From vegan to flexitarian to pescetarian, there are a lot of plant-based diets to choose from.
For someone who’s switching to a plant-based diet for the first time, the terms can get confusing. Adding to the complexity is that different sources often use terms interchangeably. While plant-based diets have many similarities, each one has very different food restrictions.
In this article, we’ll dive into the different types of plant-based diets, so you can find the one that best meets your goals and lifestyle needs.
The History of Plant-Based Diets
Plant-based diets may seem like another fad diet for losing weight. But they have, in fact, been a practice for hundreds of years. Historical records even show that Pythagoras and his followers subscribed to this diet.
In Ancient Greece, they believed that souls were reincarnated into animals, so they were against killing them, especially for food. Pythagoras was also known for proclaiming the health benefits of a plant-based diet. So much so that the ancient Greeks called it the Pythagorean Diet.
Aside from the ancient Greeks, many religions have also followed plant-based diets for centuries. Buddhists, for example, avoid eating certain animal-based foods as they’re against violence and suffering in any form.
Much like Buddhism, Jainism also believes in the principle of nonviolence. However, they follow a stricter vegetarian diet and are even against eating root crops because it kills the plants. Today, there are over 19 million vegetarians in the United States alone. And that number will keep growing as more research shows the health benefits of a plant-forward diet.
5 Most Common Types of Plant-Based Diets
Plant-based diets have grown in popularity in recent years, and so have the varieties. Now, you have people who only eat unprocessed plant-based foods, people who subscribe to plant-based foods and still eat meat, and so on.
So, which is which?
Here are the top 5 modern plant-based diets.
#1 – Vegetarian
One of the most common types of plant-based diets, a vegetarian diet excludes the consumption of meat and animal products, including poultry, fish, shellfish, and their by-products. It generally includes plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, and seeds. While most vegetarians don’t eat meat, they still eat eggs, cheese, and dairy products.
#2 – Vegan
Not to be mixed up with the vegetarian diet, a vegan diet follows stricter meal plans. They don’t consume any meat and animal by-products at all, including dairy products. They also don’t eat eggs, gelatin, and sometimes honey. Instead, they eat a completely plant-based diet. They also supplement their diet with high-protein and vitamin-rich foods, like pumpkin seeds.
#3 – Flexitarian
Also known as a semi-vegetarian diet, a flexitarian diet isn’t as rigid as the previous two diets. Rather, people who follow this diet still eat meat and animal-based products, but most of their diet is made up of plant-based foods. Because of its flexibility, many subscribe to the flexitarian diet—especially when they’re transitioning to a vegetarian or vegan diet
#4 – Pescetarian
The pescetarian diet is another common type of plant-based diet. Much like the flexitarian diet, pescatarians mostly consume plant-based foods. But instead of eating meat, they consume fish, shellfish, and other seafood as their source of protein. They also still eat animal by-products, like eggs and dairy.
#5 – Whole-Food, Plant-Based Diet
A whole-food, plant-based (WFPB) diet is a diet where people eat plant-based foods that aren’t processed. This means that they don’t eat imitation cheese and dairy products. People who follow WFPB eat plant-based foods that are minimally processed and close to nature. Examples of these are fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and grains.
Whether you’re following a plant-based diet to improve your health, protect the environment, advocate for animals, or for other reasons—there’s no right or wrong diet. However, you should always do your best to consume the nutrients, vitamins, and proteins your body needs.
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