The Rise of the Power Vegans

We live in an exciting time in which never before have people been more receptive to a plant-based whole food diet. From high level social, financial and political influencers to professional athletes, more and more people are realizing the substantial health and ecological benefits of this regime. It quite literally has become the new cultural zeitgeist.

Hotelier Steve Wynn. Rap music impresario & rag magnate Russel Simmons. Twitter founder Biz Stone. Publisher Mort Zuckerman. Ford Motors Executive Chairman Bill Ford. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey. Presidential nominee Dennis Kucinich and his activist wife Elizabeth. Former Viacom CEO Tom Freston & his wellness activist / New York Times bestselling author wife Kathy. Even Mike Tyson. Yes, that Mike Tyson. And then there’s former President Bill Clinton going on CNN to avow the new found benefits of his plant-based diet on his health and heart disease. If that’s not a power elite board of directors for the movement, I don’t know what is.

Finally, the mainstream press is getting it. Everywhere I look, there is another article about the ascension of the “power vegan”. Case in point, Men’s Journal Magazine published a story last month profiling many of the above, including top tier athletes that have taken the plunge – people like NBA star John Salley, Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzales, and ultramarathoner Scott Jurek.

Yesterday morning, I came across a fantastic interview with Vegas king Steve Wynn in the Las Vegas Weekly, where he elaborated at length and in classic Wynn candor upon his decision to go vegan, as well as his business decision to implement a vegan menu at all of his casino restaurants. My favorite quote from the piece: “The notion that you need animal food as protein is one of the great conspiracies of bullshit by the government…” Vegas goes vegan? Its almost preposterous. At yet, there you have it. Thanks Steve.

And yesterday afternoon, The Huffington Post published a great piece on one of my inspirations, Rip Esselstyn. Rip is a former All American swimmer and pro triathlete turned fireman, whose bestselling book The Engine 2 Diet has created a groundswell movement to get America “Plantstrong” – Rip’s trademarked term for a program he is implementing with Whole Foods to take his plant-fueled message to a nationwide audience, educating Whole Foods’ team members, customers and community members on how to adopt a plant-smart diet comprised of whole grains, beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

Rip is also the son of legendary endocrinologist Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, author of “How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease”, not to mention a 1956 Olympic gold medalist in rowing and former President of the Cleveland Clinic, widely regarded as one of the nation’s top cardiac health institution. Dr. E has been espousing the benefits of a plant-based whole food diet as a means to address heart disease since the 1970’s. And finally he is getting the attention he deserves (as demonstrated in this CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer), as the primary influence behind President Clinton’s decision to get with the program.

And today, I came across a Bloomberg BusinessWeek piece entitled “The Rise of the Power Vegans” by Joel Stein that just might be one of the most impactful articles yet on the mainstream and vast cultural impact of going “Plantstrong.” And although I take issue with a few minor points in the piece (e.g., that a vegan diet is more expensive), the article remains a must read, as it takes a tip from so many other articles in recent months to elevate awareness of the positives of a plant-based whole food diet beyond the marginalized world of the hippies and hipsters to a full blown mainstream audience — giving voice through the first hand and passionate testimony of more than a few of our nation’s most powerful political, cultural, financial, entrepreneurial and athletic figures.

Its exploding. And I can’t wait to watch the trend continue to gain traction and acceptance amongst mainstream Americans.