Vegan, Vegetarian, Raw – What’s the Difference?

Summertime and I am thinking it is time to be able to buy cheaper vegetables or pick my own. Local farms are producing fresh crops, thus, transportation costs are not skyrocketing the price of vegetables. When you buy local the flavor is much better too.

One of the first things I think about when it comes to eating healthy is to learn what the difference is between vegan, vegetarian, and raw food. What is the difference between these three terms? Is a vegan food also vegetarian? Figure this out, then you will be aware of what you are eating when you enter a vegan, vegetarian, and raw only restaurant.

Vegetarians will create a meal composed of a number of dishes combining legumes, grains, vegetables, nuts, fruits, and seasonings. Leonardo da Vinvci, Plato, Socrates, Leo Tolstoy, Paul McCartney, Mahatma Gandi, George Bernard Shaw, and Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, are a few famous vegetarians. Upon reading of each of these vegetarians, and others, I have learned that not all vegetarians eat alike. Within vegetarianism there are three main approaches:

Ovo-lacto Vegatarianism – This includes animal products obtained without slaughter, such as eggs, honey, and milk products.
Lacto-vegetariansim – This includes dairy products and honey, but excludes eggs.
Veganism – This avoids all products of animal origin, including honey and other bee products.

We often think of a balanced vegetarian diet to be based on natural foods, such as fruits, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains. Protein is often what we worry about if we choose to become a vegetarian. However, a cup of lentils has as much protein as 3 ounces of broiled Atlantic salmon. A case that not eating fish is better, is due to the fact that fish often contain a high level of environmental toxins, such as mercury. Over time, eating contaminated fish could cause lasting health problems. However, as my mother always said, “eat in moderation”. Diversify your diet by selecting a different fish to eat every day, if you choose to eat fish that often.

In an ideal vegetarian diet, nutrients found in meat, such as protein, iron, B vitamins, and selenium can be replaced by grains, beans, legumes, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. There are several easy storage strategies to making your fruit and vegetables last longer. Here are a few that I find are very useful:

Place bunches of fresh washed herbs in a vase of water in your fridge.
Remove any plastic wrapping before putting fruit and vegetables into the fridge.
Do not refrigerate basil or tomatoes.
Keep fresh berries in the fridge.
Sprinkle lettuce with water and store in the fridge, away from the walls, to avoid fridge burn.
Wait until using before washing root vegetables and they will last longer.

Vegan nutrition must be carefully planned so that you have sufficient amounts of protein, calcium, iodine, omemga-3, vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin B12. There are no Vitamin B12 present in any vegan diet. Thus, supplements need to be taken.

You will get protein from eating the vegan foods of: beans, peas, nuts, seitan, tofu, and tempeh. Seitan is a plant-based protein derived from wheat gluten. It is similar to lean meat when it comes to calories. Three ounces of cooked seitan is equivalent to three ounces of lean ground beef, about 130 calories. In the same three ounce piece of seitan you can get 20 grams of protein and 1.5 grams of fat. However, since seitan is a plant-based food, the fat in seitan is heart-healthy, monounsaturated fat, whereas the fat in meat is mainly saturated fat.

Tofu is a great food item for a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. The soft, cheese-like food is derived from soybeans. It is also known as bean (soya) curd. The food is made from curdled soya milk with a coagulant. Tofu has been a staple food in Asia for more than 2,000 years. It has gained wide popularity across the globe especially as a substitute for meat. Tofu has a bland taste, which allows it to easily absorb other food flavors. You could find a fake bbq pork tofu or a curried tofu. This easy to digest food has a host of nutritional benefits.

Nutritional Value

The following is based on a half cup serving or 4 ounces of raw, firm tofu.

Calories – 95
Protein –10 grams
Carbohydrates – 3 grams
Fat – 5 grams. Low fat tofu contains 1.5 grams
Saturated fat – 0.1 grams
Cholesterol – 0
Calcium – 230 mg
Iron – 4 mg
Magnesium – 40 mg
Phosphorous – 140 mg
Potassium – 160 mg
Sodium – 7 mg
Fiber – 0.5 grams

By eating lots of broccoli and other green leafy vegetables and you should be able to have sufficient calcium in your diet. Buying calcium-fortified orange juice and soymilk are another two sources of calcium. To have enough iodine in your vegan diet, besides using iodized salt or milk, you may choose to eat lots of seaweed. I remember growing up eating dulce, a dried red seaweed that we always bought at a fish market.

Tempeh, is another meat substitute. It is a brownish, more textured soy product, that is made by fermenting cooked soybeans. It has a firm and chewy texture. Tempeh is sold in long, flat rectangular cakes. It can also be stir-fried, baked, breaded, or grilled.

Another option of healthy eating, is eating food raw, or uncooked, in its natural or not processed or refined condition. Raw foods contain enzymes and vitamins that would be destroyed if there were cooked. Our immune system becomes stronger if you eat a largely plant-based diet, with lots of raw fruits, vegetables, sprouts, seeds, and nuts.

When it comes to healthy eating, you will have an energy boost. On a day-to-day basis, everyone benefits from a healthy diet. Less fat and protein, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, will help you succeed in living a health life.

Check these out!

Berkoff, Nancy. 2008. Vegan Seafood, Beyond the Fish Shtick for Vegetarians. Baltimore, MD: The Vegetarian Resource Group.

Berry, Rynn. 1993. Famous Vegetarians & Their Favorite Recipes. New York, NY: Pythagorean Publishers.

Brown, Celia Brooks. 2003. Entertaining Vegetarians. North Vancouver, British Columbia: Whitecap Books.

Gulin, Dunja. 2012. Raw Food Kitchen: Naturally vibrant recipes for breakfast, snacks, main & desserts. New York, NY: Ryland Peters & Small.

Marcus, Erik. 2011. The Ultimate Vegan Guide.

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