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The Green Life: Celebrity Vegan Diet Trends On the Rise

Bill Clinton is latest high profile personality to adopt a vegan diet. Bill Clinton is latest high profile personality to adopt a vegan diet.

Last month, when former president Bill Clinton announced that he had been following a vegan diet, folks were understandably shocked. Bill "Burger & Fries" Clinton, abandoning beef for a life of tofu and lentils? It couldn't be so! But perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised. More and more high profile personalities are switching up their diet to lower cholesterol and lose weight. Is the vegan diet just the latest celebrity fad or a growing movement?

President Clinton, like many vegan or vegetarian converts, made the choice in an effort to combat health problems that had been caused by a lifetime of bad diet choices. He had a quadruple-bypass surgery in 2004, and went under the knife again in 2010. After that, Clinton adopted a vegan diet under the advice and supervision of his doctor, and says the change has been beneficial.

"It's turning a ship around before it hits the iceberg," Clinton said of the switch, "but I think we're beginning to turn it around... All my blood tests are good, my vital signs are good, and I also have, believe it or not, more energy." He has also lost 28 lbs and arguably looks better than he did when he was in office.

Clinton, of course, is not the first celebrity to opt for a meat-free diet. Though the reasons vary from person to person, many celebrities have made the change, and some have been very vocal about their decision.

Actress Alicia Silverstone, who has been a vegan for many years, works with groups like PETA to promote veganism, and even has a blog and book dedicated to what she and many vegans call "The Kind Life." She shares recipes and motivation with other vegans and vegetarians, and also hosts speaking engagements on school campuses where she uses her celebrity to promote a vegan lifestyle.

Other famous vegans and vegetarians include hot actresses like Natalie Portman, Naomi Watts, and Rachel McAdams, as well as singers like Shania Twain, Carrie Underwood and Pink, who will be raising her baby vegan.

Many of Hollywood's leading men are choosing "the kind life" as well. Ian McKellen, Alec Baldwin, Woody Harrelson, Tobey Maguire, and even Leonard Nimoy have cut meat from their meals. Eccentric actor Joaquin Phoenix was raised vegan along with late brother River and sister Summer, both actors. In the music industry, vegans and vegetarians range from Outkast's Andre 3000 and Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Ziggy Marley and Weird Al Yankovic.

Athletes like Atlanta Falcons tight end and future NFL hall-of-famer Tony Gonzalez, along with UFC fighters Jake Shields, Mac Danzig, and Aaron Simpson are proving that vegan and vegetarian diets can sustain the demands of high-level competitors. These guys’ brand of violent impact sports also shows that you don’t need to eat meat to be macho.

Celebrities are perhaps the world's most successful trendsetters, which might help explain why the percentage of Americans who claim to eat no red meat, poultry or seafood has risen slowly between 2006 and 2010, from just over two-percent of the adult population to just under four-percent. A larger percentage of people (eight percent) professed to eat no red meat; in 2006, this number was closer to six-percent. Perhaps more interestingly, another 2010 survey, by the National Restaurant Association, showed that a growing number of chefs were choosing to add vegetarian or vegan dishes to their menus.

Part of the attraction of a meatless diet extends beyond health. Though exact figures vary, scientists estimate that meat production, especially beef, creates somewhere between 14 and 22 percent of the total greenhouse emissions that contribute to global warming.

Time will tell whether the trend toward vegetarianism will continue, but if it's good enough for Gandalf and Spock as well as football playing tough guys, then there’s a large cross-section of our culture inclined to take up a plant-based diet. One thing is certain, there’s no sign of the celebrity vegetarian disappearing any time soon.

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Bill Clinton talks about adopting a largely vegan diet last year.
Last modified on Friday, 20 July 2012 17:05

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