I am convinced that absolute borders don’t exist and therefore you cannot truly categorise anyone or anything. Oh the irony, as people find great satisfaction in labeling and classifying stuff and other people. Lists and categories, we love ’em. Including me. So after searching in vain for a complete list of different kinds of vegans, I had came to the conclusion such thing doesn’t exist yet. Therefore, I decided to make one myself.
I got this.
In this post I listed all types of vegans and vegetarians (together called ‘vega’s’) by diet style. From flexitarian to Raw Till 4-vegan – you fnd them all here. If any movement slipped my attention, please let me know.
Just one thing I want to say before you read on: with these types of vegans and vegetarians I do not state anything about the potential health benefits or -risks of their diet styles. I am not a dietitian, and there are very few scientific studies that examined the short- and long term effects of a the diets I listed. So reading and eating is at your own risk ;). Now, that being said, let’s move on to all types of vegans and vegetarians there are!
I’ll start with the one that acutally doesn’t fit in this list: the omnivore. Omnivores eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs and plant-based products on a regular basis, which makes them excluded from the vegan/vegetarian list. Still I’d like to mention this group, because to be fair, vegans and vegetarians are still in the stark minority compared to omnivores.
A modern vegetarian does not eat animal tissues but does eat products produced by animals, such as dairy and eggs. This group of vegetarians is also called Lacto-Ovo vegetarian, where ‘lacto’ stands for diary and ‘ovo’ for eggs. Some vegetarians do not buy leather, products with gelatin in it, or cheese with rennet, since these products are derived from the body of a dead animal. Most vegetarians however just stick to the diet rules and are more flexible when it comes to gelatin, rennet and leather.
There are different types of vegetarians out there. Like these:
This group of vegetarians does consume dairy, but not eggs. Their diet is therefore somewhat more restrictive than that of the lacto-ovo vegetarian, who consumes both eggs and dairy. Lacto-vegetarians also do not take products with eggs as an ingredient, such as mayonnaise, some cookies or cake.
Ovo-vegetarians leave dairy out of their diet, but do choose to eat eggs. In addition, ovo-vegetarians do not consume products with milk protein or lactose, and you won’t find them buying goat- or sheep yogurt or cheese.
Many vegetarians and vegans did not stop eating animal products overnight. Often there is a phase-out time, that could be called semi-vegetarianism. The group of semi-vegetarians is quite large, also because a lot of semi-vegetarians are unaware that they are semi-vegetarians.
I’m a semi whát?!
They are the ones who decide to eat less meat for sake of the planet, health-conscious people who vowed to never pollute their bodies with processed meat again, the ‘I’d-love-to’ vegetarians that never could say goodbye to sushi or chicken wings, and your little brother who declares to be a truly dedicated vegetarian while dipping another toast in his surimi salad.
No jokes: I am a fan of semi-vegetarians. Especially those that take semi-vegetarianism as a first step towards a vega life. That first step is often the hardest, because you got to say farwell to so many convenient foods you love, and you are still unaware of the vast extend of plant-based options. So to all vega’s out there: cheer at semi-vegetarians. Give them their well-deserved pat on the shoulder. And if you happen to be a semi-vega yourself, you get a pat from me. 🙂
• Flexitarian / Flexan
A flexitarian follows the rules of a vegetarian diet, but occasionally eats meat or fish. Most of the time, flexitarians refrain from eating meat for several days a week, which makes flexitarianism different from semi-vegetarianism. Though as with the former, flexitarianism is often the first conscious step towards a vegetarian or vegan diet. As with flexitarians, flexans eat mainly plant-based, but consume animal products now and then. Vegetarians and vegans who don’t buy animal products themselves but do eat it with other people or at a restaurant belong to this category.
• Part-time Vegetarian / Vegan
While flexitarians and flexans eat animal products on a regular basis, part-time vegetarians and vegans follow their respective diets for a longer time. After a few weeks or months eating vegetarian or vegan, they start to include (mostly little) animal products in their diet again, and eventually switch back to their old regime. This cycle continues.
Pescetarians do not eat meat but do eat fish. Crustacians and shellfish such as shrimps and mussels, are also included generally. The motivation for pescetarians to skip meat but not fish varies from health to preference, or both.
In the fridge of a pollotarian you will find chicken and other poultry, but no other sources of meat and fish. Pollo- and pescetarians differ from many semi-vegetarians in that they stick to their diet and are less likely to become a ‘true’ vegetarian or vegan.
Vegans do not eat any animal products. This means no meat, fish, dairy, eggs or honey. Veganism entails more than just the stuff what you do or don’t put in your mouth. Most vegans refrain from buying leather, silk or whool, as well as visiting events in which animals are used for entertainment purposes. Sometimes a separation between vegans and people that eat a plant-based diet is in place. The latter group only consumes a vegan diet because of health-related reasons and is not involved in the non-dietary side of veganism, such as animal welfare and/or environmentalism.
While vegetarians are quite accepted nowadays in society, vegans are often still seen as an odd and malnourished species. A kind of Neanderthal, but without the biceps.
Vegan [Homo herbivorus]
Fairly unknown human species distantly related to Homo sapiens.
Homo herbivorus suffers from a chronic deficiency of protein. Species is likely to die within several years from now due to a lack of iron and vitamin B12.
Remarkably empathetic with and concerned about other living creatures and the planet as a whole.
– The Omnivore’s Dictionary
If you think that with vegans you reached an end point in the food funnel, then think again. Veganism knows many movements and new ones come and go. There are many types of vegans out there. Some vegans change their diet regime often, or hop over to another movement because of curiosity. Trends and hypes play a big role in here.
• Just Vegan (incl. Ethical and Environmental Vegans)
This is not an official name for this group, but I called it ‘just vegan’, since this will most likely be the response you get when you ask them what type of vegan they are. Many ethical and environmental vegans belong to this group, who became vegan for animal welfare and/or environmental motivations. While the ethical aspect of veganism plays a role in many vega movements, this is the main reason for ‘just vegans’, who care less about the health-related aspects of their diets. Oreo’s and vegan junk food are mostly welcomed with open arms. Because of this, ‘just vegans’ are sometimes referred to as junk food vegans, but I find that name suggestive, as if every ‘just vegan’ only eats junk food.
• Whole Foods, Plant-based Vegan
The idea of whole foods, plant-based veganism is to consume as many ‘whole’ products and as little as possible from tins and packages with chemical additions to them. If I would have to jam myself into a vegan diet category, I would end up here I guess.
• Raw Vegan
Raw vegans only eat raw, plant-based foods which are not heated above 45 degrees Celcius. Soaking nuts and seeds, and sprouting grains, legumes and rice are popular ways of preparing food in the raw cuisine. Other raw movements such as raw vegetarianism and raw foodism also exists: here you find raw fish, meat, eggs or dairy included in the diet, but these movements are less common than raw veganism.
• Raw Till 4
Sounds exotic, but is rather straight forward, since it means exactly what it says: eating only raw food until 4 pm. People on the raw till 4 lifestyle mostly eat huge fruit meals for breakfast and lunch, and eat a lot of starch foods for dinner, along with a green salad.
• High Carb Low Fat Vegan
Stortened as HCLF, this vegan movement means eating loads of carbohydrates and very little fats. The diet is usually followed by raw vegans. HCLF veganism is also known under the term 80/10/10 (“eighty-ten-ten”), what refers to the ratio of carbohydrates to fat and protein in your daily calorie count. Dr. Atkins would get a heart attack (hehe) if he heard about this, since the HCLF philosophy is exactly opposite to his low carb high fat-diet.
• The Starch Solution Vegan
Is a kind of HCLF (80/10/10) veganism, where the carbohydrates mainly come from starches such as potatoes, rice and oatmeal instead of fruit.
Another open door: a fruitarian eats just fruits and other foods that spontaneously fell from a tree, such as nuts and seeds. Motives for this diet vary from ethical to cultural to health and back again.
• Paleo Vegan / Pegan
The Paleo diet is a diet plan in which you eat like our ancestors from the Paleolithicum did, from 2,5 million to 10.000 years ago. The argument for the Paleo diet is, that we evolved on this food plan. For thousands of years, we ate like this, and our body adapted and specialised to it. At that time, the food was pure and unprocessed, and that is what you will eat if you follow the Paleo diet. Thing is: the original Paleo diet contains quite some meat, fish and eggs, and no legumes or grains (as they didn’t eat those back then either). So as a Paleo vegan (‘Pegan’), you got to do some homework before you start to make sure you get enough nutrients from your diet. In case Paleo veganism raised your interest, but you got scared back by the restrictions: no worries. Many Palego vegans do not strictly stick to the diet. They eat pure and without any refined or artificial additives, but do eat a bit of legumes and gluten fre grains like oats and rice.
• Gluten free Vegan
Eating plant-based without gluten – it’s possible! Gluten are the protein you find in grains such as wheat, barley, rye, triticale, spelt, kamut, farro, durum, bulgur, semolina and couscous. Oats and oatmeal is naturally gluten free, but often ‘cross-polluted’ with gluten from other grains. Those who follow a strict gluten free diet should therefore buy oats that is explicitly labelled as ‘gluten free’. For vegans with Coeliac Disease, eating gluten free is a no-brainer, but gluten free vegan food is an upcoming trend as well! Fine by me, as gluten intolerance seems to be no real. Especially modern wheat contains a lot of gluten, and many people don’t do so well on this.
Gluten free substitutes: rice, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, corn, millet and (gluten free) oats.
One last thing: seitan is a no-go for gluten free vegans, as this is made from pure gluten!
• Low FODMAP Vegan
FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These are carbohydrates that your body doesn’t absorb so well. The carbs enter your small and large intestine, where bacteria fest on them, which produces gas. That gas can cause uncomfortable bloating and cramps. The FODMAP diet is made for people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and it is said to alleve the symtoms of 75% of the people who follow the diet. Here you find a list of the foods you can and cannot eat on a low FODMAP diet. Scrolling through the list, you’ll quickly arrive at the conclusion that it is pretty hard being a FODMAP vegan.
Freegans are people that do not buy food but live off what is left and thrown away by individuals and companies such as supermarkets. Often this is a reaction agains the consumer society. Many Freegans are vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian.
These are temporary vegan diet styles. If you follow a mono-island, then 7 to 21 days in a row you’ll eat only the food item that grows on your little ‘island’, often supplemented with a handfull of leafy greens. Common mono-islands are Banana Island and the Potato Cleanse. The idea behind mono-islands is that it soothes your digestive system because you only have to process one type of food.
What I think of Other Types of Vegans and Vegetarians
Many problems in this world arise and sustain because of some people judging other people that do not belong to their in-group. I do not really believe that the battle between vegetarians and pescetarians wil result in a nuclear war, but judgements, contempt and a lack of empathy do not make the lives of people and the world as a whole a better place. What if we stop judging each other as ‘weak’, ‘naieve’, ‘speciecist’ or ‘extreme’, but instead motivate each other to improve or just keep up the good work we already do? I think that in this way, we create happier people, a healthier Earth and less animal suffering than when we take each other down. And if I learned one thing from my Psychology study, it is that rewards are more effective then punishment.
So give a thumbs up for the hideous vegan creation your sister posted on Instagram, inform your flexitarian colleague about the vegan bargains at the supermarket, and compliment your omnivorous table companion for the vegetarian dish he ordered. Embrace all types of vegans and vegetarians and let us now eat hummus. Amen.
De Groot, B. (2016). The Omnivore’s Dictionary: Fictional descriptions of people adopting a plant-based lifestyle as believed by a significant number of members of the meat-consuming society. Breda, The Netherlands: The Leaf-green Press.
Photo credits: Puck Kroon
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