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Thomas Jonas

Chief Executive Officer

Thomas believes in asking the big questions but also in finding new and different solutions. When a chance encounter on the beach in Hawaii led Thomas to a lab in Montana where he met Mark, he saw infinite possibilities in the tiny microscopic organism. When others often ask why, Thomas’ curiosity drives him to ask, why not and what if? Why not use the nutritional power of Fy to positively impact the environment and disrupt the food industry? What if Fy could feed people today and for generations to come? And as a former officer in the French Air Force, Thomas knows that even the sky is not the limit.
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Dr. Mark Kozubal

Chief Science Officer

Mark loves exploring science to find groundbreaking ways to benefit mankind. True to his curious nature, he journeyed to Yellowstone National Park and later discovered an extremophile microbe in samples taken from the hot springs. This microbe eventually grew to become our nutritional fungi protein, Fy. As a leading expert in extremophile organisms, it’s no surprise that his deep knowledge has led NASA, the National Science Foundation, the USDA, and the EPA to seek him out. When Mark isn’t researching extremophiles, he likes to mountain bike, backcountry ski, and strum guitar.
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Matthew Strongin

Chief Financial Officer

Matthew is passionate about leveraging technology to deliver a sustained impact on the planet and our society. This enthusiasm led him to Nature’s Fynd after working in venture capital and banking. As a venture investor in early-stage companies focused on agriculture and energy, Matthew experienced firsthand the struggles and rewards of commercializing technologies that both challenge convention and create sustainable solutions that disrupt the food industry in a positive way. He enjoys building towards audacious goals using his innovative spirit— just ask him about completely remodeling his home in his spare time.
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Karuna Rawal

Chief Marketing Officer

As a marketer with award-winning international success, Karuna was ready for the challenge of building a purpose-driven brand from the ground up. That brand? Nature’s Fynd. Karuna’s broad experience in launching new food innovations combined with an intentional focus on how we can create a better food system led her to this position. Building on the company’s unique origins, Karuna is crafting a compelling narrative for Nature’s Fynd. And her own enthusiasm for food extends beyond her kitchen to seeking out amazing tasting vegan food. So if you’re in Chicago, ask her to share a favorite recipe or restaurant she last visited for a flawless recommendation.
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Jim Millis

Chief Technology Officer

Jim’s belief is simple: live modestly and leave the world in a better place than you found it. He does this by preparing food from his own garden and through his work at Nature’s Fynd. With over thirty years of working as an entrepreneurial leader and his expertise in fermentation technology, Jim helped create the breakthrough method used to grow our nutritional fungi protein, Fy. This innovative spirit comes from a family of creators. With a woodshop on his family’s farm and an uncle in the business of wood lathes, Jim also loves woodturning to craft stunning bowls from reclaimed wood.
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Vegetarian vs. the Vegan vs. Flexitarian Diet

Nature's Fynd Blog

The Veg­e­tar­i­an vs. the Veg­an vs. the Flex­i­tar­i­an Diet: Which One is Right for You?

by Ele­na, Move to Root

Drop the ham­burg­er: It’s Veganuary! 

It’s the per­fect month to try some­thing new. As you may have deduced from the name, Veg­an­uary means going on a veg­an diet for the month of Jan­u­ary. For some, it’s a tem­po­rary but impact­ful change ded­i­cat­ed to a more sus­tain­able future. For oth­ers, this month is the first step to a com­plete lifestyle shift, with many mov­ing to veg­an, veg­e­tar­i­an, or flex­i­tar­i­an diets per­ma­nent­ly there­after. While the veg­e­tar­i­an diet is the most wide­ly under­stood sus­tain­able diet, veg­an and flex­i­tar­i­an diets are becom­ing increas­ing­ly trendy. Aren’t quite sure what these diets entail? Let us explain. 

Veg­an­ism is the grow­ing prac­tice of abstain­ing from the use of both ani­mal-derived food and non-food prod­ucts, mak­ing it as much of a lifestyle as it is a diet. Flex­i­tar­i­an­ism, on the oth­er hand, is an increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar diet among those who want to make a difference—but aren’t com­fort­able with aban­don­ing meat entire­ly. Take Car­di B’s recent Tweet, for example:

Cardi B Vegan Tweet

True to its name, the flex­i­tar­i­an diet is more flex­i­ble than the veg­an diet but still involves reduc­ing the num­ber of ani­mal prod­ucts con­sumed. Whether you’re a sea­soned sus­tain­abil­i­ty pro or just a lit­tle veg-curi­ous, today we want to fill you (and Car­di) in on the basics of the veg­an and flex­i­tar­i­an diets and how the two compare. 

Veg­e­tar­i­an, Veg­an, and Flex­i­tar­i­an Diets: The Basics

Last year in the US, demand for ani­mal meat fell while plant-based food sales dou­bled. Sim­i­lar sta­tis­tics were seen in Brazil, the Philip­pines, Argenti­na, and beyond. What does this mean? Sus­tain­able diets that focus on nour­ish­ment from plants and fun­gi oth­er than ani­mal protein—like veg­e­tar­i­an­ism, veg­an­ism, and flexitarianism—are here to stay. Let’s dive into specifics.

Pros and cons of the veg­e­tar­i­an diet

Sure­ly, you’ve heard of the veg­e­tar­i­an diet and may even know a friend or cowork­er who has com­mit­ted to a meat­less lifestyle. Indi­vid­u­als who adopt a veg­e­tar­i­an diet avoid meat derived from ani­mals. Veg­e­tar­i­ans typ­i­cal­ly con­sume less sat­u­rat­ed fat and cho­les­terol and have a high­er intake of dietary fiber, potas­si­um, and phy­to­chem­i­cals than their meat-eat­ing coun­ter­parts. Thus, they may have a reduced risk of many chron­ic dis­eases. By reduc­ing their ani­mal meat intake, veg­e­tar­i­ans have a small­er car­bon foot­print than those fol­low­ing an omniv­o­rous diet (which includes plants and animals). 

The chal­lenges that veg­e­tar­i­ans face when tran­si­tion­ing to the new diet are sim­i­lar to those that come with oth­er lifestyle changes. As humans, ini­tial­ly, it may require some extra plan­ning to break old habits and form new ones. So if you’re accus­tomed to buy­ing break­fast sausage made from pigs, there may be a slight tran­si­tion phase while fun­gi-based break­fast pat­ties become your new default. With that said, because there are so many deli­cious ani­mal meat alter­na­tives avail­able today, going veg­e­tar­i­an has nev­er been easier.

Pros and cons of the veg­an diet

Think of the veg­an diet as tak­ing veg­e­tar­i­an­ism a step fur­ther. Veg­an­ism excludes all meat derived from ani­mals as well as ani­mal byprod­ucts; think milk, eggs, etc. Being veg­an also often means cut­ting out some unex­pect­ed foods such as gelatin (made from ani­mal bones), foods for­ti­fied with vit­a­min D3 (usu­al­ly derived from fat­ty ani­mal sources), and bee prod­ucts like hon­ey. Some veg­ans also choose to avoid non-food items that include ani­mal-derived prod­ucts, like leather. This leaves foods such as legumes, nuts, veg­eta­bles, alter­na­tive pro­teins, and veg­an meat as the bulk of a typ­i­cal veg­an diet. 

Adher­ing to a veg­an diet is one of the most impact­ful steps one can take to help build a more sus­tain­able future for our plan­et. For starters, a veg­an diet can help to sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduce green­house gas emis­sions. A larg­er veg­an pop­u­la­tion also means improved ani­mal wel­fare, fur­ther decreas­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of inhu­mane farm­ing prac­tices or ani­mal exploita­tion. When planned for, a veg­an diet can also be high­ly nutri­tious. It is linked to a low­er risk of heart dis­ease, improved blood sug­ar con­trol, and low­er rates of obe­si­ty. Some health ben­e­fits may be observed after just a few weeks of mak­ing the switch (Veg­an­uary, anyone?).

Like any lifestyle change, becom­ing veg­an comes with its chal­lenges, too. First and fore­most, most veg­ans would agree; label-read­ing is a must. Many food items on shelves have sneaky ani­mal-derived ingre­di­ents. Some exam­ples include marsh­mal­lows made with gelatin, cer­tain chip brands that con­tain milk pow­der, and var­i­ous beer and wine brands that use ani­mal-derived fin­ing agents. Veg­ans may also avoid sup­ple­ments such as omega-3-fat­ty acids derived from fish and most col­la­gen. While it’s a myth that being veg­an means you will not get enough pro­tein or nutri­ents, one must indeed be more con­scious of nutri­tion when first start­ing the diet to ensure ade­quate intake of vit­a­mins such as B12 and min­er­als such as cal­ci­um. Most lifestyle changes require a learn­ing curve, but with a lit­tle work, the ini­tial chal­lenges of a veg­an diet can be quick­ly overcome. 

Pros and cons of the flex­i­tar­i­an diet 

The word flex­i­tar­i­an is, per­haps obvi­ous­ly, a com­bi­na­tion of the terms flex­i­ble and veg­e­tar­i­an. The flex­i­tar­i­an diet is defined less by what it excludes and more by what it focus­es on. Thus, many flex­i­tar­i­ans con­sid­er them­selves most­ly plant-based while con­sum­ing the occa­sion­al ani­mal product.

What do flex­i­tar­i­ans eat?

While plant-based foods are a major com­po­nent of flex­i­tar­i­an (and veg­an) diets, many peo­ple don’t real­ize that fun­gi-based ingre­di­ents are often involved and are a king­dom all of their own. Although flex­i­ble, there are guide­lines around meat con­sump­tion depend­ing on com­mit­ment lev­el. Most flex­i­tar­i­ans fall with­in a week­ly meat con­sump­tion range of 9 to 28 ounces per week. To put this into per­spec­tive, Amer­i­cans con­sume around 84 net-weight ounces of meat per week on aver­age, not includ­ing seafood, fish, or indi­vid­ual food waste.

The flex­i­tar­i­an diet has few rules but a com­mon goal: to reduce the num­ber of ani­mal prod­ucts con­sumed. When con­sum­ing ani­mal pro­tein, many flex­i­tar­i­ans look for meat and ani­mal prod­ucts for which ani­mals have been raised to a high­er wel­fare stan­dard. Some flex­i­tar­i­ans will have a meat­less day each week, while oth­ers only have meat when meal plan­ning is out of their con­trol (like restau­rant out­ings with cowork­ers, dur­ing trav­el, or when din­ing as a guest in someone’s home). What’s more, some flex­i­tar­i­ans eat min­i­mal amounts of dairy and eggs, while oth­ers opt for dairy-free and alter­na­tive pro­teins as their sta­ples. The diet also boasts health ben­e­fits sim­i­lar to the vegan/​vegetarian diets, includ­ing a reduced risk of heart dis­ease, type 2 dia­betes, and obe­si­ty. And the ben­e­fits of a flex­i­tar­i­an diet don’t stop at ani­mal and human health. The improved health of the plan­et is anoth­er com­mend­able rea­son to adopt a flex­i­tar­i­an diet. Research indi­cates that tran­si­tion­ing to a more flex­i­tar­i­an diet could reduce green­house gas emis­sions by more than 50 percent.

Which is bet­ter: the flex­i­tar­i­an diet or the veg­an or veg­e­tar­i­an diet? 

The bet­ter diet is the one you can sus­tain, which dif­fers by indi­vid­ual. Sure, the veg­an diet works for many peo­ple. How­ev­er, the flex­i­tar­i­an diet is also a great prac­tice that helps slow the cur­rent cycle of live­stock sup­ply and demand that is not sus­tain­able for our grow­ing plan­et, espe­cial­ly in the face of cli­mate change. Veg­an, veg­e­tar­i­an, and flex­i­tar­i­an diets are all paths towards a health­i­er, kinder, and more sus­tain­able future, and we sure like the sound of that. 

The bot­tom line

Let’s face it—feeding near­ly 8 bil­lion peo­ple con­sum­ing ani­mal prod­ucts the way we do now is not some­thing we can con­tin­ue through­out future gen­er­a­tions. By mak­ing more food choic­es that nour­ish our bod­ies and nur­ture the plan­et, togeth­er, we can make real, last­ing change.

Oh yeah, and that ham­burg­er you dropped ear­li­er? It saved us 660 gal­lons of water, 64.5 square feet of land, 13 pounds of feed, and five kilo­grams of CO2. Earth, and you, are a lit­tle health­i­er today — regard­less of which for­ward-think­ing diet you choose to pursue.

Check out our
recipes on Pin­ter­est for veg­e­tar­i­an, veg­an, and flex­i­tar­i­an meal ideas that are ide­al for Veg­an­uary and beyond!