Whatever your choice, remember to plan your diet carefully so that it is balanced and does not cause any long-term deficiencies or problems. If you decide to follow one of these three regimens, it may be a good idea to ask your doctor or nutritionist for advice.

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