[AARP The Magazine]
The 42nd president of the United States explains how we can — and for
our health must — learn to love eating vegetables, too
When Bill Clinton invited me to lunch in May, I knew better than to
expect fried catfish or barbecued ribs. The former president is now a
devoted vegan, meaning no meat, fish or dairy products, and he has
pursued a healthier way of life for more than three years. While I
figured our lunch menu might be bland, that would be a small price to
pay for private time with a world leader who is anything but.
At a subsequent press conference, Clinton recalls, his doctors tried
"to reassure the public that I wasn't on the verge of death, and so
they said, you know, this is actually fairly normal." Soon after, he
received a "blistering" email from Dean Ornish, M.D., the renowned
diet and heart disease expert.
"Yeah, it's normal," wrote Ornish, an old friend, "because fools like
you don't eat like you should."
Prodded into action, Clinton started by rereading Dr. Dean Ornish's
Program for Reversing Heart Disease, which urges a strict, low-fat,
plant-based regimen, along with two books that were, if possible, even
more militantly vegan: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Caldwell
Esselstyn, M.D., and The China Study, by Cornell biochemist T. Colin
Campbell, Ph.D. (When I suffered a heart attack in late November 2010,
Clinton sent me all three books.)
"I just decided that I was the high-risk person, and I didn't want to
fool with this anymore. And I wanted to live to be a grandfather,"
says Clinton. "So I decided to pick the diet that I thought would
maximize my chances of long-term survival."
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