Penned by PBA Core Member, Mythri Ramesh for the Los Gatos Outlook in August 2021.
One lazy Saturday afternoon, I called a local restaurant and asked to hear their vegan options. I then heard, “Is chicken okay?” and took it as an opportunity to explain the nuances between different plant-based diets. This article will explore those differences, and share some reasons why my Los Gatos family and I have personally chosen a vegan diet.
So what are the different plant-based diets? How do they differ from a vegan diet?
Plant-based: Focuses on foods primarily from plants like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, legumes, and beans. Doesn’t completely exclude animal products, but prioritizes choosing foods from plant sources.
Vegan: Excludes all animal products, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy products.
Lacto-vegetarian: Excludes eggs, meat, seafood, and poultry and includes milk products.
Ovo-vegetarian: Excludes meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy products and includes eggs.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian: Excludes meat, seafood, and poultry and includes eggs and dairy products. 
Pescatarian: Excludes meats, like beef, pork, or chicken, but includes fish. May include dairy products and eggs pescatarian diet may include dairy products and eggs.
I had been a lacto-ovo vegetarian all my life, but now I am a proud vegan with all my heart and soul. Through this journey of discovery, I learned some eye-opening, jaw-dropping and heartbreaking facts. I will break it down into three parts, to make it look clean, easy to understand and to be frank, not to bore you!
Vegan for My Health and My Family’s Health
According to researchers, “unhealthy diets are the largest global burden of disease,” having surpassed even tobacco use as the leading cause of death and disease worldwide. Eating more plants and fewer animal products could prevent 10.9 to 11.6 million premature human deaths from heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic conditions every year.  After learning this, I decided to change our diet to plant-based to protect my family.
Vegan for Our Planet
It takes 460 gallons of water and 64.5 square feet of land crops to produce a 1/4-pound hamburger.  Imagine how many humans we can feed in that same amount of land with a plant-based diet! And every year, we raise 29 million cows for beef and dairy. When we factor in all the land used to graze animals and feed crops grown to sustain livestock, as well as the waste produced from all these animals (cows are responsible for 62 percent of agricultural emissions5) it becomes obvious that eating animals is simply unsustainable for our planet. These are the facts about cows. What about other farm animals?
Vegan for Animals
Who doesn’t like the classic children’s song, “Old-McDonald?” We all teach our kids about farm animals and take them to petting zoos. The feeling of seeing a jumping white baby lamb or a goofy tiny pink piglet tends to generate happiness and love. But somehow there is a disconnect from seeing them physically alive, versus having them on our plates. Animals are sentient beings, and they feel emotions just like us through their nervous systems. They are no different from our pampered dogs or cats with their own cute little beds. Why treat one as companions and others as products?
Am I asking to throw out everything in your refrigerator? If you are up for it, yes! It really depends on what you’re comfortable with. Some people convert to a plant-based diet completely on day one, while others ease into it by starting to switch out some traditional meals with plant-based meals. You can start with meatless Mondays or kick-start your diet with a month of plant-based meals. Need recipes? There are countless online that are super easy, quick and delicious. There are several pure vegan restaurants around the Bay Area as well as vegan options provided by various local restaurants. If you need help getting used to eating plant-based, there are many resources available to help you: Challenge 22 (www.challenge22.com) and Vegan Outreach (www.veganoutreach.org) are just a few. You can also find support and recipes through Plant-Based Advocates, a grassroots group that I am part of in Los Gatos.
I encourage you to give the “plant-based lifestyle” a chance. Who knows? Maybe you will love this new way of living because of your improved health, as well as knowing your diet minimizes harm toward animals or our environment.
Plant-Based Advocates is a grassroots group in Los Gatos that is working to mitigate climate change by reducing the traditional reliance on meat and dairy. We're taking action in the community by doing things like helping restaurants increase their plant-based options, working with local legislators, and sharing plant-based meals with unhoused communities. This is our way of sharing the benefits of plant-based eating and giving back to the community during these unprecedented times.
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