What Types of Vegans Are There?

A little vegan education for ya…

Vegan: No animal products, even honey. An orthodox vegan does not wear or use any animal product, such as leather or make-up or products tested on animals.

Reasons for choosing a vegan diet are varied but many people choose it for health and/or because of ethical/moral/religious reasons (many Hindus are vegetarian and vegan, for example).

Now as for the factions of veganism, here are some of the main ones:

Sprouting, juicing, and “green smoothies” are the staples to many raw vegans. A variety of milks are made from nuts (such as almond and cashews) or coconuts and “breads” are made by dehydrating sprouted grains, seeds, and vegetables.

Some raw vegans eat exotic and rare foods (like Thai coconuts, Goji berries, and Irish Moss) while others stick to more local common foods.
A variety of seaweeds are also included.
The raw food diet has been used by many people suffering from cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses as medicine (google raw websites, and you will find a wide variety of reasons for choosing this diet). Others are drawn to it as a natural preventative medicine. The essence of a raw diet is that all of the enzymes are intact resulting in more nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. A large portion of these nutrients are lost in the cooking process, making this a compelling reason for many to choose this diet.

Within the raw world there are so many variations to the raw diet (surprising, I know, you wouldn’t think there would be much to chose from).

Low-fat Raw
Essentially a fruitarian, as most of their caloric intake comes from fruit and greens. Their diet, calorically is essentially 80-10-10 (80% carbohydrates, 10% protein, 10% fat). No added oils, only occasionally high-fat plant foods such as nuts and avocados.

Mostly Raw
Includes a small amount of cooked foods such as yams, sweet potatoes, and sprouted grain bread. Made up of mostly greens, vegetables, fruits, high-quality oils, nuts and seeds. Dehydrated crackers, breads, and fruit are also included.

All Raw
Same as above, except they only eat raw foods (uncooked foods), 100% of the time. Most are vegan, although some consume raw goat’s milk and cheese, and a some even include raw meat (I wouldn’t recommend this!). Some 100% raw vegans don’t consume anything dehydrated, or heated at any temperature, including dried fruits.

The Low-fat, Plant-Based Diet Crowd
Dr. Ornish, Dr. McDougall, among others such as Dr. Pritkin and Dr. Esselstyn, use this diets as part of a program to reverse heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. The Engine 2 Diet also fits in this category.  No oils (this includes things like Earth Balance, or other non-dairy butters).  No nuts/seeds, olives, coconut, avocado, peanut butter, or any other high fat plant food if you have heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.

Dr. Dean Ornish Diet
Not a pure vegan, rather a low-fat vegetarian. He allows for a very small amount of non-fat dairy products (non-fat yogurt, non-fat milk) and on occasion, a very limited amount of lower fat animal products such as shrimp. No oils and limited high-plant foods. Dr. Nathan Pritkin has a similar diet.

Dr. McDougall Diet
Low-fat vegan. No animal products, oils. A limited amount of higher fat plant foods such as nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados are permitted. Refined sugars and flours are used on special occasions. Dr. McDougall stresses the importance of starches (complex carbohydrates) as the center of every meal (oatmeal for breakfast, rice for lunch, potatoes for dinner, for example) with the inclusion of vegetables and legumes as side dishes or accents to the meal. With his plan for maximum weight loss, fruits are restricted to 2-3 per day, and no flour products are allowed.

Dr. Joel Furhman
Beans, fruit, and greens are supreme in this diet. Eat all you want of the previous foods, and you will lose weight. No refined foods of any sort (no sugar or white flour) or juices. Flour products are to be avoided, and starches limited. 1 TBS. of ground flax seed a day and 1 oz. of raw nuts daily is also included.

Whole-foods Vegan
No oils (because it’s not a “whole” food). Instead, nuts and things like coconut milk are used to replace oils in recipes. White flour, white rice, refined sugar, and anything processed is a no-no.

Staples besides obvious grains, vegetables, and fruits include things like tofu, tempeh (a fermented soy product), rice/soy/almond/oat milks, meat alternatives (like veggie dogs, or soy cuts), cheese alternatives. Some vegans do not eat any soy products.

What kind of vegan am I?

I’m something of a mix of all of these. I include as much raw food in my diet as time, money, and the seasons permit, and I do eat soy products, but in limited amounts (and usually only in things like tofu or soy yogurt in baking) and I also am not opposed to eating honey if it happens to be in a food (I suppose I’m not a purist, huh?), but I don’t use it in my cooking.
I favor Dr. McDougall, and typically lean towards fitting into his category, although I modify things for my kids to make sure they are getting more fat in their diet from nut butters and things like Earth Balance, nuts, seeds and occasionally oils.  I also try to eat a high-raw diet, but don’t think there’s anything wrong with cooked vegetables.


  1. Zucchini Breath
    on February 6, 2009 at 12:38 am said:

    What a great breakdown. I will definitely refer to this post in the future, thanks!

  2. Vegan Mothering
    on February 4, 2009 at 6:48 pm said:

    This is fun, posting something on a blog. I've never actually done it before, but Deja asked about what I'm up to when Janae is making all her crazy stuff (said in an affectionate tone of voice), so I thought I'd answer. First, I'm no vegan. Second, I think that Janae's approach to food is inspired and I admire it. It's like living with someone who has memorized the scriptures, and I'm struggling with my fifteen minutes a day, but we're wicked in love so there is no resentment, only aspiration. I don't think that Janae's approach to food is the only healthy approach to food (and neither does she), but I'm dang certain it is an excellent approach. So, I eat what Janae makes, with occasional adjustments (maybe I'll throw in some bacon bits or cook up something else). The boys notice, and maybe it'll be a problem someday, but for now they don't care. Hyrum went to a birthday party two weeks ago and I asked them not to give him a hot dog, but the cake and ice cream were fine. I don't know how that translates into any reasonable standard, but it seemed like a decent compromise at the time. I don't want to speak for Janae on this point, but my own thought is that when we are at home we eat what Mom makes, and when the boys are away, we hope that they'll have learned enough about what is healthy and how that makes them physically feel to make good choices. I mean, this is a tiny window in which we actually control all their meals all day long. I just hope they can learn what Janae is trying to teach me. Healthy eating is excellent for every aspect of our lives.

  3. Deja
    on February 4, 2009 at 1:37 pm said:

    Very cool. I've always wanted to see this broken down.But tell me: what about the husband–yours. Is Joseph eating this way? Do you make two meals? Does he MOSTLY eat this way but break the code more often? And kids? You said you make exceptions for their growing bodies. But what about birthday parties or halloween or cupcakes at school? I wasn't allowed to eat sugar when I was a kid, and I remember being brought a lot of bowls of carrots and grapes at birthday parties. And, healthy or not, that was lame. How do they do, or what are your plans for them once they get a bit older?

  4. Vegan Mothering
    on February 4, 2009 at 7:19 am said:

    Baby steps, baby steps. You are right on! It's all about transitioning, moving in a more positive direction, taking one step at a time. I certainly didn't change my way of eating overnight. It was most definately a process. With food especially, we are very entrenched in a certain way of eating. We connect certain foods with certain things and memories, and if that food happens to be not the best for us (those steak fajitas, for example) but it's a part of your culture, your upbringing, to say, you can't have that anymore, in a way, it's like denying one's culture (or feels that way). Changing your diet is so much more than changing foods. It's about changing your perspective as well. And for many people, it can be pretty overwhelming. So accentuate even the smallest of positive changes! Something as simple as downgrading a large Coke to a small Coke or adding some veges to your dinner plate may be a step in the right direction.

  5. Melissa DeLeon
    on February 4, 2009 at 7:05 am said:

    It makes sense that you borrow this and that from those various diets concepts, since you are doing that which (through trial and error) works best for you and your family.My baby steps toward healthier living is to include more legumes in our diet. However, getting Monico to give up red meat, dairy, white bread, and soda is an uphill battle — so I find it works best to use the word "reduction" instead of "no more". Like I said, baby steps… 🙂