Monday, August 26, 2013

President Clinton Talks About His "Vegan" Diet

Vegan is in quotations because President Clinton is not a vegan; he eats animal food.

President Clinton was interviewed in the latest issue of AARP Magazine about his diet:

Bill Clinton Explains Why He Became A Vegan, by Joe Conason, AARP The Magazine, August/September 2013

I have a few comments...

When the interviewer arrived, Clinton had prepared for him a lunch:
"... including roasted cauliflower and cherry tomatoes, spiced and herbed quinoa with green onions, shredded red beets in vinaigrette, garlicky hummus with raw vegetable batons, Asian-inspired snow pea salad, an assortment of fresh roasted nuts, plates of sliced melon and strawberries, and rich, toothsome gigante beans tossed with onions in extra-virgin olive oil."
It's an exquisite spread. How does it materialize? If Clinton really wants Americans to change how they eat -- more fresh, organic, locally-grown, sustainably-produced fruits and vegetables -- he may want to lobby for increased accessibility. Give incentives for corner grocery stores, bodegas, street venders, fast food restaurants, gas stations, convenience stores, turnpike stops, etc. to sell them, at reasonable prices. These are where many Americans grab lunch. People will argue with me that Wawa sells apples. An apple does not a diet make.

It's fair to say Clinton eats something resembling a whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB) diet. It's not fair to say he eats a vegan diet, which is how he and others including this author characterize it. Veganism eliminates all animal products, which Clinton doesn't do, and is more about animal welfare than nutrition. In fact, vegan diets can be very poor nutritionally, to which this passage attests:
"When Caldwell Esselstyn spotted a picture of him on the Internet, eating a dinner roll at a banquet, the renowned doctor dispatched a sharply worded email message: "I'll remind you one more time, I've treated a lot of vegans for heart disease."
Indeed, Clinton eats animal foods. This sentence took the cake:
"Once a week or so, he will have a helping of organic salmon or an omelet made with omega-3-fortified eggs, to maintain iron, zinc and muscle mass."
First of all, there is no such thing as "organic salmon." "Organic" seafood is a marketing ploy. There are no US standards for organic seafood. Even if there were, the salmon would have to be farmed, not wild, to ensure organicness. Since salmon are carnivorous (it takes about 3 pounds of wild fish to grow 1 pound of farmed salmon) the fish they are fed would also have to be farmed to ensure their organicness. Farmed fish pollute the environment and are exposed to antibiotics and other chemicals to reduce disease and enhance growth.

And, what does that mean, eating animal food "to maintain muscle mass"? Does that mean people who eat no animal food fail to maintain muscle mass? Is this another take on "where do you get your protein?" So help me god.

Here's an excerpt from the ultramarathoner Rich Roll's site:
"But where do you get your protein?

I field this question constantly. Despite deeply ingrained but misleading conventional wisdom, the truth is that you can survive without meat, eggs and dairy. Believe it or not, you can actually thrive, and never suffer a protein deficiency. Because no matter how active your lifestyle, a well-rounded whole food plant-based diet provides more than enough protein to satisfy the body’s needs without all the artery-clogging saturated fats that dominate the typical American diet.

I speak from experience. As a vegan endurance athlete, I place a high tax on my body. And yet my plant-based diet has fueled me for years without any negative impact on building lean muscle mass or recovery. In fact, at age 45 I continue to improve and am as fit, healthy, and strong as I have ever been."
I noticed the eggs Clinton eats were not expressly organic or cage-free or anything. Almost all eggs in this country (even organic, cage-free, etc.) come from hens raised on farms which squeeze thousands of birds into windowless buildings with inadequate ventilation, cut and mutilate their beaks (with no anesthesia), and summarily exterminate male chicks. A vegan, in my understanding, would not support this kind of animal abuse.

Here's a short slide show put together by that offers transparency on how eggs are produced:

President Clinton has done a lot to advance whole food, plant-based diets in this country. I can criticize all I want but I should also be thanking him. He could have served up a deli platter.
Thanks again to Bill!

1 comment:

RB said...

I like what President Clinton is doing for the plant-based whole food diets too. It is difficult in the USA to go 100% vegan given our food culture, attitudes and environment. I don't fault President Clinton for straying a bit.

I think Mark Bittman with his Vegan Before Six diet book is also helping the whole food plant-based diet. It moves in the right direction while taking a pragmatic approach the prevailing food culture, attitudes and environment.

Michelle Obama's organic White House garden is another small step in changing our food attitudes and environment.

They all have a lot of headwinds coming from the corporate giants in the food industry to fights.