Though Bill Clinton has been careful in recent years not to label himself a vegan, the media has been less than picky in differentiating between someone who eats absolutely no animal products and someone who infrequently does. Even daughter Chelsea Clinton last month called her father "the world's most famous vegan."
"He went to the doctor recently," Chelsea told Marlo Thomas. "And his doctor told him that his heart today is much younger than it was even 10 years ago. So that thrills me, because selfishly I want my dad around for a very long time."
Is Clinton's diet working? Absolutely - he's dropped more than 30 pounds since making the switch. Is it devoid of animal products? Nope. In a recent interview with the NY Times, Clinton's physician Dr. Mark Hyman confirms that the former president does occasionally eat fish and lean protein. “It’s hard being a vegan to eat enough good, quality protein and not have too much starch,” Dr. Hyman said. “I know a lot of fat vegans.”
Hyman says that he believes in "functional medicine," or using diet and lifestyle to address chronic diseases instead of medication. His wellness plans avoid sugar and embrace mostly gluten-free whole foods, proteins, and natural fats.
“It’s eat real food, walk a little bit, sleep eight hours, do a few things to relax, write a little bit in your journal, take a multivitamin,” Dr. Hyman said. “It’s not rocket science, but it takes out foods that are very inflammatory and toxic.”
Last year, Clinton confirmed in an interview with AARP the magazine that although nearly all of his meals are plant-based, he still eats "a helping of organic salmon or an omelet made with omega-3-fortified eggs" once a week "to maintain iron, zinc and muscle mass." Even back in 2011, he shared with Rachael Ray that he was being mindful of labels out of respect for the vegan scene.
“I'm very careful," Clinton said, "because strict vegans not only don't eat any meat or fish or dairy products, but they don't ever eat any processed breads and they're very careful what kind of oil goes into their food. So I, you know, I can't quite make that. My daughter, who was a vegetarian most of her life, beats up on me to eat more fish so I maybe have fish a little bit, once or twice a month, but I sort of lost the taste for all of it.”
Despite Clinton's dance with the vegan label, many involved in the animal-free movement applaud his efforts in bringing attention to the lifestyle.
“There is some latitude, he is primarily a vegan,” Len Torine, executive director of the American Vegetarian Association, told ABC News. “Whatever amount of vegan you are, I support it. I support him. He’s bringing enlightenment to a huge population because of his popularity.”
Related on MNN:
- Director James Cameron says he feels 15 years younger on vegan diet
- Al Gore says he'll likely stay vegan 'for life'