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What’s the Difference: Vegan vs. Dairy-Free

Vegan and dairy-free diets impose limits on which animal-derived products if any, you can eat.

Although these diets share a number of similarities and are frequently confused, they are not the same thing. As such, you may want to know about the differences between them.

While vegetarian and dairy-free diets share some common principles and limit the consumption of some of the same foods, they are not the same.

What is a vegan diet?

Veganism includes both food and lifestyle decisions. Someone who wishes to become vegan, to the best of their ability, avoids items that use or exploit animals.

Plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains, are the cornerstone of a vegan diet. Meat, fish, seafood, dairy, eggs, and sometimes other animal-derived products such as honey are removed.

For environmental, animal welfare, personal health, and/or ethical concerns, an individual might choose veganism.

Vegan lifestyles often aim to avoid consumer goods which have been tested on animals or include animal-derived ingredients. This include some products for cosmetics, clothes, and personal care.


What is a dairy-free diet?

The dairy-free diet prohibits all dairy products. This category includes milk from any animal, as well as any product made from that milk, such as cheese, yogurt, butter and cream.

Yet, people who adopt this eating pattern can also consume other animal foods, such as beef, fish, shellfish, and eggs.

Dairy-free diets are generally preferred for health reasons, such as cow's milk allergy or lactose intolerance, a disorder in which the body cannot absorb milk sugar lactose, leading to diarrhea and gas after milk has been eaten.

Some people can also observe a milk-free diet for ethical reasons.


How to choose the right food?

You will want to know whether a food is vegan and/or dairy-free while shopping for groceries.


Check the Label

Vegan or dairy-free items appropriate for either diet is also labelled. Plus, others may have a "certified vegan" seal to guarantee that they have not been tested by animals and do not contain any additives or by-products extracted from animals.

In addition, you can distinguish dairy-free products using the kosher label pareve. This Yiddish term means that neither meat nor dairy is present in a meal.

A food with this label, however, can still contain eggs and other ingredients derived from animals, so not all pareve foods are vegan.


Look through the ingredients list

You should search the ingredient list if a label isn't obvious.

Along with peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and eggs, milk is one of the top eight allergens. Manufacturers are expected to clearly mark these ingredients on the ingredient lists of their goods to warn customers of their presence. Mostly, they're written in bold.

It is milk-free if a substance is free of milk or milk derivatives.

While there should be no animal ingredients in vegan products, it is always best to read the ingredient list to ensure that a product meets the standards.

In facilities that handle non-vegan products, certain vegan foods can be processed. You may also see a disclaimer that, because of the possibility of cross-contamination, the food may contain trace amounts of animal products, such as milk, fish, or eggs.


To Sum It Up

Although there are some similarities to vegan and dairy-free diets, they are not synonymous.

All animal products, including dairy, poultry, meat, and fish, are exempt from a vegan diet, while a dairy-free diet forbids all milk products, but not necessarily any other animal products.

While all vegan foods are inherently free of dairy, not all dairy-free foods are vegan.

Carefully reading the label and ingredient list is the easiest way to decide whether a product is vegan and/or dairy-free.

In addition, for both diets, several vegan milk alternatives are appropriate.

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