New York City’s vegan mayor eats fish, and that’s okay

Feb. 11, 2022 — When Eric Adams, the new mayor of New York City and an outspoken vegan since 2017, was convicted this week of eating fish, the media went wild and the Twitterverse quickly regarded the revelation FishGate. If you follow a plant-based diet, enjoying fish isn’t exactly the definition of pure veganism.

But then again, what’s wrong with combining diet plans? Nothing, top dietitians told WebMD after hearing the news.

“Diversifying your diet is perfectly acceptable and beneficial,” says Kristin Gillespie, a registered dietitian in Virginia Beach, VA. “Many diets that exclude whole food groups or nutrient-dense types of foods end up missing the essential nutrients our bodies need.”

Adjusting your diet as your needs change is an excellent strategy, says Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian and nutritionist for the Today Show.

“What Mayor Adams is doing is aligning his ‘veganism’ with his lifestyle and dietary preferences,” she says. “You can call this a ‘pescatarian’ (vegetarian diet with fish) or a ‘flexitarian’ (part-time vegetarian diet) plan, but it’s incredibly healthy, even if it’s not necessarily ‘vegan’.”

Adams has long been a promoter of the health benefits of veganism. In Healthy at Last, a book he wrote and published in 2020, he says that within three months of adopting a plant-based diet, he lost 35 pounds, lowered his cholesterol by 30 points, restored his vision and reversed his diabetes.

Now he’s on a mission to revolutionize the way New Yorkers approach healthy living, including recently adding vegan Friday meals served to the roughly 938,000 students in New York City’s public schools.

The Rewards of Veganism

Adams is just one of many interested in being plant-based. In recent years, vegan (and vegetarian) diets have become more popular for reasons ranging from improving your health to saving the planet, Bauer says.

“Some make the decision to forgo only meat products such as beef, pork and poultry while still enjoying dairy and eggs (referred to as vegetarian), or they decide to avoid all animal products, including eggs and dairy (referred to as vegan) , because of a religious or ethical motivation,” she says. “Others are driven by the health benefits — a plant-based diet is better for the heart and has been shown to reduce the risk of a number of health problems.”

Ultimately, Adams will play a big part in touting the benefits of this diet, whether he eats fish occasionally or not.

“Whether you want to include more plant-based foods in your diet, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, or just want to include more plant-based foods in your diet, this is a key to good health,” says Patricia Bannan, a registered dietitian and author of From Burnout to Balance. “From fruits and vegetables to nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains, not only are plant foods packed with fiber (provided only by plants), but you also get a host of other essential nutrients and phytochemicals for optimal health.”
If you want to follow in the mayor’s footsteps, all you need to do is watch your vitamin B12 and zinc levels, says Isabel Smith, a registered dietitian in New York City.

“Those are the nutrients and minerals that can be lacking if you’re on a vegan diet,” she says. “We always have to be mindful to make sure we’re getting what our bodies need.”

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