Bill Clinton boots burgers, says he's now vegan

Bill Clinton, shown here in Washington, D.C. on May 25, 2011, says he's become vegan.
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bill clinton
Bill Clinton, shown here in Washington, D.C. on May 25, 2011, says he's become vegan.
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(CBS) No more burgers for Bubba. Bill Clinton says he's gone vegan.

The former president - and former heart patient - said in an interview with CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta that he had given up the fatty fare he used to eat and switched to fruits, vegetables, and beans. When asked if that made him a vegan, Clinton said, "I suppose I am, if I don't eat dairy or meat or fish."

Clinton didn't say whether he ate eggs or honey. True vegans avoid those foods as well as meat, fish, and dairy products, according to a definition posted by the Vegetarian Society.

Clinton, who turned 65 Friday, said he had decided to revamp his diet after realizing that cutting calories and working out might not be enough to prevent a recurrence of heart trouble. He has twice undergone surgery to open clogged coronary arteries.

"I had played Russian roulette because even though I had changed my diet some and cut down on the caloric total of my ingestion and cut back on much of the cholesterol in the food I was eating," Clinton said, according to the Boston Herald. "I still - without any scientific basis to support what I did - was taking in a lot of extra cholesterol without knowing it. So that's when I made a decision to really change."

Beans might not be as tempting as a burger, but there's strong evidence that switching to a vegetable-based diet offers some protection against high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer as well as a reduced risk of death from heart disease.

Clinton told Dr. Gupta that he likes the foods he now eats, But, ever the politician, he fessed up that he eats meat "once in a while."

"At Thanksgiving," he said, "I have one bite of turkey."

The Vegetarian Society has more on the health benefits of vegan diets.