Vegan or vegetarian: Who lives healthier?

A meat-free diet is becoming a trend: more and more people are adopting a vegetarian or even vegan diet; there are many reasons for this. While vegans in particular find factory farming a thorn in the side, most vegetarians are concerned about their health. They assume that doing without meat is beneficial to health. Scientifically this thesis is not proven, nevertheless both nourishing forms receive more and more supporters. How exactly do vegans and vegetarians eat?

Vegan: lifestyle instead of diet

"Vegan" describes not so much only a form of nutrition, but rather an entire lifestyle: the entire renunciation of animal products is declared to be the maxim. Thus not only meat is renounced, but also fish as well as milk and consequently all milk products. But thereby not enough: In sweets gelatin is often on animal basis, apples are waxed with animal fats and even with hair busts is by far not each product vegan. Anyone who takes a closer look at this topic will quickly discover that animal-based ingredients are found in a great many everyday goods. However: Due to the fact that the number of vegans is growing, alternatives are also becoming increasingly established. Today, alternatives exist for almost every product; the vegan shaving brush is just as available in specialty stores as the vegan pancake - completely without milk and eggs. The fact that animal products may also not be used for clothing, as would be the case with wool and leather, is self-explanatory.

Reasons for giving up meat

Those who so consistently renounce the use of all animal products usually justify this with an ethical-moral motivation. While some foodstuffs are still debatable in terms of health, there is actually nothing to be said against carrying a leather handbag - except for the conditions of factory farming. The latter have been known for years and are extremely precarious even in this country; leather goods in particular, however, are produced abroad under even far worse conditions. But even if the welfare of the animals is not in the foreground, some reasons speak against factory farming: To produce one kilogram of beef, ten times the amount of energy of grain is needed. Water, which is already a precious resource in many places, is also used on a large scale for animal husbandry - and finds its way back into the soil via excrement. The food scandals of recent years have done the rest to completely destroy consumer confidence. In areas with a high density of industrial animal husbandry, the quality of the groundwater suffers considerably. Likewise, especially with regard to the consumption of dairy products, there are accusations that it is unnatural to drink the milk of foreign species. Some advocates of a meatless diet consider humans to be vegetarians by nature anyway. Furthermore, religious reasons can also be the cause of the vegan lifestyle: some Buddhist or Hindu currents reject the use of animal products.

Vegetarian diet: healthy or not?

But how healthy is this lifestyle? Vegetarians actually live a relatively healthy life, if the average person is taken as a yardstick. By foregoing meat, they usually eat fewer fats, and their diet is more conscious and balanced than that of the average person. Those who make such an effort to design their menu are less likely to eat unhealthy foods - even highly processed foods are usually not on the menu. It is also undisputed, of course, that a very high meat consumption has negative effects on the cardiovascular system and also promotes the development of colon cancer. The view is somewhat different for vegans. Apart from soy, there are hardly any plant-based foods with a significant protein content. In addition, some nutrients and fats are mainly found in meat, which vegetarians can compensate for by eating fish. Trace elements such as zinc are also found in legumes, but the amount is very small. In other words, vegans run the risk of either eating a very one-sided diet or suffering from malnutrition. Adolescents should completely avoid a vegan diet because of the increased protein requirement.