Why Bill Clinton Became a Vegetarian

Bill Clinton, VegetarianAs the 42nd president of the United States, Bill Clinton has changed positions a few times before. But that the man who famously favored fast food for breakfast and countless other occasions has turned to veganism is a noteworthy shift.

In a highly publicized interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and frequent anchor/correspondent at CNN, Clinton said that he now considers himself a devout vegan and abstains from eating meat, dairy products, eggs and most oils. The main reason for his adherence to a strictly plant-based diet is to slow down the progression of heart disease, which has plagued the former president for quite some time.

“I essentially concluded that I had played Russian roulette,” Clinton said in the interview, “because even though I had changed my diet some and cut down on the calorie total of my ingestion and cut back on much of the cholesterol in the food I was eating, I still […] was taking in a lot of extra cholesterol. So that’s when I made a decision to really change.”

In 2004, four years after leaving office, the 58-year old Clinton had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery to restore blood flow to his heart. “I was lucky I did not die of a heart attack,” he told Dr. Gupta. But last year, he needed another heart procedure, having two stents implanted to re-open one of the veins from his bypass surgery. After consulting with his physicians, Clinton realized that moderate diet- and lifestyle changes were just not enough to keep his disease from further progressing. More radical steps were required – measures that actually could help reverse some of the damage that had already been done.

Two of the president’s medical advisors are Dr. Dean Ornish, director of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, California and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. Both doctors are strong advocates for a plant-based diet to prevent and, in many cases, reverse the damage from heart disease.

If you consider following a similar dietary regimen, you need to know that keeping to a strict vegan diet is easier planned than done. “‘Vegan’ is not a synonym for ‘healthy,’” said Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and author of “The Flexitarian Diet.” It’s a common mistake among newbie vegans to remove meat from their diets without knowing how to add sufficient amounts of complete plant-based proteins.

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), a strictly vegetarian diet can be healthy, but vegetarians, and especially vegans, need to make sure they’re getting enough of the important nutrients that are mostly present in animal food products. A vegan diet (the strictest form of vegetarianism) may lead to an increased risk of deficiency in vitamin B12, vitamin B2, calcium, iron and zinc. Some of this can be avoided by taking supplements.

A particular challenge for vegans is access to high-quality protein. Only animal- and soy proteins are considered “complete” proteins because they contain all the essential amino acids the human body requires. Amino acids are the building blocks that make up protein. Plant foods, such as grains, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, are “incomplete” because they lack one or more of these essential amino acids.

Fortunately, vegans can make up for the missing nutrients by taking a mix and match approach. For instance, grains consumed with legumes (beans, peas) make complete proteins. So do combinations of vegetables and legumes, vegetables and nuts as well as grains and nuts. Because amino acids stay in the blood stream for several hours, complementary proteins don’t have to be eaten all at once but can be stretched over several meals throughout the day.

A healthful vegan diet should more or less look like a healthy non-vegan one, according to Blatner. “The plate should be about half veggies and fruits, a quarter whole grains and a quarter protein. And vegans should be sure to include healthful fats like guacamole, nut butter or tahini dressing in their diets,” she said.

Also, keeping tabs on calories is still a must. You can gain too much weight from any kind of food if you overindulge. Surely, the president has been reminded of that little fact, too.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also be interested in reading “Vegan Nation,” “Are Vegetarians at Higher Risk for Iron Deficiency?” and “Strictly Vegetarian, Too Radical?

Source : SeattlePI

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