His love of meat was legendary.

But now, Bill Clinton has traded his steak for salad.

Say what you want about him. I am not writing to you to get into a moral or political debate.

I just want to share some interesting information about him you might not know.

He was always known for his love of steak, burgers, chicken enchiladas and barbeque, among other non-food related “preferences.”

But, that is all over now.

Because of serious health problems (quadruple by-pass surgery in 2004 and 2 coronary stents popped into his heart in 2010) resulting from his careless eating habits, Bill Clinton has become a vegetarian.

The media coverage of his new lifestyle mostly refers to the former president as a vegan, but as of today, he still occasionally eats fish.

So, why should you care?

Well, there might be a great lesson here for you. A vegan diet is probably the healthiest in the world. It helps control your weight (Bill Clinton lost 28 pounds when he switched over), blood pressure and even prevent heart disease.

But, here is the side bar. It has to be done right or it can be a severe health hazard.

See, many plant-based diets are dangerously low in essential nutrients that various meats are packed with. Miss them and you are sure to be sickly, lethargic and could possibly be killing yourself.

By eating meat, you are taking in quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids and other much needed vitamins and minerals. Of particular interest is vitamin B-12. This little guy is only found in meat products of which eggs are an especially good source.

The bad part is that meat is high in unhealthy fats, cholesterol and it has been argued to increase the risk of stroke and type-2 diabetes.

Plus, here are some interesting observational fun facts comparing meat eating animals to us:

1.     Meat eaters have claws
2.     They have fangs
3.     They have no pores
4.     Their intestinal tract is only 3x their body length so meat doesn’t stay inside them and rot, whereas our intestinal tracts are about 12x our body length
5.     Their stomach acid is 20x stronger than ours to quickly digest the “kill”

That was taken from a chart created in 1970 by A.D. Andrews of the American Hygiene Society.

So as a vegan, you must become an expert at creating dishes that are high in iron, calcium, zinc and protein.

Your best choice for these valuable nutrients are:

  • Dark, leafy greens for iron and calcium
  • Nuts, beans and flaxseed for zinc, protein and omega-3s
  • Plus, you will want to get familiar with lentils, brown rice and tofu so you will be sure to get the protein you need

Also, make sure you get plenty of whole grains with as little processing as possible. Raw foods are the healthiest.

You will also need to take supplements if you are not getting enough nutrients through your diet.

Especially vitamin B-12…

The Asians have been doing this a lot longer than we have, so study their preparation of the above foods.  They do not even know what meat substitute is in the east!

Which brings me to another point! Many times newbie vegans (even some of the veterans) will try and augment their diet with imitation sausages, burgers, bacon and even turkey (tofurkey – gotta love it!). You really should stay away from these because in their purest form they may be more heart friendly than their four legged counter-parts. They tend to be made with copious amounts of oil and salt to cover their blandness. Plus, they contain other weird ingredients to make them taste like the “real thing.”

Here are some more things to stay away from if you choose this vegetarian change in lifestyle like Bill Clinton:

  • Protein bars because they lack complex carbs and cause your blood sugar levels to unsafely jet up and down
  • Vegan cheese because, interestingly enough, there is only about a 10th of the protein of real cheese
  • Almond milk because it has a lot of sugar and not enough calcium to remove the risk of osteoporosis. Use soy milk in its place.
  • Junk food because you may find your new diet a bit boring and become at risk of falling victim to the temptation of junk food, even fast food that comes at you with the guise of being healthy.

Remember, it is not just the burgers and fries that can hurt you!

Going vegetarian or vegan is an important decision not to be taken lightly. Our former president was scared into doing it and, fortunately, it worked out very well for him. Will it do the same for you? The answer is yes if you go about it the right way.

Educate yourself and be sure you are getting all the nutrients your body needs every day – without exception.

You may find that trading steak for salad is just what the doctor ordered.

Remember, the age-old question now has a modern twist. Why did the vegan cross the road? She was helping the chicken.