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When I first heard President Clinton went vegan, I got really excited. I'm happy for him and his family---he looks great, much healthier. I was also excited for what this meant for veganism.
My initial thought was, "veganism has officially hit the mainstream--it's finally "normal" -- a PRESIDENT is vegan! No one can ever cast us off into the "weird" corner again" but it's more than that.
President Clinton has the ability to spread our message to the masses. He has a powerful voice. His words have credence. His words have an impact. Someone might not listen to me -- after all, who am I to them? But they might open their ears to a former President.
President Clinton can also help facilitate real changes in our food industries. He can talk to Congress, help lobbyists, create initiatives and He has access to the media. Exclamation points all around!
So why the long face?
Just about every article I've read about Clinton's veganism has this little "disclaimer" (from NPR):
The former prez will need to keep an eye on his B12. Vegans and vegetarians can be short of this vitamin, which is present in eggs and dairy foods, and can become tired and anemic without it. They can also run short of iron, protein, zinc and calcium.
This drives me mad. Eating meat and dairy does not mean all your nutritional needs are going to be automatically met, or they're going to be met more easily or more likely than if you only ate plants.
I have several friends---friends who proudly describe themselves as "carnivores"--- who are on supplements for B12, iron, calcium and/or Vitamin D---because they have inadequate levels. One friend actually cured her iron deficiency naturally by switching to a vegetarian diet!
I will never understand why there is such a concern for vegans and where they get their calcium, protein, iron, etc--but no one wonders where an omnivore gets their fiber and water-soluble vitamins?
And why is there such criticism for the person who eats a diet filled with vegetables and fruits--but no judgment is passed on the someone whose only source of fruit is orange juice and whose only vegetable intake is a French fry?
The takeaway here is that whether you are vegan, vegetarian, omnivore or a flexitarian--- your diet must be balanced, with a wide variety of nutritious foods. If you fail to eat a wholesome, appropriately balanced diet, you will have health issues eventually. That's why my message on Happy Herbivore has always been about eating healthy and eating well above all else. For me, I find it's much easier to meet all my nutritional needs as a vegan because as a vegan I'm consuming more fruits, vegetables and legumes than I ever did before.
Anyway, I just had to get my little rant out---I still think all the press around President Clinton's veganism is still good for our message and I'm hoping his words will change a lot of lives. He changed his own life, and that matters too.
By the way, I've written about this topic before, and in much more depth. For more reading, see my manifesto, "my vegan diet."
What are your thoughts?