What is a plant-based diet?
Plant-based diets are diets where people get the majority (or all) of their nutritional needs met from plant foods – eg. vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and grains. There are lots of different kinds of plant-based diets. Plant-based diets may be pure plant-based diets or mostly plant-based diets.
Pure-plant based diets (like vegan style diets) are diets where no animal products are eaten- that is, no dairy (so no milk, cheese, yoghurt, cream, ice cream, custard or butter), no egg, and no meats (beef, pork, chicken, fish, shellfish – any animal). Although a pure-plant based diet has a lot in common with a vegan diet in the sense that no animal products are eaten, vegetarian and vegan diets are different from the types of plant-based diets which are advocated for health reasons (as it is possible to eat a “junk food” vegan or vegetarian diet). Furthermore, veganism extends beyond the diet as vegans also aim to avoid animal based products as much as they can throughout their entire lifestyle – so for example, no leather or fur clothing.
Generally people following a pure plant-based diet may be doing so for a variety of other reasons – like health benefits, animal welfare concerns or environmental reasons.
Some examples of pure plant-based diets are vegan diets and whole food plant-based diets.
A mostly plant-based diet is a diet where people may eat some animal products, eg. a little dairy, egg, fish or meat for example but the majority of their calories and nutrition comes from plant-foods (think more like the traditional Asian diets or Mediterranean diets). This is a great video about plant based diets and longevity by journalist and author Dan Buettner.
Generally speaking plant-based diets focus on un or minimally processed whole foods and encourage eating a lot of whole grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit with some nuts and seeds, and discourages the eating of fats and oils, processed foods and animal foods, although some proponents of plant-based diets may allow the inclusion of some animal-based foods in the diet (eg. Dr. Ornish).
For more information on the types of plant-based diets you could check out this article. http://www.thepermanentejournal.org/issues/2013/spring/5117-nutrition.html