12 September 2011
A Plant-Based Diet?
Plants and and animals, or more properly Plantae and Animalia, are just two kingdoms of life. If you were born in a previous millennium like I was, you may vaguely remember learning these as the only two. If you paid attention past grammar school, you may remember another kingdom, Protista, which popped in to account for all those wee things that weren't quite plant nor animal. Later others like Fungi and Monera were popularized, the latter broken up again into Archaea and Bacteria. Like many areas in phylogeny, changes are still occurring due to advancements in genetics, but most biology textbooks currently have six kingdoms: Bacteria, Archaea, Protista, Plantae, Fungi, and Animalia.
To take it even further back, things used to be classified as animal, vegetable, or mineral, and still are if you play twenty questions. Even if a person eschews any synthetic additives from their diet, they still need sodium chloride and other inorganic minerals that do not derive from living organisms.
I know people who eat portabella burgers (fungi) with a sprinkle of salt (mineral), a side of non-dairy yogurt (bacteria), and seaweed salad (protista) can still keep a plant-based diet. The main basis is still plants. And actually that sounds like a good option for dinner. However, a flexitarian also has a plant-based diet, despite eating some animal flesh.
Because most vegans and the like want to differentiate themselves from omnivores, a term like plant-exclusive would be better, if they ate exclusively plants and not other organisms. I know many folks hate defining themselves in terms of a negative, preferring "I eat plants" to "I don't eat animals," but we're going to have to suck it up here. Something like an animal-abstaining diet and not plant-protist-fungi-bacteria-and-mineral-based diet.
However, only a vegan diet and it's subgenres (raw vegan, fruitarian) abstain from animal products. So why not say vegan? If one wants to include vegetarians and vegans in one term, that term is vegetarian. If one wants to include flexitarians, macrobiotic folks, and anyone who isn't a meat-and-potatoes omnivore, then a new term is required. Maybe nomnivore? Herbivore? Animal-minimizing diet? What do you think?