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Are plant-based and vegan the same thing?

I am often asked if eating plant-based is the same as vegan or vegetarian. And if you’re not mainly a plant-eater it can all sound the same.

The term whole food plant-based (WFPB) diet was created in the 1980’s by Dr T Colin Campbell at Cornell University. He is most well-known for his book The China Study.

The China Study is based on the findings of a large observational study he carried out in rural China in the 1980's. It was funded by Cornell and Oxford Universities and the government of China. And included 6500 participants from 65 different Chinese counties.

The findings of the study suggested that Western-style diseases, including heart disease and cancer, were associated with diets high in animal protein and saturated fat. The opposite was also true. A diet centred around whole (unprocessed) plant foods was associated with the lowest rate of chronic disease.

Since then, many studies have confirmed that a plant-rich diet is a recognised way to improve your health. Eating this way could reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers. And may help you manage your weight.

Healthy breakfast
When you eat for your health, the less red meat, poultry, fish and eggs you eat - the healthier you will be

Plant-based diets rich in beans, nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables, wholegrains (such as oats, barley and quinoa) and minimally processed foods can provide all the nutrients you need for good health.

Now, plant-based doesn’t sound like it means meat-, fish- and dairy-free. The phrase can be loosely interpreted. And often is. Many assume that if they eat vegetables regularly, they are plant-based.

But if you’re making the switch to eat for your health, the less red meat, poultry, fish, and eggs you eat - the healthier you will be.


Top 5 reasons to choose a plant-based lifestyle

1. You’ll be eating for your health

A whole food, plant-based diet has been shown to prevent, and in some cases reverse, some of the leading chronic diseases.

2. You’ll focus on what you do eat (lots of plants)

Rather than, like vegans and vegetarians, focussing on what you don’t eat (animal products)

3. You’ll mainly be eating whole healthy foods

I like a vegan burger at a summer BBQ too. But overly processed meals are the exception on a plant-based diet.

4. You can take it step-by-step

Many (like me) went from meat-eater to fish only, to vegetarian to plant-based over several years.

5. You’ll be making a difference

Plant-based eaters often naturally embrace other motivations too. Like the ethical treatment of animals and choosing to have a lower impact on the environment.

Is a plant-base diet the one for you?

If you are looking to eat more healthily and lower your risk of chronic diseases and ill health, then this is the perfect choice for you!



Chen, J., Campbell, T.C., Li, J., Peto, R. Diet, Lifestyle and Mortality in China (1990) T Colin Campbell centre for Nutritional Studies

Katz, D. L. et al. (2018) ‘Lifestyle as Medicine: The Case for a True Health Initiative, American Journal of Health Promotion.

Li, Y. et al. (2018) ‘Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population’

Li Yanping, Schoufour Josje, Wang Dong D, Dhana Klodian, Pan An, Liu Xiaoran et al. (2020) Healthy lifestyle and life expectancy free of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes: prospective cohort study

Kvaavik, E. et al. (2010) ‘Influence of individual and combined health behaviours on total and cause-specific mortality in men and women: The United Kingdom Health and Lifestyle Survey’

GBD 2017 Diet Collaborators (2019) ' Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017', Lancet.

Meier, T., Gräfe, K., Senn, F., et al. (2019) 'Cardiovascular mortality attributable to dietary risk factors in 51 countries in the WHO European Region from 1990 to 2016: a systematic analysis of the Global Burden of Disease Study'.

Papier, K., Fensom, G.K., Knuppel, A. et al. (2021) 'Meat consumption and risk of 25 common conditions: outcome-wide analyses in 475,000 men and women in the UK Biobank study'.

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