Far more people than you might think follow an animal-free diet: PETA reports that 2,5% of the US population are vegans and another 5% are vegetarians. Celebrities are not alien to such nutrition; big names like Bill Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres, and now Al Gore are on the vegan list.
How nutritious is a plant-based diet? Experts point out that this may be the healthiest way to eat, as you restrict calories and unhealthy fats, but still consume vitamins and minerals. It’s also good for the environment as it requires fewer resources and doesn’t support industrial farms, which often face criticism over animal cruelty and harmful environmental impacts.
Many celebrities have switched to this diet for personal health or environmental reasons and are now advocating their lifestyle. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous vegans.
After undergoing a quadruple coronary artery bypass graft in 2004 and then a stent, the 42nd President went vegan in 2010. He has since lost 9 pounds and has become a vocal advocate for vegan and vegetarian diets.
“I love vegetables, fruits, beans, everything I eat now,” Clinton told CNN. “My blood count is good, my vital signs are good, I feel good, and believe it or not, I have more energy.”
Carrie grew up on a farm and became a vegetarian at the age of 13 when she saw animals being slaughtered. Suffering from mild lactose intolerance, PETA’s “Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity” of 2005 and 2007 became a vegan in 2011. For her, the diet is not very strict: for some cultural or social reasons, she may make concessions. “I’m a vegan, but I consider myself a down-to-earth vegan,” she tells Entertainment Wise. “If I order something and it has cheese topping, I’m not going to return it.”
Al Gore recently switched to a meat and dairy free diet. Forbes broke the news in late 2013, calling him a “vegan convert.” “It’s not clear why the former vice president took this step, but in doing so, he joined the dietary preferences of the 42nd president he once worked with.”
A longtime vegetarian, Natalie Portman went vegan in 2009 after reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. She even wrote about it on the Huffington Post: “The price that a person pays for factory farming – low wages for workers and the impact on the environment – is appalling.”
The actress went back to a vegetarian diet during her pregnancy in 2011, according to the US Weekly report, because “her body really craved a meal of eggs and cheese.” After giving birth, Portman again switched to a diet without animal products. At her 2012 wedding, the entire menu was exclusively vegan.
Former heavyweight champion boxer Mike Tyson went vegan in 2010 and has since lost 45 kilos. “Veganism has given me the opportunity to lead a healthy lifestyle. My body was so full of all the drugs and bad cocaine that I could hardly breathe, [I had] high blood pressure, [I] almost died, [I] had arthritis. Once I went vegan, it got easier,” Tyson said in 2013 on Oprah’s Where Are They Now?
Like Portman, comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres went vegan in 2008 after reading several books about animal rights and nutrition. “I do this because I love animals,” she told Katie Couric. “I saw how things really are, I can no longer ignore it.” DeGeneres’ wife, Portia de Rossi, follows the same diet and had a vegan menu at their 2008 wedding.
Possibly one of the most outspoken vegan celebrities, she even runs her vegan blog, Go Vegan with Ellen, and she and de Rossi also plan to open their own vegan restaurant, though no date has yet been set.
According to Health magazine, the Clueless star went vegan over 15 years ago at the age of 21. Silverstone has said on The Oprah Show that before switching to the diet, she had swollen eyes, asthma, acne, insomnia and constipation.
The New York Times reports that this animal lover went vegan after watching documentaries about the food industry. Silverstone is the author of The Good Diet, a book about vegan food, and she also provides tips and tricks on her website, The Good Life.
The singer-songwriter and dancer went vegan in 2012, according to Mother Nature Network. His father died of a heart attack in 2008 and Usher decided to take charge of his life through a healthier diet.
Usher tried to help his protégé, Justin Bieber, also become a vegan, but he did not like it.
This award-winning actor has probably been a vegan longer than any other celebrity. Phoenix told the New York Daily News, “I was 3 years old. I still remember it very well. My family and I were fishing on a boat… an animal from a living and moving, fighting for life turned into a dead mass. I understood everything, as did my brothers and sisters.”
Last February, he portrayed a drowning fish in a controversial video for PETA’s “Go Vegan” campaign. PETA wanted to show the video as a promotional video during the Academy Awards, but ABC refused to air it.
World-famous runner and Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis says the best race of his life came in 1991 at the World Championships when he went vegan to prepare for the race, according to Mother Nature Network. That year, he received the ABC Sportsman of the Year award and set a world record.
In the introduction to Very Vegetarian, Jennekin Bennett Lewis explains that he became a vegan after meeting two people, a doctor and a nutritionist, who inspired him to make the switch. Although he admits that there were difficulties – for example, he wanted meat and salt – he found a substitute: lemon juice and lentils, which made his diet enjoyable.
The Hunger Games star is very fond of everything that does not contain meat and milk, and this has been going on for 25 years. Harrelson told Esquire about trying to become an actor in New York as a young man. “I was on the bus and what girl saw me blow my nose. I had acne all over my face, this went on for many years. And she says to me: “You are lactose intolerant. If you stop eating dairy products, all symptoms will go away in three days.” I was twenty-four or so, and I thought “no way!” But after three days, the symptoms really disappeared.”
Harrelson is not just a vegan, he is also an environmentalist. He lives on an organic farm in Maui with his family, does not talk on his cell phone due to electromagnetic radiation, and prefers to drive energy efficient cars. According to the Mother Nature Network, he co-owns Sage, a vegan restaurant and the world’s first organic beer garden, which opened last fall.
The Smiths’ song “Meat is Murder” inspired Radiohead’s founder and vocalist to go vegan, according to Yahoo. He told GQ that eating meat didn’t fit into his diet at all.
After reading “Eat to Live” by Dr. Joel Furman and ill health from weight gain and processed foods, the singer-songwriter went vegan in 2009. She told OK magazine about her reasons for switching: “Longevity. I realized that I want to live 120 years. Now I am happy to create a lifestyle that can prevent most forms of cancer and other diseases.” Also in an interview, she said that she lost 9 kilograms in a month of veganism and feels energetic. Morissette notes that she is only 80% vegan. “The other 20% is self-indulgence,” reports the Guardian.
After watching the documentary “Forks Over Scalpels” about cutting out processed foods to cure disease, Russell Brand went vegan after a long period of vegetarianism, according to Mother Nature Network. Immediately after the transition, PETA’s 2011 Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity tweeted, “Now I’m vegan! Bye, eggs! Hey Ellen!
The vegetarian and vegan made headlines this year for his outspoken views on veganism and animal rights. He recently called the White House Thanksgiving turkey reception “Day of the Kill” and wrote on his website, “Please don’t follow President Obama’s disgusting example of supporting the torture of 45 million birds in the name of Thanksgiving by electrocuting them and then slaughtering them.” throat. And the President laughs. Ha ha, very funny!” according to Rolling Stone. The songwriter of “Meat is Murder” also refused to come on Jimmy Kimmel’s show when he found out he would be in the studio with the Duck Dynasty cast, telling Kimmel they were “animal serial killers”.
Corrections: The previous version of the article incorrectly stated the title of the song “Meat is Murder” by The Smiths. Also earlier, the article included Betty White, who is an animal advocate but is not a vegan.