So you’ve decided to go vegan, huh? Welcome to the plant-based club. Going vegan can be one of the best decisions you make for your health, the planet, and of course, the animals. But veganism isn’t one size fits all. Not all vegans are the same. There are actually seven different types of vegans. Whether you’re in it for health reasons, ethics, the environment, or a combination of the three, there’s a specific vegan category for you.
From raw vegans to freegans to pescetarians, the vegan spectrum is wide and varied. Before you dive headfirst into a plant-based diet, it’s a good idea to determine what type of vegan you want to be. That way you can follow the right diet and lifestyle that matches your values and goals. So let’s explore the seven different types of vegans so you can find your perfect fit.
What is a Vegan?
A vegan is someone who avoids consuming or using any animal products and by-products. This means vegans do not eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey. They also avoid leather, wool, fur, silk and any cosmetics or products tested on animals.
Vegans base their lifestyle on ethical objections to exploiting or harming sentient animals. They believe animals have moral rights and that breeding and slaughtering animals for food is morally wrong. Beyond ethics, vegans also cite health and environmental reasons for their diet and lifestyle.
A vegan diet consists solely of plant-based foods including vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. With balanced meal planning, vegans can receive adequate nutrition without animal-derived foods. However, it does require attention to key nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, zinc and vitamin B12.
The vegan philosophy extends beyond just diet. Vegans avoid products derived from animals in all aspects of life. This means no leather goods, wool or silk clothing, beeswax candles, cosmetics tested on animals, and no trips to zoos or aquariums.
Veganism is often viewed as a stricter form of vegetarianism, as in addition to meat and fish, vegans also exclude dairy, eggs and other foods that ovo-lacto vegetarians may eat. With the growth of meat and dairy alternatives, following a vegan lifestyle has become more convenient.
The term “vegan” was coined in 1944 by Donald Watson and The Vegan Society. It has gained popularity driven by concerns over health, environment and animal welfare. Approximately 1-2% of Americans identify as vegan.
7 Different Types of Vegans
1: Ethical Vegans: Avoiding Animal Exploitation
Ethical vegans avoid using or consuming animal products because they believe exploiting and killing animals for human use is unethical.
For ethical vegans, it’s about avoiding participation in a system that commodifies animals. They believe that all sentient beings have a right to life and freedom from suffering. Consuming meat, dairy, eggs, wool, leather, and other animal-derived products creates demand for these industries, so ethical vegans adopt a plant-based diet and lifestyle.
Some key beliefs of ethical vegans:
- Animals can feel and form social bonds, so they deserve better treatment. Factory farming in particular causes immense suffering.
- There are healthy and humane alternatives to animal products, so using them is unnecessary. A balanced plant-based diet can provide all essential nutrients.
- By avoiding animal products, you opt out of supporting cruel practices like cramped cages, mutilation, and premature separation of mothers and babies.
- A vegan diet is better for the planet since industrial animal agriculture strains natural resources and contributes to deforestation and pollution.
While the choice is a personal one, ethical vegans feel that avoiding animal products as much as possible is the kind and responsible thing to do. Their goal is to create a more compassionate society where animals are no longer seen as commodities. If this perspective resonates with you, adopting a vegan lifestyle is a meaningful way to help make that vision a reality.
2: Environmental Vegans: Protecting the Planet
As an environmental vegan, you make the choice to avoid animal products for the planet. Your diet and lifestyle are aimed at reducing harm to the environment by not supporting industrial animal agriculture.
Reducing Carbon Footprint
By opting for plant-based foods instead of meat, you significantly lower your carbon footprint. Meat production strains natural resources and is a major contributor to deforestation, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, the United Nations has said that a global shift toward more plant-rich diets can help mitigate climate change.
Conserving Natural Resources
A plant-based diet is also much less taxing on natural resources like land, food, water, and fossil fuels. Vast amounts of crops are grown simply to feed livestock, not humans. It takes 25 times more water to produce one pound of beef versus one pound of wheat. And roughly 70 percent of the grain grown in the U.S. is used for livestock feed. By choosing veggies, fruits, grains and legumes over meat and dairy, you help ensure there’s enough food to sustainably feed the growing global population.
Industrial animal agriculture threatens biodiversity in a major way. Huge swaths of land are cleared for grazing and growing feed crops, destroying native plants and animals’ natural habitats. As demand for meat rises globally, precious ecosystems like the Amazon rainforest are under increasing threat of deforestation. By opting out of the industrial meat system as an environmental vegan, you take a stand for protecting biodiversity and wildlife.
Making A Difference
While one person’s choices may seem small, together environmental vegans are making a big impact. There are many reasons why people choose plant-based for the planet, but the outcome is the same: a greener future for us all. Every meal and each decision to choose beans over beef is a chance to cast your vote for sustainability. Together, we have the power to transform the food system by putting our principles into practice. The planet will thank you for it!
3: Health Vegans: Improving Wellbeing
Health vegans choose this lifestyle primarily for the health benefits. They aim to eat a balanced and nutritious plant-based diet to feel their best physically and mentally.
A vegan diet high in whole foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes provides all the necessary nutrients for good health. These foods are high in fiber, antioxidants, and beneficial plant compounds which can help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Switching to a plant-based vegan diet has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also aid in weight loss and maintenance since vegan diets tend to be lower in calories. Many people report improved energy levels, better digestion, clearer skin, and shinier hair after going vegan.
Eating a balanced vegan diet can help prevent and even reverse some chronic diseases. A low-fat vegan diet, in particular, has been shown to not only stop the progression of heart disease but also reverse arterial blockages to some degree. The risk of diabetes and certain types of cancer is lower among vegans compared to those who consume animal products.
A plant-based diet provides all the essential nutrients like protein, iron, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12 which are important for health. However, some extra effort may be needed to ensure certain deficiencies do not occur. Taking supplements or consuming fortified foods can help bridge any gaps.
In addition to the physical benefits, vegan diets may also support better mental health and well-being. Some research shows vegans tend to have lower levels of stress and anxiety. A balanced vegan diet provides antioxidants and nutrients important for brain health and the production of mood-regulating neurotransmitters like serotonin.
Reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related mental decline is another benefit associated with plant-based diets. The antioxidants found in vegan diets help minimize inflammation in the brain which contributes to these conditions.
Going vegan for health reasons allows you to experience the many benefits of this compassionate lifestyle. Focusing on whole plant foods, balanced nutrition, and self-care will set you on the path to optimal health and wellness.
4: Raw Vegans: Eating Uncooked Foods
Raw vegans take veganism to the next level by consuming only raw, uncooked plant foods. As a raw vegan, you avoid eating any foods heated above 115-118 degrees Fahrenheit or 46-48 degrees Celsius, believing that cooking foods destroys their nutrients and natural enzymes.
A raw vegan diet typically centers around fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Meals may include salads, smoothies, fresh juices, nut milk, raw nut-based cheeses, yogurts, or ice creams. Some raw vegans follow a high-carb, low-fat diet focused on fruits and greens, while others follow a high-fat, low-carb approach focused on nuts and seeds. Either way, the diet is 100% plant-based and unprocessed.
Some benefits of a raw vegan diet include:
- Higher intake of antioxidants and nutrients since raw foods are not depleted by the cooking process. Raw foods contain more nutrients overall compared to cooked foods.
- Improved digestion. Raw foods still contain enzymes that can aid digestion and the absorption of nutrients. Cooking foods above 118 F destroys these beneficial enzymes.
- Potential weight loss. Raw vegan diets tend to be low in calories but high in nutrients, which can aid weight loss and maintenance. However, some raw vegans need to be mindful to consume enough calories.
- Higher energy. Raw vegan diets are alkaline-forming, which some people claim leads to higher energy levels and an improved sense of well-being. However, the diet may need extra effort to get all essential nutrients.
- Better for the planet. A raw vegan diet is sustainable and eco-friendly since it avoids the environmental impact of industrial food production and reduces waste.
Raw veganism can be challenging to follow and may require extra effort to get all essential nutrients. Some key things to consider include getting enough protein, iron, zinc, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin B12. However, with good planning, a raw vegan diet can be healthy and rewarding.
5: Junk Food Vegans: Plant-Based Doesn’t Mean Healthy
As a junk food vegan, plant-based eating is more about avoiding animal products and less about health. While avoiding meat, eggs, and dairy is commendable for ethical and environmental reasons, a diet high in processed vegan “meats,” fried foods, and sugary treats isn’t the most nutritious.
Lots of Mock Meats
Junk food vegans tend to rely heavily on highly processed plant-based meat alternatives like burgers, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and deli slices. While these mock meats are cholesterol-free and more sustainable than the real thing, they are often loaded with sodium, preservatives, and fillers. For optimal health, limit processed alternatives to no more than once or twice a week.
All About the Carbs
Rather than focusing on whole plant foods like beans, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, junk food vegans tend to fill up on refined grains, white pasta, sugary cereals, and starchy snacks like chips, pretzels, and crackers. These provide little nutrition and spike blood sugar levels, which over time may increase the risk of disease. Aim for half your plate to be non-starchy veggies and legumes at each meal.
A Sweet Tooth
It’s easy for junk food vegans to satisfy a sweet tooth with lots of candy, cookies, cakes, and other treats that just happen to be plant-based. But just because its vegan doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Limit sweets to occasional treats and choose whole foods like fruit, nuts, and dark chocolate to satisfy cravings. Your health and waistline will thank you.
While the motivation behind junk food veganism is commendable, an unbalanced diet high in processed foods, refined grains, and sugar is still unhealthy, whether completely plant-based or not. For optimal nutrition, focus on whole plant foods, limit processed alternatives and sweets, stay hydrated, supplement B12, and consider working with a registered dietitian. Your body and conscience will appreciate it.
6: Straight Edge Veganism:
Straight-edge vegans abstain from consuming or using any products that contain animal ingredients as well as any products that are tested on animals. However, straight-edge vegans take it a step further by also avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and any recreational drugs. The straight-edge vegan lifestyle promotes living an ethical, healthy, and environmentally friendly lifestyle.
As a straight-edge vegan, you follow a 100% plant-based diet free from all animal products like meat, dairy, eggs, honey, leather, wool, down, and silk. You also avoid alcohol, caffeine (coffee, tea, and energy drinks), and recreational drugs (cannabis, tobacco, etc.). Some straight-edge vegans even avoid certain refined sugars and processed foods. The core principles behind straight-edge veganism are:
- Compassion for animals. By avoiding all animal products and testing, you prevent the exploitation and suffering of animals.
- Health and wellness. A balanced plant-based diet free from drugs and alcohol promotes optimal health and longevity.
- Environmentalism. Industrial animal agriculture strains natural resources and is a major contributor to deforestation, pollution, and climate change. A vegan diet is the most environmentally sustainable diet.
- Personal growth. Abstaining from substances that can negatively impact your mental and physical health allows for clear thinking and personal development.
Living as a straight-edge vegan can be challenging in today’s society but also rewarding. It may require more planning and diligence to follow this compassionate lifestyle. However, you can feel good knowing you are positively impacting animals, the planet, and your own well-being. The straight-edge vegan community is also growing, so you can connect with like-minded people for tips and support.
If you’re interested in transitioning to a straight-edge vegan lifestyle, start by gradually eliminating one product or substance at a time, set small and realistic goals, do your research, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up. Every little bit helps when it comes to creating positive change. Living ethically and sustainably is a journey, not a destination.
7: Religious Vegans
Religious vegans avoid using or consuming animal products because of spiritual or religious beliefs. For some, veganism is an expression of ahimsa, or nonviolence toward all living things.
Followers of Jainism, an ancient Indian religion, practice an extreme form of nonviolence that avoids harming any living being. Strict Jain vegans avoid eating root vegetables like carrots or potatoes because harvesting them kills the entire plant. They also avoid eating honey and wearing silk or wool.
Some Hindus interpret the principle of ahimsa to require a vegan diet and lifestyle. Certain Hindu scriptures condemn the slaughter of animals for food and call for compassion for all creatures. Hindu vegans see veganism as a purer way to honor the sacredness of life.
While not all Buddhists are vegan, some follow a vegan diet out of a belief in avoiding harm to all sentient beings. Certain Buddhist scriptures prohibit the consumption of meat, especially if the animal was killed specifically for that purpose. Some Buddhists view veganism as consistent with the principles of compassion and minimizing suffering.
Members of the Seventh-day Adventist church promote health, nutrition, and longevity. Many Adventists follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, avoiding meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. For some, this is based on a belief that a plant-based diet was God’s original plan for humanity in the Garden of Eden. Adventist Health Studies have found many health benefits of a vegetarian diet.
As with any diet, the reasons for choosing veganism are deeply personal. For religious vegans, it is a profound spiritual practice and expression of faith. By understanding the motivations behind religious veganism, we can develop more compassion and inclusiveness in our community.
So there you have it, the seven main types of vegans and how they differ in their approach. No matter which path calls to you, going vegan can be a rewarding journey toward better health, compassion for animals, and environmental sustainability. At the end of the day, do what works for you and makes you feel good. Every little bit helps, so start small and build up from there. Whether you go all in or take it step-by-step, you’ll be making a difference and joining a community of like-minded people along the way. Now get out there and give veganism a try – your body and the planet will thank you for it!