As reported by RadarOnline last week, Usher has gone vegan, and he wants his protege Justin Bieber to join him, convinced that it’s the healthiest way to eat. Late last month, Rosie O’Donnell switched to a plant-based diet after nearly dying of what’s known as a “Widow Maker” heart attack. Then there’s Bill Clinton who adopted a near-vegan regimen (occasionally eating fish) a few years ago in order to reverse coronary artery disease. Other famous vegans who chose the diet for its health benefits include Carl Lewis, Ozzy Osbourne and Mike Tyson. Yes, that Mike Tyson.
Among those who made the switch in the name of animal welfare are Ellen DeGeneres, Alicia Silverstone and Dennis Kucinich, and each of them has been outspoken in their advocacy for that cause. Apparently it was after watching the 2005 documentary “Earthlings,” about the suffering of animals for food, fashion, pets, entertainment and medical research, that Ms. DeGeneres committed to the vegan lifestyle. The film, nicknamed “the Vegan maker,” was narrated by animal-rights activist Joaquin Phoenix who himself has been vegan since age three.
For Alec Baldwin and Russell Simmons, a sense of responsibility for the health of the planet rounded out their reasons for becoming vegan. The impact on the environment from the consumption of meat, Mr. Simmons wrote, is “mind-blowing.”
People, famous or otherwise, become vegan for health, ethical and/or environmental reasons. I can’t disagree with the arguments made for veganism and the way it advances both animal and environmental causes, but I continue to wonder about whether a diet composed entirely of plant-based foods is the healthiest for everyone.
Angelina backs off
A few years ago, as noted in The Telegraph, Angelina Jolie started eating meat again, saying, “I was a vegan for a long time, and it nearly killed me. I found I was not getting enough nutrition.” Maybe Ms. Jolie wasn’t doing it right, wasn’t eating a well-balanced vegan diet, and maybe she thereby did a disservice to the vegan movement by making that statement. Maybe she should have adopted Bill Clinton’s regimen.
Bill Clinton’s version
“I live on beans, legumes, vegetables, fruit,” Mr. Clinton said in a TV interview two years ago. “I drink a protein supplement every morning — no dairy, I drink almond milk mixed in with fruit and a protein powder so I get the protein for the day when I start the day up.” What I wonder, however, is why a healthy, well-balanced diet has to include supplements, powders and various fortified foods. I wonder why adopting a vegan diet has to involve careful considerations and special accommodations for nutrients such as vitamins B12 and D, iron and calcium. So I wonder — and I know I may start a firestorm with this one — if a vegan diet is natural. What do you think?
As for Ms. Jolie, it’s possible, as she argues, that a plant-based diet, however well-devised, wasn’t ever going to provide the nourishment her body needed. Every body is different. Natalie Portman, after declaring her conversion to veganism in a well-publicized essay for The Huffington Post, switched back during her pregnancy because, as she told the Q100 Bert Show in Atlanta, “I felt like I wanted that stuff. I was listening to my body to have eggs and dairy.” Likewise, I remember being unable to stop myself from eating meat while pregnant, much as I tried, because I was feeling chronically undernourished without it.
Diet is a very personal choice, an expression of who we are, our values and beliefs, whether or not we’re deliberately trying to make a statement. That there are more and more vegans who are famous, however, has certainly raised the profile of the animal-free, plant-based lifestyle. Many advocates view Bill Clinton as the biggest “catch.” One vegan told The Associated Press: “It legitimizes it a lot. I like to point it out all the time when people are skeptical about veganism — Clinton’s a smart man.”
Photo Credit: SweetOnVeg