Feb. 11, 2022 -- When Eric Adams, New York City’s new mayor and an avowed vegan since 2017, was outed this week for eating fish, the media went wild and the Twitterverse soon deemed the revelation FishGate. After all, if you’re following a plant-only diet, enjoying fish isn’t exactly the definition of pure veganism.
But then again, what’s wrong with blending diet plans? Nothing, top dietitians told WebMD after hearing the news.
“Diversifying your diet is completely acceptable and beneficial,” says Kristin Gillespie, a registered dietitian in Virginia Beach, VA. “Many diets that exclude entire food groups or nutrient-dense food types end up being lacking in the vital nutrients our bodies need.”
Adjusting your diet as your needs change is an excellent strategy, says Joy Bauer, a registered dietitian nutritionist and the Today show’s nutrition and health expert.
“What Mayor Adams is doing is tailoring his ‘veganism’ to fit his lifestyle and food 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 though it’s not ‘vegan’ by definition.”
Adams has long been a promoter of the health benefits of veganism. In Healthy at Last, a book he wrote that was published in 2020, he says that within 3 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 to be served to the approximately 938,000 students in New York City public schools.
The Rewards of Veganism
Adams is just one of many who are interested in being plant-based. In recent years, vegan (and vegetarian) diets have become more popular for reasons that range from improving your health to saving the planet, Bauer says.
“Some make the decision to forgo just meat products like 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 for a number of health conditions.”
Ultimately, Adams stands to play a big role in touting the benefits of this diet, whether he occasionally eats fish or not.
“Whether you choose to go vegan, vegetarian, or simply to include more plant-based foods in your diet, this is a key to good health,” says Patricia Bannan, a registered dietitian nutritionist and author of From Burnout to Balance. “From fruits and vegetables to nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains, not only are plant-based foods loaded with fiber (provided only by plants), but you get a host of other essential nutrients and phytochemicals for optimal health.”
If you want to follow in the mayor’s footsteps, the only thing you must do is make sure you pay attention to your vitamin B12 and zinc levels, says Isabel Smith, a registered dietitian in New York City.
“Those are the nutrients and minerals that can go missing when you’re on a vegan diet,” she says. “We always need to be thoughtful about making sure we’re getting what our body needs.”